'Fake taxi' warning in Newcastle

29 Feb 2016 09:30 AM

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Police and Newcastle City Council are warning people about the dangers of getting into unlicensed or 'fake' taxis.

The warning comes after officers and council staff have noticed an increase in the number of people offering their services as taxi drivers on social media sites like Facebook.

Officers from Newcastle city centre policing team work closely with Newcastle City Council taxi licensing enforcement team and hold regular hearings to assess the suitability of drivers who have applied for official taxi licenses.

Those that have applied are checked and vetted and are either granted or refused a licence by the council committee members once they have been assessed.

This process is in place to ensure that those driving taxis in Newcastle are safe and suitable to do so.

The danger in people getting into unlicensed or 'fake' taxis is that the driver has not been checked and vetted in any way. A passenger can never be guaranteed how safe they are going to be getting into one of these vehicles and could potentially be putting them selves at risk.

Officers are also warning those driving these 'fake' taxis that they face action if caught by police, as they are not insured and neither are their passengers. They are breaking the law and could face being arrested, going to court, getting fined and receiving points on their license.

Police in the city centre, as well as motor patrol officers out on the roads, regular carry out stop checks of taxi drivers in the city to check they licensed to carry passengers.

Newcastle City Centre Inspector Nicola Wearing said: "A really important part of a night out is making sure that you can get home safely afterwards. The best way is either to prearrange a lift with a friend or family member, or to book a licensed taxi.

"We work really closely with the local council and the licensed taxi companies across the area to ensure there are lots of ways for people to get home after a night out.

"What we don't want is people getting into unlicensed taxis - by that I mean people who do taxi runs in their own cars, who are unlicensed and who could be anyone.

"If you get into one of these cars you could be putting your safety at risk as you may not know who is driving or if the vehicle is even safe.

"When you get a taxi you should always book it through a licensed reputable company, don't just get into cars that look like taxis or accept lifts from strangers in any circumstances.

"Licensed taxis must display taxi plates both in and outside of the vehicle and it's always worth while taking note, where possible, of the taxi license number or the driver's details. As a precaution we also recommend people arrange to go home in a group of friends and if possible use an authorised taxi rank."

Newcastle City Council’s Licensing Manager Jonathan Bryce said: "If you get into an unlicensed vehicle at the end of a night out you are taking big risks with your personal safety. Neither the driver nor the vehicle will have been subject to the very stringent checks that the city council insists on to ensure the safety of the public.

"Quite simply if you accept a lift off someone from a social media site, the driver will have had no background checks and the vehicle could be unroadworthy and uninsured which would have serious implications for you in the event of a collision.

"In Newcastle only hackney carriages - typically black in colour with crests on the side of the vehicle and a red plate on the rear are allowed to pick up from a rank or be flagged down. All other licensed vehicles must be pre-booked with a licensed operator.

"The city council and police go to great lengths to ensure public safety but all that could be in vain if you accept a lift home from an unlicensed driver. Don’t do it."

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