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New taxi camera rules come into effect

Published on Wednesday, 13th April 2016 in Commissioners news

Customers will soon start to see security cameras installed in all Rotherham taxis.

The cameras are being introduced as part of Rotherham Council’s new Taxi and Hackney Carriage policy, which sees a raft of new measures aiming to rebuild trust and confidence in Rotherham’s taxi industry.

The Council has given drivers until 6 July 2016 to have cameras fitted – a little longer in a few cases where licences are not yet up for renewal.*

Council Commissioner Mary Ney said: "All drivers have known about the requirement for taxi cameras since last summer and we wrote to them in January before making it a condition of their licence when it was renewed.

"The Council believes that the cameras will provide protection, confidence and reassurance to the public when they are travelling in a taxi, which is the primary aim of the Council's revised licensing policy. The system also provides protection to taxi drivers who can experience abusive behaviour.

"The new camera rules are just one part of the policy which has been introduced to support drivers to do their job, by rebuilding trust and confidence in an industry which employs many local people, and ensuring the safety of all those who use local taxis."

The system will record video footage from inside the vehicle, and in some cases outside the vehicle, whenever the vehicle is being used as a taxi.

Whenever an unaccompanied child or vulnerable adult is being carried in the vehicle, audio recording must be activated by the driver.

The driver and the passenger can also activate the audio recording at any time. Both the driver and the passenger have access to buttons to switch on audio recording. The Council requires drivers to do this whenever they are involved in any kind of dispute with a passenger.

A small indicator light will show when audio is being recorded, and stickers and notices will give people information about the systems and how they are used.

Only people authorised by the Council can access any recorded footage – the system is protected by physical security measures and passwords to prevent unauthorised access. Drivers will be unable to access footage.

The Council will only download the footage in certain circumstances, such as if there is a complaint or incident involving a taxi, or if the Council wants to check that the system is being used properly.

The Council can easily check if a vehicle was being used as a taxi at a particular time by referring to records held by the private hire company that the taxi is working for.

The Council does not require the systems to be active during the times that the system is not being used as a taxi, so there will be no intrusion into the private lives of drivers and their families.

Commissioner Ney added: "The camera system will provide protection for both passengers and the driver, and there needs to be the correct balance between protecting people and making sure that there is no breach of people’s rights to privacy.

"The driver is required to make sure that the system is operating correctly when the taxi is working. We will carry out random checks including downloading footage from the systems to verify that the systems are being used as required by the Council’s policy. If they are not then drivers may have their licence suspended or revoked."

The new Rotherham Council Taxi and Hackney Carriage policy sets out in detail the requirements of drivers which include checks of criminal records, social care and other agencies, motoring offences, the drivers' track record and previous licensing history. The policy also sets standards concerning the safety of vehicles.

The new camera rules were agreed in July last year, with the date for implementation confirmed in December.

More than 1100 taxi drivers are currently employed in Rotherham, with around 780 vehicles registered as taxis. Both the driver and the vehicle need to be licenced to operate as a taxi.

Vehicle licence renewals

*The Council will no longer be issuing licences in relation to any vehicle unless it has a suitable camera system installed (or the driver has paid for a system and has an installation date confirmed by the supplier).

Most taxi drivers must install a camera in their vehicle by 6 July 2016. However, some drivers only renew their licences once a year, and where the 2016 renewal date falls after 6 July, a camera will need to be installed when the driver next submits an application. This typically applies to drivers who have been driving a taxi less than three years old, and affects around 150 vehicles.

Camera systems

The Council does not recommend any particular camera system, but in order to assist drivers, we have reviewed and found four systems which meet council requirements.

These systems cost between £500 and £600 including VAT and installation. Some suppliers are able to offer discounts if systems are bought in bulk, an option that a number of taxi firms have taken advantage of. Some companies offer monthly payment options for licence holders that may find it difficult to purchase a system outright.

The systems will also attract motor insurance premium discounts, saving a typical driver around £200 per year on their insurance premium. The cost of the system is also tax deductible, meaning that a driver can reduce the amount of tax that he or she pays by offsetting the cost of the system against their earnings.

View the systems and read the new policy

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