Minister considers idea of CCTV in cabs to protect vulnerable passengers

The move is part of a package of initiatives being put forward by Wealden MP Nus Ghani who is also the Government’s Taxi Minister.

The announcement comes three months after an investigation by the Times uncovered a disturbing trend in women being ‘abused’ by taxi drivers.

Among the case studies was the story of a woman who was allegedly punched in the face, had her mobile smashed and was left lying in the road in the early hours of the morning after an argument over the fare.

Another case involved two young women from Crowborough which is part Ms Ghani’s constituency.

As the Taxi Minister Ms Ghani has announced potential reforms that could keep women safer under strict new licensing guidelines.

She told the Times: “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.”

She explained the new rules would see councils ensure every driver undergoes enhanced criminal record and background checks.

Her department will also consider whether vehicles should be fitted with CCTV. These encrypted systems mean footage can only be accessed if there is a crime reported.

Taxi drivers in Tunbridge Wells say they welcome the new initiative.

Shujaullah Baraki, Chairman of Tunbridge Wells Taxi Association said: “We are professionals and want to offer the people of Tunbridge Wells the safest and best service we can and anything that ensures that is certainly welcome.”

He said following the Times investigation, the taxi drivers met with West Kent Police to discuss the issues.

“One thing that would prevent anything like this happening and protect both passengers and taxi drivers is the introduction of CCTV cameras inside every taxi,” he said.

“We suggested this to the police, and there was talk of the police providing some funding to help pay for it, but nothing has so far come of it.”

He added that while some taxi drivers have installed their cameras using their own money, not all cabbies can afford it.

The Government has also pledged to legislate on national minimum standards for drivers, establish a national licensing database and look at restricting drivers operating hundreds of miles away from where they are licensed.

“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,” said Ms Ghani.

“National minimum standards, a national licensing database and national enforcement powers will go a long way to ensuring passenger safety in Wealden and across the country.”


Four reasons why CCTV should be considered…

As part of the investigation into abuse from taxi drivers the Times carried comments from four women who all had worrying experiences. The names we used were not their real names.

Sarah: “He punched me in the face [after an argument over the fare], left me lying in the road and drove off…it was all very frightening.” 

Jennifer: “He pulled over to the side of the road and told me I could pay the rest [of the fare] in kind if I felt ‘up for it’… I was petrified.”

Laura: “We were very scared [after he locked the car doors] and I got ready to call the police by typing 999 into my mobile and waiting until he did something else.”

Amy: “I’ve not felt safe in taxis in Tunbridge Wells for about three to four years now and have often worried if I will actually make it home.”

Only one off the above women called the police or reported the driver to the Hackney Carriage authority. As one of them told the Times: “I didn’t tell the police because I felt that I would have sounded pathetic.”

In the one case where the woman reported the incident to the police, the driver denied the allegations. Despite house to house inquiries, the police were unable to find any witnesses to corroborate the woman’s account and the driver was never charged.

A CCTV recording of what happened might have changed the outcome.

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