27/11/2003

Anti mini-cab touting measures could 'cut sex attacks'

Illegal mini-cab drivers caught touting for business with unlicensed vehicles face being fingerprinted and having their DNA recorded on the national criminal database, the Home Office announced today, in a drive to crack down on sex attacks on female passengers.

From 1 December taxi touting will become a recordable offence giving police more powers to identify illegal drivers who are believed to be responsible for hundreds of sexual assaults.

In London alone, the police recorded 167 incidences of sexual assaults last year assault by men driving mini-cabs and 86 rapes in the last two years. The vast majority of assaults on women in mini-cabs are believed to be carried out by illegal drivers.

As well as being associated with sexual assaults on their passengers, unlicensed drivers are uninsured and often have large numbers of previous criminal convictions, the government said.

The public is advised that minicabs must always be booked through an operator, and where a minicab driver approaches a passenger directly offering his services as a cab driver, he is touting.

The new powers announced today will help the police deal with unlicensed drivers before passengers get into their cars. It will also help police catch illegal drivers who continually flout the law even if working in different towns and cities in the UK, the Home Office said.

The Home Office Minister for Crime Reduction and Community Safety, Hazel Blears, said: "Unlicensed mini-cab drivers are a menace to the public, particularly women. By making taxi touting a recordable offence, the government is giving the police vital new powers to deal with these dangerous individuals. Enabling them to take fingerprints and DNA samples will help forces across the country catch those who are trying to evade the law."

Metropolitan Police Commander John Yates, Association of Chief Police Officer's spokesman for rape, said: "We have been working closely with the Mayor of London and the government to make touting a recordable offence. The new legislation means we can be even more effective in identifying and catching criminals who work under the guise of an illegal cab driver – putting the fear of crime back into the criminals."

Taxi touting will be added to the Recordable Offences Regulations from Monday, 1 December.

(gmcg)

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