Shock at would-be taxi drivers’ criminal pasts

editorial image

Manslaughter, possessing an offensive weapon, arson and burglary are just some of the convictions held by prospective Wigan taxi drivers, according to a new shock report.

Government data reveals town hall checks on would-be drivers have flagged up almost 3,000 offences in the last three years.

The recorded convictions also include serious motoring offences such as driving without a licence or insurance, drunk driving and driving whilst disqualified.

The information does not include how many applications for licences were granted by the council although the Evening Post understands a vast majority would have been rejected.

However, a recent investigation by our sister paper the Wigan Observer found that on 19 occasions in the last three years applicants with criminal records did have their licence bids given the green light.

Town hall bosses have moved to further reassure residents that the safety of the public “is of paramount importance” in their decision process.

The government figures show Wigan Council has requested 1,544 background checks in the last three years, of those 488 had previous convictions or cautions.

From those 488 applications, a total of 2,939 offences were flagged meaning those applicants will have had multiple convictions.

Julie Middlehurst, group manager for regulatory services at Wigan Council, said: “We would like to reassure the public that each case is considered very carefully on its own merits and based around the circumstances of the offences along with representations made by the driver at the hearing of the committee. But at all times the safety of the public is of paramount importance in that decision.”

Earlier this year the Evening Post’s sister paper the Observer revealed on several occasions private hire licence holders who committed motoring offences were hit with temporary bans. On one occasion a driver who had accrued 12 points on his DVLA licence - the usual limit for disqualification, received just a six-week suspension from the town hall.

Rachel Bedgood, chief executive of Complete Background Screening, said the figures highlight the need for stringent checks to take place. “Without DBS checks, it is impossible to know the full background of people we employ in industries including those serving the public on a daily basis and, quite frankly, the reality could be quite dangerous if we do not continue to screen employees correctly.”

A spokesman for the National Private Hire Association had previously said a common sense approach is required by town halls when assessing licence applications and a clear distinction should be made between lower-tier motoring offences and more severe offences in the decision making process.

All taxi or private hire vehicle applications are submitted for consideration by the council’s regulation committee.

Ms Middlehurst added: “When the Regulation Committee considers convictions against a person who is applying for a taxi drivers’ licence they will also refer to adopted policy and guidelines based on the previous convictions which is available to view online here http://www.wigan.gov.uk/Docs/PDF/Business/Licensing-Permits-Registrations/RelevanceofConvictions.pdf.”