CCTV cameras could be coming to all Norfolk taxis
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016
Taxi companies could be forced to install CCTV under measures to bring licensing laws that differ widely across Norfolk up to date.
Compulsory cameras are among the recommendations of a government report that claims current taxi and private hire laws are 'not fit for the modern world'. Some current laws date back to 1847.
The Department for Transport commissioned report urges government legislation to bring in minimum standards for all taxi and private-hire drivers. It recommends tightening rules on everything from security measures to criminal record checks and setting up a national database for drivers.
The report follows high profile cases like the sex abuse scandals in towns such as Rotherham and Rochdale and the London black cab rapist John Worboys.
Norfolk taxi owners and drivers have welcomed the extra security CCTV cameras would bring.
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Sibi Kuttiparichel, director of Norwich-based Goldstar Taxis, said: 'We have dashcams in all our cars and most of our drivers would like to have CCTV inside as well. It would protect both the customers and our drivers. When someone is being recorded they are perhaps more likely to behave better and also if anyone is blaming the drivers for something we would be able to check that back too.'
Bruce Davis, a driver with A2B Taxis, said: 'I'd be all for it because it is extra security for both drivers and passengers. Some drivers have cameras, some don't but the cameras tend not to be looking into the interior of the taxi. There is an issue there because we are then getting into the realms of data protection, protecting identities and privacy. It opens up a bit of a minefield.'
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Licences for taxis and private hire vehicles - or minicabs - are issued by unitary, borough or district councils but in Norfolk the current advice and rules on CCTV vary widely.
South Norfolk Council says CCTV facing the interior of the vehicle is not permitted, while in Great Yarmouth the operator must obtain approval from the council.
In King's Lynn & West Norfolk CCTV cameras have to face outward and must not record audio sound unless the owner gets written permission and is registered with the Information Commissioners Office.
A Norwich City Council spokesman said there are no specific CCTV conditions on its licence but any camera use would have to comply with the requirements of the Information Commission.
Broadland Council says drivers need written approval for interior cameras for the purposes of 'personal safety and as a deterrent only' and signs warning passengers need to be installed.
But the council adds: 'The legislation relating to the provision of CCTV in licensed vehicles is currently under review. These conditions are therefore subject to change following the introduction of any relevant legislation.'
The government report was completed by the Task and Finish Group on Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing in September. The group's chairman, Prof Mohammed Abdel-Haq, states: 'Only a small number of licensing authorities in England currently require CCTV in their licensed vehicles; however, there is a strong case for having CCTV in taxis and private hire vehicles, and licensing authorities which do not already mandate CCTV should do so.'
The report's 34 recommendations also include the ability to take action against 'out-of-area' drivers; new guidance on what convictions are grounds for refusing or revoking a licence; and a 'cap' on the number of taxi and private hire licences in each council area.