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Private hire drivers pay the price after being caught in Council sting

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Private hire drivers pay the price after being caught in Council sting 29th August 2019

Three private hire drivers have been prosecuted by Manchester City Council.

To crack down on the practice of private hire drivers illegally ‘plying for hire’, ie. picking up passengers from the street without a prior booking, Operation Aztec was launched last year.

Private hire vehicles picking up fares without a booking means that those journeys are not recorded, hard to trace, not insured and take away legitimate business from Hackney Carriage drivers.

Manchester City Council is proud to have some of the most stringent policies and standards for drivers and vehicles in the country. However drivers working for different local authorities, who operate under different standards, are frequently coming to Manchester to trade, sometimes illegally.

To combat drivers that engage in this practice undercover GMP officers, working in conjunction with Manchester City Council taxi enforcement officers have been patrolling the city, on the lookout for drivers illegally plying for hire.

When caught, the offending driver is pulled over into a police checkpoint, where officers would check the vehicle and interview the driver. The moment a driver accepts a fare off the street an offense has been committed; council officers will then work to build a case and then prosecute the driver.

Last month alone (July 2019) the Council successfully prosecuted three drivers for offences detected whilst working with GMP.

Taimoor Baig, was initially stopped for a routine check on December 16 2017. It was found that his car had been in a collision and was clearly not road worthy to carry passengers. Damage sustained to his offside front headlight meant the bulb was dazzling oncoming traffic, posing a significant risk to public safety. His licence was then suspended until the appropriate repairs were made.

However it was discovered that even after his licence was suspended, he continued to work in the city centre picking up fares illegally. Following a hearing at Manchester Magistrates Court he was given a 12 month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £200 in court costs. He has also been referred to Manchester City Council’s licensing committee where his driver status will be reviewed following this conviction.

On June 13 last year, a Sefton Council licenced car was recorded pulling into a layby near the Etihad Stadium, and picking up a passenger following what appeared to be a short negotiation.

When questioned the driver, Adnan Khalil initially told officers that he was in the area to pick up the friend of a friend. When confronted with the footage recorded by council officers he changed his story, and admitted to plying for hire.

In Magistrates Court, Khalil was found guilty of illegal plying for hire and driving when uninsured, and was ordered to pay a fine of £1,270 and had his licence endorsed with 6 penalty points. He was also reported to Sefton Council’s licensing team.

A third driver was reported by a Hackney Carriage driver in Manchester city centre, after they suspected him of being illegally plying for hire on July 17 last year. The investigating officer obtained dashcam footage identifying Raja Farrukh Jamil as the offending driver. Checks were made confirming that at the time Jamil had not received bookings and was picking up passengers illegally.

Jamil declined or did not attend several opportunities to explain his actions to Manchester City Council. However, at a hearing in Magistrates’ Court he admitted to illegally plying for hire and was disqualified from driving for four months, fined £472 and ordered to pay £250 costs. Jamil remains suspended from driving by Manchester City Council, pending a licensing committee meeting.

Since July 1 2018 the Taxi Licensing Unit have successfully prosecuted 30 drivers, and there are currently a further 71 cases pending that have been referred to the city solicitor for prosecution.

Councillor Rabnawaz Akbar, Executive Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “What these convictions have shown is that private hire drivers who break the law will not get away with it. Our enforcement officers are diligent in the work and we are grateful to have the support of the majority of law abiding drivers on our streets.

“We want Manchester to be a safe place but that cannot happen if drivers think they can break the rules to make a fast buck. Manchester City Council has set the benchmark in the North West for the standards of our taxi fleet and Manchester Licensed private hire vehicles, and we do not want to see our trust with the public eroded by the actions of those drivers who think they are above the law.The regulations are there to safeguard the public, and we also need their help. We encourage the public to use Manchester Licensed vehicles, using our taxi fleet if they want a vehicle immediately on the street, or pre-booking a private hire vehicle.”

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