Nearly 300 sexual offences by London private hire and taxi drivers recorded by police

31 January 2020, 12:59

None of the drivers currently hold an operating licence
None of the drivers currently hold an operating licence. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Nearly 300 sexual offences by private hire and taxi drivers in London were recorded by police in 2018, according to a shocking new report.

The report includes data from 2018 but was originally due to be released at the end of 2019. However, it was delayed as the data was still being checked and verified.

Now it has been revealed that a total of 294 sexual offences by private hire and taxi drivers in London were recorded. This includes 25 rapes and 269 other sexual offences, which were mainly sexual assaults such as intentional sexual touching without consent.

Some 17 drivers were charged, including 15 private hire drivers, a taxi driver and an unlicensed driver.

Their cases resulted in six convictions, while six were cleared and five are awaiting court outcomes.

None of the drivers currently hold an operating licence.

Journeys with private hire vehicles such as Uber must be pre-booked, whereas taxis - also known as black cabs - can be hailed in the street.

The Metropolitan Police and City of London Police data was published by Transport for London (TfL), which licenses taxi and private hire drivers in the capital.

The total of 294 sexual offences in 2018 represents an 81% increase compared with 2017.

TfL said this was a result of new guidance it issued to private hire operators in late 2017, which stressed the importance of reporting criminal conduct to police immediately.

Its head of transport policing and community safety, Mandy McGregor, said: "We expect the highest standards of behaviour and any sexual behaviour by a licensed driver towards a passenger is completely unacceptable.

"We would urge anyone who experiences this to report it immediately to TfL and the police so it can be taken seriously and investigated."

A total of 11 Uber drivers were charged with sexual offences in 2018.

Uber driver Nadeem Afzal, of Limes Avenue, Chigwell, was handed a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years at Kingston Crown Court earlier this year after pleading guilty to exposing himself to a female passenger, according to the Metropolitan Police.

The 51-year-old repeatedly asked the woman, aged in her early 20s, to touch him and perform a sex act during a journey in the early hours of November 1 2018.

Uber's application for a new London operating licence was rejected by TfL in November last year due to safety concerns.

TfL said at least 14,000 trips were made with drivers who were not the ones shown on the app.

Uber has been allowed to continue operating pending its appeal against the decision.

TfL's previous refusal to renew the company's licence in September 2017 was later overturned by a judge.

Uber's UK and Ireland general manager Melinda Roylett said: "There is nothing more important than the safety of the riders and drivers who use the Uber app.

"Since 2018, Uber is the only operator TfL has required to report every serious incident to the Metropolitan Police and the new statistics reflect that requirement."