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Blitz on convicts and fraudsters driving taxis

CRIMINALS such as The Monk would no longer be able to obtain a taxi licence under new regulations.

As part of the new Taxi Regulation Act, individuals with "certain types of criminal convictions" are to be banned from the industry.

In addition, a penalty points system will be introduced to target drivers who repeatedly breach the regulations.

Under the system, they will be hit with a three-month suspension of their licence.

Suspected criminal mastermind Gerry Hutch, known as The Monk, was granted a taxi licence more than a decade ago, having passed his driving exams.

A key aim of the new regulations is to make it difficult for certain categories of criminals to operate in the taxi sector.

The act, due to be published by the end of this year, will also severely restrict those who commit benefit fraud.

Other measures include setting new age limits for vehicles and banning tinted windows in new taxis.

The news comes as Junior Transport Minister Alan Kelly announced that taxis are to get branded stickers.

The Government decided it would be too costly to demand all taxis be painted the same colour, similar to London's black cabs or New York's yellow taxis.

Instead, it will require taxis to be fitted with semi-permanent signs on their doors.



renewals

Drivers have come out against the proposal, saying it will cost them up to €250 each.

But Mr Kelly welcomed the new branding developed by the National Transport Authority, which will be phased in from January on all licence renewals.

"New York has yellow taxis, London has the famous black cabs," he said.

"To ensure the people who operate in the sector are accountable for their vehicles, we have opted for semi-permanent branding."

Mr Kelly added that it would encourage a more professional taxi sector and make it harder for rogue drivers to pass licences from car to car.

But Irish Taxi Drivers Federation president John Usher said the money would be better spent putting phones at ranks.

Mr Kelly said official suppliers will be licensed to print and fit the signs.

"Taxi drivers will be able to shop around and achieve the lowest possible price for operators," he said.

Earlier this year, Mr Kelly said a significant number of the country's 38,000 taxi drivers would "exit the industry" as a result of the measures.

He added that the regulations relating to criminal convictions will be "retrospective".

The minister announced a full-scale review of the taxi industry last year after a Prime Time Investigates programme exposed a number of illegal practices.

comurphy@herald.ie


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