York taxi drivers operate without current criminal record checks due to ‘serious’ council lapse

The taxi rank at Duncombe Place, York. Photograph: Richard McDougall
19 Sep 2018 @ 7.03 pm
| News, Transport

A ‘serious’ council error has seen taxi drivers operating in York without up-to-date criminal record checks.

An investigation by the council’s auditors Veritau discovered that City of York Council had not kept up with the renewal of criminal record checks for existing drivers.

“Checks were out of date by several years and records had not been updated,” Veritau wrote in a report.

They said this posed “a potential risk to the travelling public if drivers have not been vetted”.

All the checks on new drivers were carried out in compliance with the council’s licensing policy, the authors found.

‘No details could be found’

The taxi rank at York Station
The revelation comes in a report being assessed by members of the council’s audit and governance committee on Wednesday evening (September 19).

Initially the report’s criticisms were redacted so the public couldn’t read them. But then Conservative Cllr Sam Lisle intervened, and ensured they were published.

“The audit as published in the public papers was initially redacted, and after it was raised with me by a member of the public I flagged the issue with officers who agreed with me that it should not have been,” Cllr Lisle told YorkMix.

“The unredacted version was published online on Tuesday.”

In the report Veritau writes: “A criminal record check is an important safety measure and the policy dictates that this should be carried out every three years.”

But in their research they found checks on some drivers were years overdue.

They selected eight hackney carriage drivers and 11 private hire drivers at random for testing. The report states:

  • Nine of the sample was for licence renewals.

    A current up-to-date criminal record check from the DBS was not found for any of these nine.

    The previous checks that had been carried out were a number of years overdue for five of them, and no details could be found for the other four drivers.

The report, which can be read in full here, also noted that “Around 400 complaints each year are made about taxis. Around half of these complaints over the last year have been in relation to Uber.”

The council’s response

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We are taking this matter very seriously and have put additional resources in place to clear the remaining DBS checks and have made good progress with this.

We work closely with the police to ensure any drivers who are believed to be of risk are dealt with immediately, regardless of their DBS clearance which only deal with past incidents.

All drivers dealing with school contracts have been routinely checked.

Those drivers requiring a check have responded positively and to-date there have been no issues of concern.

– Neil Ferris, corporate director of economy and place at City of York Council

‘We have to be honest and trustworthy’

The report said that a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check plays “a very important role in the monitoring of whether drivers remain ‘fit and proper’ to hold a licence”.

Mike Palmer, secretary of the York Private Hire Association, told YorkMix:

  • Criminal records checks for drivers in York follow the enhanced Disclosure and Barring system.

    We work with vulnerable adults, children, customers with specific needs, and the party-goers who don’t always fully understand the situations they find themselves in.

    We have to be honest and trustworthy.

    With the information given by the licensing manager at our last trade / council meeting being that our actions at work – and as importantly, outside our cars and work hours – affect our standing as ‘fit and proper’ to carry on as drivers, I feel confident that no driver would have run afoul of these checks without the council having knowledge from the police during the time identified in the report.