Derbyshire taxi driver petition rejected amid child abuse fears

Taxi rank, Chesterfield
Taxi rank, Chesterfield

A petition calling for Erewash cabbies to be allowed to have fully-tinted windows in their taxis has been rejected.

In total, 48 cabbies had signed a petition calling for Erewash Borough Council to drop its policy of only allowing windows to have a slight tint.

The authority had asked more taxi drivers for their views and support to drop the policy rose to 69 out of the 257 licensed cars in the borough.

Erewash’s current policy requires all Hackney and private hire vehicles to have a windscreen that allow at least 75 per cent of light to pass through and 70 per cent through all other windows.

The petitioning drivers said that this often leaves them hundreds or thousands of pounds out of pocket to make their vehicles meet specification.

This, they say, is often because many vehicles come pre-fitted with tinted windows.

Neither the county council or police support withdrawing the policy of not allowing heavily tinted windows, while the borough council says that if it were to be changed, it may face “reputational damage” and a surge in challenges from drivers who have already paid out for compliant windows.

In a council report on the issue, Derbyshire Police made the claim that taxis in Erewash are being used to transport kids to places where they are being abused.

The borough council says that the policy on tinted windows is in place to maintain the safety and welfare of passengers – specifically to minimise the risk to vulnerable children and adults.

At a meeting of the authority’s licensing and public protection today (Thursday, February 14), councillors unanimously agreed to uphold the current policy.

Nick Thurstan, the authority’s head of environment and housing services, said: “These are very serious offences we are talking about and the council’s policy is proactive and precautionary, to minimise the possibility of heinous crimes.

“There have been complaints about taxi driver behaviour and we have provided some examples of these.

“So to say that Erewash is absolutely fine in this area is an incorrect fact.

“These instances underline the need for the council to retain the policy and to remain vigilant, and that it should take all possible steps to maintain that.”

Councillor Frank Phillips had concerns about the policy, saying: “I feel the council is being unreasonable if it is asking for more than the law allows.

“Cars are often fitted with tinted windows as standard.

“My wife recently bought a Toyota Yaris and it came with tinted windows.

“There are retrofit stickers which people can put on, but these would never beat the legal standard and police would just ask those to be taken off.

“When cars are being fitted as standard with tinted windows I feel it is totally unacceptable to demand more than the law allows.”

Current national standards under the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 state that windscreens must allow at least 75 per cent of light to pass through and that front driver-side windows must allow at least 70 per cent.

There are no legal standards for the back seat windows or rear windows.

Councillor John Frudd said: “I am into preventing child exploitation and modern slavery, and it is known that taxis are one of the main contributors to modern day slavery – so I would say the council’s policy is correct.

“I think taxi drivers should probably be lobbying manufacturers through their industry body, because if there are types of vehicles more suited to taxis then manufacturers could be encouraged to make sure these are fitted with compliant windows as standard.”

Chairing the meeting, Councillor Jonathan Wright, said: “I have contacted a range of manufacturers and it is usually a no cost option when ordering a car to state that you do not want tinted windows.”

The borough council consulted the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and found that tinted glass was usually an optional extra fitted a cost of £200-300 per window.

Petitioning drivers said that the policy can see cabbies forking out £4,000 for replacing non-compliant windows.

Councillor Howard Griffiths said: “Our town (Long Eaton) is filled with CCTV and the fact that taxis could have tinted windows would mean that those cameras would be useless.

“It is in the interest of the safety of the passengers and the drivers.

“Lots of people are vulnerable in the back of taxis, particularly if they have gone out to have a few drinks, including people you usually wouldn’t class as vulnerable.

“This policy gives us a fighting chance of being able to police how drivers treat their passengers and how passengers treat their drivers.

“I see no possible reason why anyone would need to have tinted windows – they should expect supervision.”

Following the decision, Cllr Wright said: “I think today’s meeting reiterates Erewash Borough Council’s stance and strong feelings on protecting residents that are riding in taxis.

“The window tinting proposal that was put forward by the taxi drivers was unfortunately not acceptable, but we believe as a council that you should be able to see into the back of taxis.

“This will safeguard residents and make taxis as safe as can be to travel in.”