Taxi drivers face disqualification for serious criminal convictions

Thursday 24 January 2013 14.13
The Taxi Regulation Bill 2013 is being presented to the Seanad
The Taxi Regulation Bill 2013 is being presented to the Seanad

Taxi drivers with serious criminal convictions will be taken off the road under proposed new legislation revealed today.

Minister of State Alan Kelly said around 6,000 people with SPFV licences who are driving taxis have some form of criminal conviction.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Kelly said: "Many of them are minor [convictions], but there is a number of people out there driving taxis today who should not be driving taxis."

He said the Taxi Regulation Bill 2013 will bring in lifetime bans for murder, manslaughter, rape, terrorism and other serious crimes.

Mr Kelly also said the Bill will introduce temporary bans for convictions such as burglary, firearms offences, serious assault and harassment.

He said gardaí will be allowed to refuse to renew a licence if they are of the view that the person "has a character of an unsavoury kind" or if they are believed to be "a danger to the public".

Drivers will have 12 months to appeal a ban.

The minister also confirmed that a demerit system, similar to the penalty point system, will be introduced.

Mr Kelly said that if a taxi driver gets eight demerits, they will have their licence suspended for three months.

"For instance if the driver has a complaint made about him because he is overcharging, supposedly taking the scenic route, they don't provide information to enforcement officers, there's issues relating to fares, where they're applying for hire or their licence, they will get demerits.

"If they get eight demerits they will have their licence suspended."

Taxi drivers have expressed concerns about the proposed demerit system.

John Usher of the Irish Taxi Drivers' Federation said drivers would be going to work "with a cloud over their heads" under the system, in which they could accumulate points for breaching regulations.

The system would operate separately to the penalty points system for drivers.

On RTÉ's Drivetime, Mr Usher expressed particular concern about penalty points for drivers queuing to get onto a taxi rank.

He said there were 12,000 taxis in Dublin, but only spaces at ranks for less than 1,000 and queuing was inevitable.

"It would be very easy for any taxi driver out there trying to earn a day's wages to get eight penalty points in one day. And he'd be off the road for three months," he said.

Mr Usher said he agreed with some of the minister's plans for people with convictions for serious crimes, but said some people with historic offences deserved a break.

If passed by the Oireachtas, the new laws could be in force by April.

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