Taxi drivers in Telford and Shrewsbury accused of serious sexual crimes
Taxi drivers in Telford and Shrewsbury are among a number who have been accused of serious sexual offences, including those against children, according to new figures.
According to a freedom of information request, seven allegations of child sexual exploitation (CSE) and 16 serious sexual allegations have been made against drivers who have all been licensed by Wolverhampton City Council
Of the 23 allegations, eight were against drivers in Wolverhampton, three in Shrewsbury, one in Telford and one in Walsall. Other Wolverhampton Council licensed drivers accused of the serious offences include four in Birmingham and one in Mansfield, Bolsover and Southampton.
The figures are based over the last four years since March 2015, when the de-regulation act was introduced meaning drivers no longer needed to live or work in the area of the local authority that granted them a licence.
The council insists it acts promptly to deal with all serious allegations.
Councillor Alan Bolshaw, the chairman of Wolverhampton Council’s licensing committee, said: “Our target is that all safeguarding complaints are investigated and determined within one working day, regardless of where the driver is in the country.
"We can confirm that in six of the seven CSE cases, the drivers’ licences were removed on the day the complaint was received and in the seventh case the complaint was not upheld. Police were involved in all cases that were upheld.”
Councillor Bolshaw has also called on the government to set up a national database to tackle what he calls the “significant risk to public safety” posed by the current taxi licensing laws.
The current regulations mean a taxi driver who has previously lost their licence for not being fit and proper can simply apply somewhere else and get a new licence, providing they lie about having previously held one.
The council has offered to fund the database using its revenues from taxi licensing, but it has yet to receive a response.
The authority has been one of the big beneficiaries of the change in regulation, attracting thousands of applications from all over the country thanks to a new streamlined online application process. The number of licences it hands out have increased eight-fold since 2015.
But the council has been accused of exploiting a loophole and attracted criticism from other authorities, not least Shropshire Council.
Professor Rod Thompson, Shropshire Council’s director of public health, said his authority was “concerned that public safety is being threatened and environmental aspirations diluted in cases where drivers and vehicle proprietors ‘shop around’ to be licensed by local authorities that demand lower standards and then exclusively or predominantly work in an area or areas where standards are higher and licences more difficult to obtain”.
He has also reportedly backed plans for a government review into licensing, saying it should “bring it up-to-date and to create a regime that is fit for the 21st century”.
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