A violent killer and drug dealer is working as a taxi driver in Kirklees.

Details were confirmed by Kirklees Council after The Examiner received a tip-off from a fellow driver unhappy that someone with a manslaughter conviction is operating as a cabbie, saying it was ‘shocking’ that he was allowed a licence in the first instance.

The cabbie was put behind bars for six years in 1982 after being found guilty of the manslaughter of a teenager, who was pregnant at the time.

He returned to prison in 2005 after a court heard he stashed £40,000 of drug money in a bank deposit box. He was sentenced to eight years after admitting the offence.

Kirklees Council concedes it did give a taxi licence to the man.

A spokesman for Kirklees Council said: “Decisions are taken on a case by case basis and in line with the criteria in place at the time. The criteria were last amended in October 2014.

“The council takes account of all relevant national guidance and regularly reviews good practice in other local authorities in respect of its procedures for licensing the drivers of taxis and private hire vehicles.”

New rules which were backed by councillors last year that mean that anyone with a manslaughter conviction will “not normally be granted” a licence, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

For drug offences, the applicant will need to be free of conviction for three-five years before consideration.

Taxi rank
 

The new policy also included a controversial rule that would see taxi drivers suspended if they get nine penalty points on their licence, pending a Driving Standards Test.

Kirklees Council’s Licensing and Safety Committee backed the policy change, but after large-scale protests from taxi drivers, Clr David Sheard, council leader, asked Clr Mumtaz Hussain, chair of the committee who voted against the rule, to re-think the policy. No date has yet been set for the Committee to do that.

When told about the manslaughter case, taxi driver Manjit Singh said: “I feel it should not have been given by the council in the first place, and the blame for that lies with the councillors.

“But if they have given him a licence then I hope it is because he has served his time, done the punishment and he must have shown he is a capable person.

“I would hope that murderers and rapists are not given licences now, I am totally against that, but this is the council’s doing and I do think they were wrong in the first instance.

“All the taxi drivers I know are honest, hardworking people.”

When informed of the case, Makhan Singh, of the Hackney Carriage Association, said: “Wow, I didn’t know that.

“It’s a bit of a shock. They take badges away from drivers or turn down applications for far less than that.”

26 taxi drivers given licences despite motoring or criminal convictions

Councillors have recently granted taxi licences to 26 people with motoring or criminal convictions.

And it comes in light of a clampdown on people with convictions limiting who can have a taxi badge.

In a Freedom of Information request, Kirklees Council has outlined the nature and outcome of 67 taxi drivers referred to a Regulatory Panel.

The panel of councillors sit in private, with neither the press nor general public allowed to attend or know who is involved.

Kirklees does not indicate what the convictions are for but shows:

20 taxi drivers with criminal convictions were allowed to continue working.

Three taxi drivers with alleged criminal convictions were granted a taxi driver’s badge; one with alleged criminal convictions had their suspension lifted.

Three taxi drivers with motoring offences were allowed to continue driving, while no further action was taken against a fourth.

Of those with taxi licensing offences, one was refused a badge; the council took no further action against a second; one was suspended.

22 taxi drivers with criminal or alleged criminal convictions had their badges refused or revoked, with no further action taken in another case.

One taxi driver with a motoring offence had their badge revoked and one was suspended, while one with non-criminal conduct was suspended for four weeks, plus there were a number of deferrals.

The Examiner understands that in at least one case, a taxi driver was refused a licence in a neighbouring authority due to alleged criminal behaviour but has been given one by Kirklees.

An initial request by the Examiner to establish how many taxi drivers had criminal convictions was refused by Kirklees Council as it claimed it would take too long to look through the files.

Kirklees has no overall summary of the extent of convictions about people it issues with taxi driver badges.

The council said 110 taxi drivers appeared before the Regulatory Panel in 2012 for ‘applications to assess the fitness and propriety’; with 110 in 2013 and 56 in 2014, to November.

Kirklees director given power to revoke taxi driver licences if there are safeguarding concerns

A council director has been given authority to remove taxi driver licences if there are concerns about the safety and wellbeing of young and vulnerable people.

Councillors ruled Kirklees Council’s Director of Place, Jacqui Gedman, can step in if there are immediate concerns relating to a taxi badge holder.

It will speed-up the process of a driver having to wait for a monthly Regulatory Panel and take taxi drivers off the road quicker if evidence suggests they pose a risk.

Jacqui Gedman
 

Clr David Ridgway, Colne Valley Lib Dem, said it “strengthened” the process but still allows councillors “the right to determination and the ratification in such circumstances”.

Clr Erin Hill, Crosland Moor and Netherton Labour, said: “This should mean a better situation for drivers, I’m sure we’re all aware of the arguments posed by those who were opposed the nine point suspension rule and the points they made about the affect on income, family and quality of life when drivers were forced to wait weeks for a re-test.

“This means a suspended driver will no longer have to go weeks without work while they wait for the next meeting of the Regulatory Panel.

“We are absolutely not trying to make life difficult for taxi drivers. This is good for the public, good for safeguarding and it’s good for taxi drivers who are law abiding and provide a public service to the people who rely on them.”

Clr Steve Hall, Cabinet member for highways, added: “We’ve got to make sure that the people who are given licences are fit and able people.”

Clr Hall went on to say there were “some people on the Committee I don’t think they should be there, but that is for decision later.”

Clr Robert Light, Conservative leader, echoed a similar point: “In bringing this emergency procedure. it does seem to suggest that things haven’t been done right or as well as they could have been done in the past and we need to look at that situation carefully and reflectively.

He added: “There is almost a view amongst some people in the community that a licence is a right. It is not, it is something we give to people to carry out an activity if we think they are proper people to do it.”

Makhan Singh, of the Hackney Carriage Association, said: “We haven’t been consulted on this, this is the first I’ve heard of it.

“But we are all aware of how important safeguarding is, we do our best.”