Cabbie claims discrimination

Taxi Driver Hugh Bennett is protesting over the CRB checks
Taxi Driver Hugh Bennett is protesting over the CRB checks

WIGAN cabbies have lost a licensing battle over criminal record checks.

Hackney and private hire license holder Hugh Bennett appeared before councillors to challenge their right to make him pay for an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau search every three years.

The Worsley Mesnes man, who was appearing individually but said he represents many taxi drivers across the borough, insists that the trade are being treated unfairly compared with others who work with children such as teachers or nursery workers.

Although the Regulation Committee eventually ruled against him, 48-year-old Mr Bennett still stands by his complaint. He says that only the potential £150,000 legal costs are preventing him mounting an application to seek a Judicial Review of the council’s position in the High Court.

Council corporate director for places Gillian Bishop said that granting the dispensation to Mr Bennett would then have set a precedent for all Hackney and private hire drivers.

Currently taxi drivers who want to renew their licences must agree to a three yearly check that they haven’t been convicted of any criminal offences which may affect their right in the judgement of councillors and officers.

Mr Bennett has been a taxi licence holder - with an HGV driving break in the middle - for a total of nine years.

His Hackney licence expires in November, although his private hire licence which he uses to provide a mini bus service to school for special needs youngsters, is due to finish later this month.

The council say that consultations carried out across the county show that all other Greater Manchester authorities also require drivers to undergo CRB checks every three years.

Mr Bennett had warned the council by letter that he disputes their rights for the enhanced CRB check to be carried out every three years.

He claims that taxi drivers are being discriminated against since professions such as school teachers and care workers are subject to less frequent CRB checks. And that public service vehicles operating passenger carrying services within the borough are also treated “more leniently.”

When he applied to renew his private hire licence - which has now expired - he declined to make the relevant CRB application in protest.

This resulted in the council deferring a decision on his application until the Regulation meeting had decided to confirm refusing the dispensation.

Mr Bennett said: “I haven’t got a problem with CRB checks themselves, I believe we should have them.

“But it is a matter of principle and for a level playing field to be applied for all those who fall under a CRB.

“Basically it just boils down to my concern that one party who are subject to these checks from the council - that is the taxi trade - are being treated unfairly compared with other parties who fall under their jurisdiction.

“We also have to pay for our own CRB checks, which is £44, but all the other groups don’t because, as they are employed directly by the council, it pays for them itself.”