PHC TAKES A LOOK AT THE STORIES THAT HAVE MADE THE HEADLINES OVER THE LAST 20 YEARS. THIS MONTH IN MAY 1997
RAPE CASE HIGHLIGHTS CHECK CONCERN – The lack of criminal record checks for minicab drivers before the 1998 Private Hire Act came under the spotlight after a London cabbie was jailed for 14 years after a series of attacks on female passengers.
Devis Barthram (34) pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to rape, three indecent assaults and burglary, while working as a minicab driver in the East End of London and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Barthram first struck in January 1991, while working for Redbridge Radio Cars. He raped a young secretary as she returned home from work and after attacking her, threatened: “I know where you live. If you tell anyone, I’ll come and get you.”
Barthram had previously been jailed for 18 months for indecently assaulting a woman while out jogging and the lack of compulsory checks on the background of minicab drivers was raised by the prosecution during the trial.
Sentencing Barthram to 14 years in jail the judge said: “You used your employment as a minicab driver to identify women who lived alone and then sexually assaulted them.”
POLICE TOUT SWOOP – Sixteen illegal drivers were arrested after a Metropolitan Police anti-tout operation in the Charing Cross area, Central London.
A police spokesman said 30 officers had been involved in the clampdown by the Met’s Cab Enforcement unit which took place over one weekend.
Of the 16 drivers arrested, five had no insurance and five were unable to show a driving licence.
The operation had been the result of a letter forwarded to the police from a minicab proprietor who had been touted in the area. The maximum penalty for touting in 1997 was £3,000 but most fines were around the £200 mark.
NPHA OPENS NEW LONDON BRANCH – The National Private Hire Association (NPHA), which represents the minicab trade outside London, launched a branch in the capital in Verney Road in Southwark, South London.
A spokesman for the NPHA said it was keen to get involved in the discussions with the Government with regards to the licensing of the London minicab trade and planned to invite the Transport Minister to its first trade conference.
Although the NPHA agreed with the London Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) on the issue of licensing in the interest of public safety, there was no agreement on how the authorities should regulate the trade.
The LPHCA, in its discussion document, The Final Hurdle, said the Public Carriage Office (PCO) should be the regulatory authority for the capital’s private hire trade. While the NPHA said it was “vehemently opposed” to any involvement by the PCO and said it wanted to see the system in the provinces – where each borough was licensed separately – replicated in London.
THE ‘BLOW DRY’ KID – The Minicab & Courier ‘Case Of A Con’ column featured private hire drivers who were targeted by rip-off merchants and scam artists.
May 1997’s edition put the spotlight on a driver who was stopped in the West End by a man in a green uniform who said he was working for the Highways Environmental Agency (HEA).
The official waved a familiar looking device at the cab driver’s exhaust and told him his car was three times over the legal emission limit and must pay a £25 on-the-spot fine immediately. The cab driver refused and the ‘HEA official’ said he would have to go to an emissions control centre for further tests.
According to the cabbie: “Twenty minutes later I’m told to stop outside this shabby looking building, into which the guy disappears. I check the building and it is empty. The little green man has done a runner and got a free ride, leaving his ‘emission tester’, a hairdryer, like the one my wife has. So, from then on, the other drivers have called me the ‘Blow Dry Kid’ and all because I was trying to do my bit for the environment.”
LABOUR; ‘BIKE TO BASICS’ – Transport minister Glenda Jackson gave her support to the Camelot Courier Training stand at the London Arena Bike Show. The Hampstead MP said Labour were proposing a wide-ranging consultation on the role of the motorcycle, both from a safety point of view as well as easing congestion. A spokesman for the Labour Party added: “A prime area for discussion will be the introduction of a hazard warning test.”
RIDER SPOTLIGHT ON … Twenty eight year old Dee was working for Challenger back in 1997 and riding a Kawasaki Zephyr 500. Why was she working as a despatch rider? “I came back from travelling and was looking for something to do which I enjoy. And I love bike riding.” Worst bit? “Everyone think’s I’m a bloke.”
MAYDAY PRESENT £1,000 CHEQUE TO GUY’S HOSPITAL – Mayday’s director Jacky Stringer (below right) presented a cheque to a representative from Guy’s to celebrate achieving their ISO 9002 accreditation.
Local MP Kate Hoey attended the drinks and buffet lunch presentation and Mayday operations manager and ex-despatch rider Chris Spinks said: “Working here is a bit different to a lot of other firms. We’re a social bunch here and like to get the drivers and riders involved in the company.”
IS THE KNOWLEDGE TOO HARD? – Twenty years ago, London taxi commentators were predicting a shortage of cab drivers in the capital at a time when public demand was on the increase.
According to one source: “There is no shortage of cabs with nearly 19,000 licensed vehicles. The problem though is that there aren’t enough people to drive them.”
A spokesman for the taxi trade said there were up to 4,000 Knowledge boys and girls out on the streets at any one time and that the qualifying time had risen from 15 months to three or four years.
He added: “Cabbies are concerned that the shortage will encourage customers to drive themselves, or worse, take a minicab!”