Gardai to take sex-offender taxi drivers off road
ROGUE taxi drivers – some of whom have convictions for serious sexual assault – will be driven off the road in a new nationwide crackdown.
The garda blitz will weed out the illicit element of the trade, which sees hundreds of unregulated taxi and hackney drivers regularly plying for hire, illegally picking up fares off the streets.
The clampdown, starting this weekend, will also target uninsured drivers, those with unroadworthy vehicles, or who may have a criminal record.
Taxis with obvious problems such as bald tyres, and seriously damaged bodywork will be a particular focus for the gardai.
Public Transport Minister Alan Kelly, launching the new campaign, said the process of weeding out drivers with convictions for serious sexual assault, including rape, is "ongoing".
"They have been identified. And those whose names haven't come to our attention, or the gardai's attention . . . that is being worked through at the moment," he told the Irish Independent.
"We're very confident we'll be able to ensure that anybody who has a very serious conviction for sexual assault, murder, or anything like that, simply will not be able to drive a public service vehicle ever again."
He said recent regulation provided strengthened and updated powers to regulate the industry.
Drivers with a serious criminal conviction face mandatory disqualification from holding a licence. And drivers who regularly flout the regulations can also have their licence revoked for a period of time.
While the number of serious offenders driving Small Public Service Vehicles (SPSVs) may not be "huge", there are still major concerns about the danger they pose, he said.
"There are people with licences who simply shouldn't have them. People with convictions certainly will not be able to remain in the industry anymore."
He said drivers who operate in the shadows are a menace, not just to customers who trust them with their lives, but to reputable taxi owners trying to shake off the unsavoury reputation these people bring to the profession.
The operation this weekend is one of 10 planned SPSV campaigns that will take place nationwide this year.
There will also be unannounced spot checks across the country.