Taxi drivers lose court appeal over cameras

Published Wednesday, 14th December 2016

A group of taxi drivers have lost an appeal against new rules that require them to install a taxi camera in their vehicles.

The eight drivers lodged the appeal at Sheffield Magistrates Court after Rotherham Council introduced its new Hackney Carriage and Taxi Licensing Policy, which came into effect in July this year.

The new policy aims to rebuild trust in Rotherham’s taxi industry by putting in place high standards for ensuring public safety.

Under the new rules, new and re-licensed vehicles must have a taxi camera installed, with cameras already fitted or soon to be fitted, in around 700 Rotherham vehicles.

The court heard claims from the drivers that the cameras were too expensive, and the camera specification was too complicated and made it difficult to identify a suitable supplier and system.

However, the district judge dismissed the appeal stating he was “not satisfied” the drivers had made the case that the condition requiring them to install a taxi camera was unreasonable, adding that the drivers’ case appeared “confused and contradictory.”

Costs of £525 were awarded against each of the eight appellants, a total of £4200.

Following the judgement, Rotherham Council’s Chair of the Licensing Board Cllr Sue Ellis said the council was committed to ensuring a professional service was provided in Rotherham’s taxi industry.

She said: “Rotherham Council’s new policy ensures that all Rotherham-licensed drivers and vehicles are operating to one of the most stringent policies in the country, and we are pleased the district judge appreciated the approach being taken in introducing the new rules. With cameras already installed in a large majority of vehicles, passengers have extra peace of mind.”

The court ruling comes as Communities Secretary Sajid Javid this week handed back licensing powers to the authority. This allows the council to resume all decision making on licensing matters, including for hackney carriage and private hire taxi services, for the first time since February 2015 without the consent of Government-appointed Commissioners.

Commissioner Mary Ney will continue to maintain an overview of decisions and sit in an advisory capacity with members, in the few cases which were deferred from the Commissioners previous hearing and on a sample basis and at the request of the Chair.

Commissioner Ney added: "The council has worked hard to implement a range of improvements to its licensing function and I welcome the decision to return these powers to the council as a result. Public safety and confidence is now at the heart of the council's licensing service and the new Hackney Carriage and Taxi Licensing Policy, the benefits of which we know passengers are already experiencing.”

Under the terms of the new policy, video recording must be activated each time there is a passenger in a vehicle whilst the audio recording can be activated by either the driver or the passenger at any time. Drivers must do this whenever they are involved in any kind of dispute with a passenger and whenever an unaccompanied child or vulnerable adult is being carried in the vehicle.

A small indicator light shows when audio is being recorded, and stickers and notices tell passengers how to use the systems. Drivers can not access the footage or audio which can only be downloaded by an authorised council officer.

If a passenger feels their driver is not abiding by the new rules they can report their concern or make a complaint.

Go to the taxi licensing webpage