Christmas cab crackdown

Rogue taxi drivers who illegally cash in on Newcastle’s night time economy are facing a clampdown this Christmas.

Newcastle City Council Licensing Authority has conducted a series of operations to target private hire and non-Newcastle licensed drivers who pick up illegally on the street.

The problem gets worse at this time of the year as more and more people flock to the city centre on Christmas nights out.

Eight drivers were recently prosecuted, fined and ordered to pay legal costs after being caught during test purchase operations.  A further 11 drivers identified are currently facing prosecution, and more could be caught as the operations are stepped up in the final days before Christmas.

Cabinet Member for Regulation, Cllr Nick Kemp, said: “Newcastle has a vibrant night-time economy which is something we are really proud of, but we want to make sure that the city is safe and ensure that people aren’t put at risk by travelling in unsafe and potentially unlicensed vehicles.

“Our message is simple: taxi drivers who put people at risk by working illegally will be prosecuted and could ultimately lose their livelihoods.”

Anyone caught plying for trade illegally face fines, legal costs, victim surcharges and points on their licence which in some cases can lead to them being disqualified from driving.

In conjunction with Northumbria Police’s Neighbourhood Policing Teams and the Traffic Unit more than 900 drivers have additionally been stopped and had their vehicles checked as part of operations in 2017.

Anyone caught plying for trade illegally face fines, legal costs, victim surcharges and points on their licence which in some cases can lead to them being disqualified from driving.

City Centre Neighbourhood Inspector Steve Wykes said: “This operation has our full support. Our absolute priority is making sure the city stays a safe place for people to enjoy a night out and we’re committed to our work with Newcastle City Council to do this.

 “The city is busier at this time of year and we want to make sure people get home safe and think about how they’re going to get home before they start their night out. We would always urge people to make sure they use a licensed taxi, either pre-book with a reputable taxi company or use one of the taxi ranks in the city.

“Licensed taxi drivers have an important role to play in the city and play a huge role in helping protect people who may be vulnerable and we will not tolerate drivers who undermine the law abiding majority.”

Licensing Manager, Jonathan Bryce, said: “The safety of the travelling public is our highest priority. We work closely with Northumbria Police on joint operations, randomly stopping and checking vehicles. We also conduct test purchases which involve officers approaching private hire and non-Newcastle vehicles while posing as members of the travelling public.

“We urge people who get into vehicles to first make sure they are getting into one which is appropriately licensed. They can do this by checking the vehicle licence plate, door markings and the driver’s identification badge which should be worn at all times.

“Only Newcastle City Council licensed Hackney Carriages are legally permitted to pick up from the street without a pre-booking.

“In Newcastle Hackney Carriages are typically black in colour with characteristic crests to the side of the vehicle and a red plate to the rear. All journeys in other vehicles must be pre-booked with a licensed operator.

“The City Council Licensing Authority take enforcement very seriously and our role is to ensure that the licensed trade operates legally.

“The safety of the public is the police and the council’s main priority, and we will continue to conduct enforcement operations and to communicate with licensed drivers to ensure that standards are maintained and that drivers acting illegally are appropriately addressed.”