1 in 4 city private hire drivers are criminals, data reveals

A 'Private Hire Taxi in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson
A 'Private Hire Taxi in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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ONE in four private hire drivers in the Capital has a criminal record, figures obtained by the Evening News reveal.

There were 85 licences granted to drivers with criminal convictions, including spent convictions, between July and September last year, out of 354 applications.

The city council refused to reveal what offences the convictions related to and assured all drivers are vetted by police.

Edinburgh Private Hire Drivers Association vice-chairman Kevin Rafferty said the numbers demonstrated the process for approving drivers is working.

“It’s a fairly high number and it’s testament to the procedures been applied and utilised by the city council and Police Scotland,” said Mr Rafferty.

He stressed the figures were proof that criminal convictions were picked up by the system and suggested most will be minor offences, such as breach of the peace. “There are procedures in place to make sure private hire drivers are fit and proper people,” added Mr Rafferty.

“You’re not going to have murderers and rapists driving private hire cars in Edinburgh.”

A retired police inspector, Mr Rafferty said he sees “similarities” between the role of an officer and private hire drivers.

“As a private hire driver you’re trying to get people home, many who are inebriated,” he said.

The number of private hire cars in the Capital has more than doubled in the past year and now outnumber taxis for the first time. Figures released last August revealed about 1,800 private hire vehicles compared to just over 1,300 taxis.

The council hand all private hire applications, including those which do not declare a conviction, on to the police for feedback. Police can provide a letter of objection while some applications were granted under delegated authority where there were no objections by the council. These will often relate to applications where declared convictions are spent or of a minor nature.

Driver applications with convictions which police object to may still be granted and are automatically considered by the authorities licensing sub-committee.

Details of the convictions are seen by councillors but the council refused to release details under freedom of information laws as it may be considered “private”. Most offences are believed to have taken place some time before the application has been submitted and are thought to be for minor offences.

A city council spokeswoman said: “All licensed private hire and taxi drivers undergo full police vetting and a medical check before we, as a licensing authority, are satisfied that drivers are ‘fit and proper.’”