More than third of taxi licences handed out in Borders last year given to drivers with criminal records

Scottish Borders Council's Newtown headquarters.
Scottish Borders Council's Newtown headquarters.

Council chiefs in the Borders are still handing out taxi licences to applicants with criminal records, latest figures confirm.

A freedom of information request submitted last year revealed that nearly half of all licences handed out in 2017 were given to people with a criminal past, including convictions for housebreaking, fire-raising, theft and a host of motoring offences. 

One licence holder had even been convicted of indecent exposure twice, and another had a criminal record for carrying a pistol in public.

Speeding accounted for a large proportion of the convictions, but many were for more serious road offences such as drink-driving and getting behind the wheel without a licence or insurance or while disqualified.

Several licence holders had also been convicted of offences of violence such as assault, domestic abuse and assaulting a police officer. One driver had been convicted of assault four times, it was revealed.

A follow-up freedom of information request has revealed that since that information was released, Scottish Borders Council has continued to grant licences to individuals with criminal convictions. 

The local authority handed out 314 new and renewed taxi drivers’ licences in 2018, 114 of them to cabbies with criminal records, and it has granted another 138 so far this year, 47 to applicants previously in trouble with the law. 

A council spokesperson said: “As set out in the protocol and as required by the 1982 Civic Government (Scotland) Act, all applications are referred to Police Scotland.

“There are no set criteria, and each application is considered on its individual merits. This includes applications for renewal.

“Any taxi licence with a conviction has at some point been considered by the licensing committee. 

“The bulk of those licences issued are renewals where there have been no new convictions. For example, a licence is granted by the committee after it has considered an applicant’s previous convictions.

“If the same applicant has no further convictions, there is no basis for the committee to consider their renewal application.

“For more serious offences, it is likely that the police would object to any application, which would then need to be considered by the licensing committee.

“The committee would look at the details of the circumstances of the offence and would take into account how long ago the conviction took place.

“Committee members will also consider other matters such as how they have addressed their offending behaviour, such as attending counselling, or whether the applicant has shown remorse.

“In all applications, it is open to the committee to grant a licence for a lesser period, while the police also have the ability to request a suspension or a withdrawal of a licence should the licence holder’s conduct cause them concern.”

However, the council refuses to allow press or public scrutiny of meetings at which taxi licences are to be discussed as it claims the need to protect the confidentiality of applicants outweighs the right of the public to know about them, regardless of whether their applications are successful or not.