Warning over illegal taxis

TAXI drivers today urged the authorities to take action after claiming as many as 12 illegal cabs are operating on the streets of Ipswich each night.The call follows last week's conviction of Mohanid Alobaydi, who picked up a woman from the town centre, drove her to a secluded area before raping her.

TAXI drivers today urged the authorities to take action after claiming as many as 12 illegal cabs are operating on the streets of Ipswich each night.

The call follows last week's conviction of Mohanid Alobaydi, who picked up a woman from the town centre, drove her to a secluded area before raping her.

The disturbing case has brought the issue of illegal cab drivers in the town into sharp focus. But legitimate taxi drivers claim not enough is being done to address the problem.

Eric Pearl, secretary of the Ipswich Taxi Drivers' Association, said: “We know of at least 12 drivers who regularly work illegally. They are out there every night.

“Occasionally we do approach them ourselves and politely tell them what they are doing is wrong. But they continue on the basis they don't think they'll get caught.

“This problem does need to be dealt or another woman could get raped in similar circumstances. We wouldn't want to say 'we told you so'.

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“We've passed on information to the council and the police and we've been a bit disappointed this hasn't been acted on.”

Fellow taxi driver Mike Green, 50, also expressed his concern.

He said: “We've given the authorities number plates of the people involved on numerous occasions but nothing seems to be done.

“I think this problem is rife in Ipswich. We're professional people who pay a lot of money for our vehicles and we do our bit to get people home safely. We don't want our livelihoods being taken away by these people.”

John Jacobs, principle transportation officer at Ipswich Borough Council, claimed suggestions that 12 illegal cabs were operating in the town each night were “over-egged”.

And he stressed tackling the problem is a priority for the council.

He said: “If we do get reports of vehicles trading illegally, we will give the information to the police.

“If the police came back to us and said they've got evidence of a taxi driver doing an illegal pick-up we wouldn't hesitate to prosecute.”

Mr Pearl said he believed the council and police were playing the problem down in a bid not to scare the public.

He said many illegal drivers had been warned but not prosecuted.

He added: “We caught one red-handed one night at the taxi rank and blocked him in.

“We got in trouble from the police they called it false imprisonment and two of our drivers nearly got charged.”

The rape of a 22-year-old Ipswich woman, on March 31, happened just months after young Cambridgeshire woman Sally Geeson was murdered by a former soldier after getting into an illegal cab, on December 31.

Last week Alobaydi was sentenced to nine years . The kebab shop worker and his accomplices laughed while two of them raped the woman at a secluded spot in Tuddenham Road, Ipswich, before throwing her out of a moving car.

SERGEANT Neil Boast, crime reduction and community safety officer based at Ipswich police station, said people should plan how they will get home before they leave the house for a night out.

He said: “We are really pleased with the verdict in the rape trial but we would always caution people when going out to plan their night. The first thing we want them to do is think about how they are going to get home.”

Sgt Boast said people should pre-book taxis to ensure they do not have to wait in a queue and for peace of mind that they would get home safely.

He also recommended appointing a designated driver, who will not drink on the evening and can drive friends home.

Despite the Alobaydi rape, Sgt Boast said he did not believe the problem with unlicensed taxis in the town was as serious as some of the licensed drivers maintained.

He said last weekend there had just been one report of an unlicensed vehicle working in the Cardinal Park area.

He added: “I do know of other cases where people have got into cabs, particularly females, thinking they were licensed and they have just been pretending but these cases are few and far between.

“We will prosecute anyone who is caught. Some are only doing it for financial gain but for others it is more sinister, they are trying to use it as a rouse to get women, girls or anyone into their cab and then to assault them.

“Most will probably get fined but if we can trace them back and link them with any attacks through forensic evidence then we will.”

FASTfacts: How to recognise a licensed taxi

N Licensed taxis carry license plates.

N Private hire vehicles have yellow license plates and are not allowed to stand on taxi ranks. They must be booked through licensed private hire operators.

N Unlicensed vehicles are not insured to be used as taxis, so if there is an accident, passengers will be unable to get compensation.

N Drivers must display an identification card detailing their license number and expiry date.

N Licensed taxis will not tout for business. Anyone who approaches you asking if you need a cab is unlikely to be licensed.

N If possible, go to a designated taxi rank or hail a licensed hackney carriage (with illuminated 'taxi' sign on it) from the street.

N If you're booking a vehicle to collect you from a public venue, wait for the driver to come and find you . Check the driver has your name and/or booking reference and destination when he arrives.

N Do not sit in the front with the driver - sit directly behind him and have your mobile phone with you. If you have a problem with the driver make a note of the registration number and report it to the police

N If for any reason you feel unsure, do not get into the vehicle.

Weblink: www.taxiwise.com

Source Suffolk police and Taxiwise

Have you seen illegal cabs in operation in Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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