Fylde taxi hopefuls to join abuse war

Bill  Lewtas, secretary of the resort's Liscensed Taxi Drivers Association backs plans for driver training
Bill Lewtas, secretary of the resort's Liscensed Taxi Drivers Association backs plans for driver training
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Motorists vying to become taxi drivers on the Fylde coast face being trained on how to spot child sex abuse before being given a licence.

They will be required to undergo specialist training as part of their application, while Blackpool’s 900 existing drivers will also be told to attend.

If this helps reduce sexual exploitation we will support it

The move – supported by the town’s taxi drivers’ association – was mooted after a report in the Rotherham abuse scandal found drivers played a ‘prominent role’ in ferrying victims around the town for almost 20 years.

Those who refuse to attend a 30-minute training session or who show ‘a complete lack of understanding’ will be refused their badges.

“Whilst there is no pass or fail on the quiz, applicants who demonstrate through their answers a complete lack of understanding, or do not complete the quiz at all, will not be considered as a fit and proper person to be licensed,” council papers warned.

“While there is no indication that drivers in Blackpool are involved in organised child sexual exploitation, licensed drivers can be a source of valuable information which would assist the authorities in identifying abusers and those at risk of abuse.”

Bill Lewtas, secretary of the Blackpool Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said: “Blackpool taxi drivers have always been happy to assist the authorities to help reduce crime, so if this short training course helps reduce child sexual exploitation then of course we will support it.

“However many drivers feel that, when we become victims of crime, we are a low priority for the police.”

Wyre Council is also planning to introduce a similar training programme, while DI Tony Baxter from Lancashire Police’s Public Protection Unit said plans to work with bus and tram drivers, and the hotel and leisure industry were also being put into place.

“This is a pan-Lancashire initiative,” he said.

Taxi drivers ‘played role’ in abuse scandal

A report on child abuse in Rotherham found taxi drivers played ‘a prominent role’ in moving youngsters around the town between 1997 and 2013.

The council there - alongside others such as Leeds, Calderdale, and Harrogate - have since revealed compulsory courses similar to Blackpool’s.

Operation Awaken was launched to tackle child abuse in Blackpool and the Fylde coast after police admitted the resort had a problem in 2005.

Since then, by combining expertise from the police and various child welfare agencies, officers working on Awaken have rescued dozens of youngsters from abuse and clamped down on those responsible for harming the resort’s children.

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