LICENCING chiefs in Leeds are stepping up efforts to drive criminal elements out of the city’s private hire and taxi trade.
A meeting at Leeds Civic Hall heard that the trade – by its “cash business” nature – was vulnerable to being infiltrated by criminals, especially those involved in drugs carriage and laundering of drugs cash.
Des Broster, head of the city’s taxi licencing unit, revealed that two Leeds drivers are currently suspended on suspicion of acting as carriers for high value drugs. Drugs and laundering were “a significant matter”, he said.
“Crime does infiltrate the licencing trade,” he said. “It can allow you to go ‘undercover’ – a licence gets you under the radar quite quickly.
“The link between drug supply and the licence trade is a matter for concern, and this is why we have stepped up the offender profile.”
He said issues of drug usage by drivers had also been raised, causing additional public safety concerns.
As reported in the YEP yesterday, the private hire trade in Leeds is set for a major tightening of rules as bosses bid to boost professionalism and public trust.
A report to the licencing panel said a refreshing of the ‘convictions criteria’ – which are used to assess who is “fit and proper” to be allowed a licence, even if they have previous convictions which are now spent – would also allow bosses to “deal more effectively with public safety issues in respect of criminal activity and driver behaviour that have become more prevalent”.
The report makes a case for formal driver ‘life skills training’ in place of sanction in some less serious cases, but adds that “consistent bad driver behaviour...reaches a point of unacceptability”. Those offending while holding a licence should attract greater sanctions if they later re-apply for their licence, the report adds.