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Gardai get powers to tackle rogue taxi drivers

GARDAI will be given back the job of cracking down on rogue taxi operators.

Enforcement of illegal taxi practices was taken away from gardai following deregulation more than a decade ago.

The job is currently carried out by nine inspectors at the taxi regulator's office.

However, a review of the industry ordered by the Government yesterday was expected to lead to gardai resuming this role. Taxi unions have been clamouring for garda enforcement to clamp down on the increasing level of abuses in the industry. Revelations in Monday night's 'Prime Time Investigates' programme forced the minister in charge of the taxi industry, Alan Kelly, to last night admit that the taxi industry is not being policed.

"Enforcement is not there. The review is to clean up the appalling practices that take place in some areas of the taxi industry," he said.

"Gardai must play a leading role in taxi industry enforcement, and not just leave it to nine enforcement officers."

The review also aims to end the loophole where people with multiple taxi licences do not have to inform the authorities who is driving their taxis.

It will also tackle concerns about the manner in which taxis can be rented for as little as €200 without the necessary licence or garda vetting.

The move follows disclosures by the RTE programme about taxi drivers. These include:

  • About 7,000 taxi drivers have a criminal conviction, that is one in seven of all taxi drivers.
  • Licences have been previously issued to drivers with convictions for violent and sex crimes.
  • One taxi driver was also working 90 hours a week as a Dublin Bus driver.
  • A woman was recorded operating a minibus with an expired licence but still bearing a taxi roof plate.

She was shown carrying out school runs for up to 13 children at any one time, even though the vehicle only had nine seatbelts.

  • One man was renting out unroadworthy taxis for a weekend for as little as €100 to drivers who did not have the legally required public service vehicle (PSV) licences or garda vetting.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted the Government had "acted swiftly" to deal with concerns over unroadworthy taxis passing the NCT test, double-jobbing drivers working long days, and unvetted drivers with criminal records obtaining taxi licences.

The terms of the review will be drawn up in three to four weeks and its findings are expected to be published within four months.

Irish Independent