I've been waiting a long time to make this post, but as they say everything comes to those who wait.
Just before midnight last night, a combined team of STC cab enforcement officers, along with LTPH compliance and local council wardens descended on Regent Street. First target was the line of touts outside the Swallow Street Archway.
Drivers found illegally parked in the bus lane were ticked, while others on double yellow lines who could not confirm booking details, were moved on. The same situation at Heddon Street saw for once, a Regent Street void of illegally plying for hire touts, for most if the remainder of the night.
Ticketing the touts by NSL wardens is a mine field, because of a recent judgement against Westminster Parking Services, that allows Taxis and private hire vehicles the right to make contact and then wait for a pre booked passenger, for as long as it takes the passenger to board the vehicle. Many tickets given to pre booked Taxis or minicabs can be challenged and are very winnable.
But the "get out of jail free" card is, the job must be pre booked in advance. According to licensing expert James Button, who wrote Button on Taxis - Licensing Law and Practice, PHVs can not stand outside a venue and wait for a booking to be given. That constitutes illegally plying for hire, which is a recordable offence and carries the same penalty as touting.
Provincial police, licensing authorities and local councils around the country are now treating the problem of illegally plying for hire very seriously and many errant minicab drivers have been convicted in recent months. Latest to act in this regard is the Metropolitan Police service in the Richmond area.
Allegedly, NSL wardens have in the past been threatened at certain West End venues and are reluctant to ticket or challenge the touts. Giving the touts the odd ticket for £60 does not act as a deterrent. They look at it as just a small set back to their takings.
The only way to deal with the tout problem, is for the Met's Cab Enforcement in conjunction with compliance teams from LTPH, to hit them (the touts) hard on a regular basis and report perpetrators to the CPS for illegally plying for hire. They could then be referred for prosecution through the courts and once found guilty, their PH license could be revoke.
The word would soon get around that the licensing authorities meant business.
Last year, the POP report from the Met police in Wandsworth, put the instances of recorded and unrecorded minicab related serious sexual assaults including rapes, at an all time high of approx 22 a week. That's over 3 attacks a night.
Last nights action in Regent Street could of course be a one off, but if it stopped just one serious sexual assault or rape, it would have been worth all the hard work put in by the many drivers who decided that enough was enough and have decided to fight back.
Who ever listened and put last nights operation together, I thank you on behalf of the young people who's lives and the lives of their families, weren't shattered.