Crackdown on pervert limo drivers

Crackdown on ‘pervert’ limo drivers..

SEX offenders are taking jobs as limousine chauffeurs so they can target young girls, Wales’ top public road transport official claimed today.

Traffic Commissioner Nick Jones said sting operations revealed drivers who were on the sex offenders’ register.

Mr Jones said: “The police and VOSA (Vehicle Operator and Standards Agency) have told me that when they undertake checks on stretch limousines, very often they find people on the sex offenders’ register.

“Stretch limousines have become popular for end-of-term proms, so you get young girls aged 14 to 15. Sometimes they are plied with alcohol, and sometimes the drivers choose to be drivers because it is an opportunity to have a pop at the girls. It’s a cause for concern.”

Mr Jones spoke to the Echo as he launched a crackdown on the vehicles as their popularity soars in South Wales.

He said a safety campaign in the US five years ago, which included tighter regulation and safety checks, forced many stretch limousines off American roads. He fears some were shipped to Britain where the novelty value of hiring a limousine for the night was just starting to kick off.

“A lot of vehicles are inherently dangerous. Many people have chosen to operate outside the law,” said Mr Jones.

“Across England and Wales 10 years ago there were four stretch limousines. Now one senior policeman has told me there are 40,000. A lot are unregulated and illegal.

“A large number are here because they were deemed unsafe to run in America.”

He said the current lack of regulation could even prove tempting to money launderers who could buy into limousine businesses.

He added that some of the vehicles were not properly insured and had not undergone road safety checks.

Mr Jones said: “There is legislation relating to private hire vehicles and taxis which is undertaken by local authorities and there are regulations relating to public service vehicles which are undertaken by traffic commissioners. But stretch limousines are neither one nor the other. The law is so complicated.”

Mr Jones is taking the UK lead on studying limousine regulation and his findings could form part of a shake-up in transport laws.

Vehicles carrying up to eight passengers should be licensed by councils, whereas limos with bigger capacities fall under Mr Jones’ responsibility.

The plans were welcomed by limo operator Richard Singleton, of Coychurch, Bridgend, who has 15 vehicles in his fleet, Singleton’s Limousines.

He said today: “All our drivers go through Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks because we don’t want anyone who has been convicted, especially sex offenders.

“When they apply we tell them they will be checked. You would be surprised how many say they don’t want the job because they know something will flash up.

“We don’t want any paedophiles dealing with kids, and kids are 50% of our business.”

Mr Singleton also welcomed the crackdown on rogue companies, saying: “It will get all the rubbish cars off the road.”

South Wales Police’s head of public protection, Detective Superintendent Martyn Jones, said: “Under Government legislation there are vetting processes in place in relation to the licensing of taxi drivers.

“When a taxi driver applies for a licence they are subject to Criminal Records Bureau checks, carried out by the relevant police force, whereby previous convictions and any relevant information is disclosed to licensing authorities who decide whether drivers are suitable.

“South Wales Police also carry out regular operations and checks to target potential unlicensed taxi drivers in conjunction with local authorities and Trading Standards and take positive action where drivers are found to be unlicensed.

“We would always urge passengers to use reputable, licensed companies.”

ben.glaze@mediawales.co.uk

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