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Taxi and private hire drivers to face enhanced checks Taxi and private hire drivers to face enhanced criminal record checks
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Taxi and private hire drivers could have to pass enhanced criminal record checks under government proposals. Taxi and private hire drivers could have to pass enhanced criminal record checks before being granted a licence.
The Department for Transport has launched a consultation on new licensing guidelines to better protect vulnerable passengers. Under the scheme, every council in England would be told to carry out checks on all applicants.
The consultation will also consider whether cabs and private hire vehicles should be fitted with CCTV. Current guidelines allow councils to set their own driver standards, including whether to make the checks.
Last year a government report found that the laws regulating drivers were not "fit for the modern world". The plans also include introducing a national minimum standard and a database to stop applicants applying to councils after being refused elsewhere.
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Powers to regulate taxi drivers have been devolved to the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Irish Assembly. Currently, councils in England and Wales are "encouraged" to check criminal records and take a "strong stance" on offences such as sexual assault or rape. They are told "each case must be considered on its own merits".
Although the proposed guidelines would apply only to England, they are also expected to be used in Wales until the devolved Welsh Government sets its own statutory guidelines. The new proposals go further, saying the enhanced criminal checks "should" be carried out.
In each nation, taxi drivers are actually given their licences by local authorities, who have first to decide whether they are a "fit and proper person - apart from in Northern Ireland, where this is the responsibility of the Department for Infrastructure. The Department for Transport is also considering whether cabs and private hire vehicles should have to be fitted with CCTV.
The Department for Transport also says it will introduce national minimum standards for drivers and set up a national licensing database. The cameras would be fitted with an encrypted system so footage could only be accessed if a crime was reported.
In England and Wales, the current system allows someone who is denied a taxi licence by one local authority to go and work somewhere else where the licensing authority may be more lenient.
The Department for Transport is also considering stopping taxi drivers from operating hundreds of miles away from where they are licensed.The Department for Transport is also considering stopping taxi drivers from operating hundreds of miles away from where they are licensed.
In Scotland, private hire vehicles can already only pick up fares within the local authority area which gave them their taxi-operating licence.In Scotland, private hire vehicles can already only pick up fares within the local authority area which gave them their taxi-operating licence.
Powers to regulate taxi drivers are devolved to the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Irish Assembly.
The proposed guidelines would therefore apply only to England, but they are also expected to be used in Wales until the devolved Welsh Government sets its own statutory guidelines.
Taxis minister Nusrat Ghani said: "While the vast majority of drivers are safe and act responsibly, we have seen too many cases where taxi and minicab drivers have used their job to prey on vulnerable people, women and children.Taxis minister Nusrat Ghani said: "While the vast majority of drivers are safe and act responsibly, we have seen too many cases where taxi and minicab drivers have used their job to prey on vulnerable people, women and children.
"These rules would make sure that drivers are fit to carry passengers, keeping people safe while stopping those with bad intentions from getting behind the wheel of a taxi or minicab.""These rules would make sure that drivers are fit to carry passengers, keeping people safe while stopping those with bad intentions from getting behind the wheel of a taxi or minicab."
Saskia Garner, of the anti-violence charity the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, told Radio 5 Live she was "encouraged" by plans to update safety checks guidelines but said new laws - not just guidelines - were needed to protect passengers.Saskia Garner, of the anti-violence charity the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, told Radio 5 Live she was "encouraged" by plans to update safety checks guidelines but said new laws - not just guidelines - were needed to protect passengers.
The proposals follow the case of "black cab rapist" John Worboys, who police believe may have carried out more than 100 rapes and sexual assaults on women he picked up in his cab in London between 2002 and 2008.The proposals follow the case of "black cab rapist" John Worboys, who police believe may have carried out more than 100 rapes and sexual assaults on women he picked up in his cab in London between 2002 and 2008.
He was jailed in 2009 for 19 offences including rape, sexual assault and drugging his victims and his case made headlines after the High Court overturned the decision of the Parole Board to release him after 10 years of his sentence.He was jailed in 2009 for 19 offences including rape, sexual assault and drugging his victims and his case made headlines after the High Court overturned the decision of the Parole Board to release him after 10 years of his sentence.
Last year it emerged that taxi licences were being issued during private hearings to drivers convicted of crimes including child sex offences and reckless driving.Last year it emerged that taxi licences were being issued during private hearings to drivers convicted of crimes including child sex offences and reckless driving.
The consultation will run until 22 April.The consultation will run until 22 April.