Children as young as five have been ‘sexually exploited’ by muslim minicab drivers who were allowed to ferry youngsters around despite not undergoing proper background checks, a shock new report claims.
On one occasion, a five-year-old girl was left ‘totally traumatised’ after allegedly being touched inappropriately by a mini-cab driver, while a 16-year-old girl claims she feared being raped by another.
In light of the allegations, which emerged in an interim report conducted by South Ribble Council at the instruction of the Cabinet Office, two workers have been suspended for allegedly issuing licences without conducting proper checks.
The report bears a horrifying resemblance to the Rotherham sex abuse scandal where more than 1,400 children were sexually exploited by gangs of men between 1997 and 2013.
In South Ribble, the report classed the failure to carry out proper background checks on 44 taxi drivers as ‘particularly severe’, and reveals how licensing officers tasked with investigating the alleged abuses failed to take action.
One driver accused of sexual abuse was also allowed to keep his private hire licence for months, until the alleged victim’s family successfully managed to fight the council into revoking it.
In that case, the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that the five-year-old victim was too young to give evidence, despite the council report noting that ‘police believe the driver committed the offence’.
The report states: ‘The driver was arrested for a sexual offence against a primary school age girl.
We all must look at what’s happened in other places like Rotherham and be vigilant that it’s not happening on our doorstep, but it appears South Ribble has failed in that respect
Councillor Matthew Tomlinson
‘The CPS decided not to proceed with prosecution against the driver because of potential difficulties in such a young witness giving evidence.
‘However, police have been clear that they consider the driver did commit the offence.
‘It is reasonable to assume the driver poses a safeguarding risk.’
According to New Day, the girl’s aunt said the youngster had been ‘left totally traumatised’ by the ordeal.
She said: ‘She told her mum this man had touched her inappropriately.
‘He was on police bail but he kept his licence and was still driving around until a few weeks ago when the authority finally stepped in and revoked his licence.
‘It’s an absolute disgrace.
‘He’s been driving around picking up schoolchildren and all the while the council did nothing.’
The report also details another incident in which a 16-year-old girl feared she was going to be raped by a driver who was contracted by Lancashire County Council to take her to and from school.
It is claimed he propositioned the ‘vulnerable’ teenager and made ‘inappropriate sexualised remarks’ but the council failed to revoke his licence even when she made a formal complaint.
The report found that a handwritten note by the schoolgirl expressing her fears was never presented to the General Licensing Committee, and no ‘significant data sharing’ took place between the local authority and the police.
Lawyers have now been brought in to carry out an independent review into the allegations.
In a formal statement, South Ribble Borough Council said: ‘We are currently investigating a number of issues within the licensing section.
‘The council takes matters of public safety extremely seriously and we are currently undertaking a full review of all taxi licences, including drivers and vehicles.
‘Where issues have been highlighted, these have been rectified without incident.
‘Two licensing officers are currently suspended subject to ongoing disciplinary proceedings.
‘We continue to operate a full licensing service in the meantime.
‘An independent investigation is ongoing and will be published in due course.’
South Ribble councillor Matthew Tomlinson, who is also a Lancashire County Councillor and Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Schools, said he was ‘appalled’ by the report.
He told New Day: ‘If something goes wrong with regard to child safeguarding you should throw the doors open and say, ‘My God, this is terrible’ and ‘We need help,’ but this looks as if the council has tried to bury it for as long as it possibly could. Trying to cover the initial issue is what gets you in a mess.
‘We all must look at what’s happened in other places like Rotherham and be vigilant that it’s not happening on our doorstep, but it appears South Ribble has failed in that respect.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3545196/Taxi-drivers-without-proper-background-checks-allowed-sexually-exploit-children-young-five-Lancashire-town-scandal-dubbed-Rotherham.html#ixzz46BuOBkEB