According to a number of police chiefs across Durham, Cleveland and Northumbria, plans to reduce taxi driver red tape could lead to an increase in the number of sex attacks reported in the region. The police chiefs of the aforementioned regional forces have joined together with other groups to condemn the plans. At present, changes could be made due to the Deregulation Bill which is going through parliament and most police chiefs are against the idea.
A notable exception is Julia Mulligan, the North Yorkshire commissioner, as her name does not appear on a list of police and crime commissioners (PCC) to have backed the campaign against the new plans. The campaign is being led by Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester PCC.
As well as the police, licensing officials, the taxi trade and a host of groups that work with victims of sexual assault and rape have backed Lloyd’s campaign. At this moment in time, you cannot operate a private hire vehicle which is marked unless you are a licensed private hire driver. This means drivers are often re-licensed and there are restrictions when it comes to driving vehicles across local authority boundaries.
A Dangerous Change
However, the Deregulation Bill would change all that and would lead the prospect of a complete free-for-all when it comes to driving private hire vehicles. Effectively, it will be possible for anyone to drive a private hire car when the registered owner is not using it.
According to the Government, this new plan allows families to avoid running a second car thus saving them money. Yet critics of the Bill point out that drivers of the cars could lie about who they are.
Durham PCC Ron Hogg said the existing system in Durham and Darlington is designed to reduce the risk of passengers being harmed while in a taxi. He believes the removal of these restrictions will only place members of the public in unnecessary danger. Northumbria PCC Vera Baird said the new Bill means people can no longer feel safe in taxis. She said that while cutting red tape is always a good idea, it should not come at the cost of people’s safety.
Cleveland PCC Barry Coppinger said that more time needed to be taken to look at the new plans in detail. He doesn’t believe it is necessary to take risks with safety.