Who will be driving you home on New Year’s Eve? Hundreds of criminals, including sex offenders, apply for taxi licence

PUBLISHED: 13:01 29 December 2017 | UPDATED: 13:01 29 December 2017

Hundreds of criminals, including sex offenders, have applied for a taxi driver's licence in North Somerset since 2012. Picture: Pixabay

Hundreds of criminals, including sex offenders, have applied for a taxi driver's licence in North Somerset since 2012. Picture: Pixabay

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Hundreds of criminals – including crooks, violent attackers and sex offenders – have applied to become taxi drivers in North Somerset in the past five years.

A Mercury freedom of information request to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) has revealed one in five aspiring cabbies held a criminal record.

Of the 1,248 applications to the DBS since 2012, 260 flagged up a criminal past with 1,653 offences between them – begging the question of who is driving you home this New Year’s Eve?

The Mercury asked North Somerset Council for figures relating to the outcome of criminals’ applications, but it said it did not hold any data due to DBS guidelines which require applications to be destroyed – so it is not known which offenders went on to become drivers.

But council licensing officer Sioux Isherwood said ‘a fair number proceed through the committee process and go on to hold a licence’.

Among offenders hoping to become taxi drivers, three were convicted for indecent assault on a woman aged over 16, two had been punished for indecent assault on a boy under 14, and one was caught taking indecent images of children.

Shockingly, two applicants had a previous conviction for causing death by reckless driving and 43 were caught drunk at the wheel.

Other motoring offences were commonly found by the DBS, and drug offences appeared on many applications.

Six applicants had been convicted of grievous bodily harm, while 59 applications featured a record of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Robbery was flagged on 12 applications, while 13 hopefuls had been caught with an offensive weapon in a public place.

The most common offences were theft (108), burglary (77) and driving while disqualified (71).

Taxi drivers are classed as self-employed and must apply to North Somerset Council, for a licence before signing on with a firm.

One layer of the process is a criminal records check which is completed by the DBS, which flags any convictions, cautions, warnings and reprimands on applicants’ records.

The council reviews applications in line with its criminal convictions policy, and can scrutinise applications by committee of councillors, who decide whether an applicant is ‘fit and proper’ to hold a licence.

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