Convicted criminals working as cabbies in region

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Taxi drivers with criminal records for gun possession, violence and drugs offences are working in the region, the Yorkshire Post can today reveal.

Applicants with convictions for motoring offences including drink and dangerous driving have also been granted licences, figures released following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request show.

And there are fears the true scale of criminality among cabbies could be hidden owing to slacker checks on immigrant applicants.

Now campaigners are demanding stricter vetting of all drivers in the wake of several sex attacks on passengers, including two by foreign taxi drivers in Yorkshire and those carried out by London black-cab rapist John Worboys.

Drivers who had committed violent offences including malicious wounding and assault were among those approved to work in the region in the last two years, the FOI figures show. One was convicted of possessing a firearm while two had been guilty of possessing other offensive weapons.

In Harrogate, 100 new drivers were licensed in the past two years and of these, 21 had 68 criminal convictions between them.

They included one conviction for possession of a firearm; two for possessing other offensive weapons; one for wounding; seven for assault, including two causing actual bodily harm and two on police officers; three for threatening behaviour; one for supplying drugs and four for possession.

More than a quarter of those licensed in the borough had committed motoring offences, sharing more than 50 convictions between them.

They included 23 for speeding; three for drink driving; five for driving while disqualified and six for driving without due care and attention.

Other offences included fraud; burglary; theft; taking vehicles without their owners’ consent; and handling stolen goods.

In Scarborough, more than a third of the 79 new drivers granted licences in 2011 and 2012 had committed offences.

Of the successful applicants, 30 had convictions including one for malicious wounding; five for assault, including two causing actual bodily harm; one for affray; one for importing a class C drug; two for burglary and four for theft.

Between them they had three convictions for drink driving; one for dangerous driving; 10 for speeding; and seven for using a mobile phone at the wheel.

Both councils said most offences were likely to date back many years as the checks examined applicants’ entire criminal history – including any spent convictions.

“It is not unusual to see offences dating back to the 60s and 70s when the applicants were much younger,” a spokeswoman for Harrogate Borough Council said.

Applications considered “borderline” were referred to a licensing committee for a formal hearing, each authority stressed.

Andy Skelton, of Scarborough Borough Council, said there were also strict rules that drivers must declare any fresh convictions, backed up by spot checks that had led to a number of licences being revoked or suspended.

“Drivers must apply to renew their licence every three years which gives us a further opportunity to detect and deal with any recent offences,” he added.

The rest of Yorkshire’s local authorities did not release the information. Some said they no longer held conviction details while others said it would take too long to search each application form.

Huddersfield-based road safety charity Brake urged councils and taxi firms to carry out rigorous checks on drivers to ensure 
they were fit to keep passengers safe.