Private hire drivers suffer racial abuse in North Edinburgh

Sikondor Ullah  feared for his life in a hate-fuelled robbery. Picture; Lisa Ferguson
Sikondor Ullah feared for his life in a hate-fuelled robbery. Picture; Lisa Ferguson

RACISTS are turning part of north Edinburgh into a no-go area for private hire drivers, an equality chief has claimed.

Up to 12 drivers have reported suffering racial abuse to Edinburgh & Lothians Regional Equality Council (ELREC) while on jobs in West Pilton since December.

The 20mph scheme has been rolled out across sections of the Capital. Picture; Lisa Ferguson

The 20mph scheme has been rolled out across sections of the Capital. Picture; Lisa Ferguson

Cases have even included passengers hurling vile insults at drivers for sticking to the new 20mph limit.

Now ELREC chairman Foysol Choudhury has called for these incidents to be prioritised while police have assured drivers complaints are being investigated.

The Evening News reported yesterday how driver Sikondor Ullah thought he was going to die during a hate-fuelled robbery in West Pilton.

“Sikondor told me he’s so frightened that if he goes back to driving and sees youths hanging around on the streets then he’ll do a U-turn and go back the other way,” said Mr Choudhury.

Attacks reported to ELREC include a driver being punched by an unknown attacker who ran away and another hit with a bottle.

“They’ve reported these incidents to police but it’s taken days for them to get back to the drivers or not at all,” said Mr Choudhury.

“That’s why other drivers don’t report incidents, because they feel nothing is going to happen.”

Mr Choudhury is now calling for crisis talks with justice minister Michael Matheson and police to tackle the problem.

“Police are saying they’re doing their job and the courts are ignoring it or not prioritising it,” he said.

“At the end of the day, if drivers feel their lives are in danger and they’re frightened to go into an area to do their jobs, then that’s a priority.

“The police can’t say they’re attending other jobs before they come out to them.”

Mr Choudhury says drivers are reporting incidents involving both gangs of youths and passengers – with the new city-wide 20mph speed restriction fuelling some abuse.

“Sometimes if a driver is complying with the 20mph speed limit, he’s accused of going slow intentionally by the passenger – that can then lead to racist abuse,” said Mr Choudhury.

Vile insults suffered by drivers include being called “terrorist” or “black b******”, he added.

Chief Inspector Jimmy Jones said officers were investigating recent offences in West Pilton.

He said: “Hate crime in any form will not be tolerated and we work closely with a range of partner agencies to provide support and assistance to victims while rigorously pursuing anyone involved in committing these crimes.”

City council transport chief Lesley Hinds said: “We condemn all abuse of private hire drivers, racially motivated or otherwise.

“With more streets now 20mph, all road users are adjusting to slower speeds, however there is no excuse for road users who are adhering to the new limit to come in for abuse from others.”

Police commander pledges racism clampdown in Capital

POLICE are determined to come down hard on any racist attacks in north Edinburgh, the area’s commander has stressed.

Writing in his Evening News column today, Chief Inspector Jimmy Jones condemned Saturday’s hate-fuelled robbery of Sikondor Ullah.

“We will not tolerate such victimisation and this cowardly act, committed by a group against someone trying to go about their own business, is being investigated rigorously,” he wrote.

Chief Inspector Jones sought to reassure residents his officers were “fully committed” to investigating all forms of “unacceptable behaviour”.

He condemned antisocial acts for “blighting the lives of too many” and pledged future work to tackle the issue head-on.

Communities can take heart from multiple arrests of key offenders as part of Operation Soteria, wrote Chief Insp Jones. Year-to-date analysis shows antisocial behaviour offences have fallen by more than 6.5 per cent.

He also noted a reduction in housebreaking – though motorbike crime has seen a worrying rise again of late.

“We refuse to become complacent and will continue our efforts to reduce these incidents further,” he added.