Friday, 28 August 2009

The Green Party, privacy and violence

Regarding the subject of violent attacks on taxi drivers, here follows some extracts from the UK press during the month or so leading up to a recent article in the Herald:

This is Lancashire
A Bury taxi driver has been left permanently disfigured after he was slashed across the face by a knife-wielding thug in his vehicle. Mohammed Ishtiaq (pictured above) required 28 stitches for his wound after the horror attack which happened after he refused to hand over his takings.

Weston & Somerset Mercury
Two drunks slammed a taxi driver's head in his car door and kicked it like a rugby ball in a sickening assault in Weston. Paul Flint was also punched in the head repeatedly when he requested payment for waiting outside The Regency in Lower Church Road.

Lancashire Telegraph
A 65-year-old taxi driver has told how he was bottled then slashed with the broken shards of glass by a group of passengers who refused to pay. Grandfather Victor Shuttleworth’s injuries mean he must take at least three months off work to recuperate.

Brighton Argus
A taxi driver was punched in the face after he asked a woman who had been sick in his cab to pay extra. Her boyfriend Trevor Cheesman lashed out when the driver said he wanted more money to clean up the mess.

Manchester Evening News
A drug-crazed teenager who stabbed a taxi driver over an £8 fare was branded ’scum’ after he was jailed for 10 years. High on a cocktail of drink and cocaine, Axon MacPhee, 19, knifed David Ferrer, 57, in his stomach, the blade penetrating his intestines causing massive blood loss, after the driver asked for the fare he was due. MacPhee then walked round to the other side of the car and attempted to plunge the knife into the neck of Mr Ferrer, a father of three.

Wigan Today
Two men have been jailed for a vicious race attack on a Wigan cab driver. Drunken Ashley Haslam and his friend Ryan Crispin each received a six month long sentence after launching a brutal assault on 31-year-old Shazed Ahmed, who works for Arista Cars.

Huddersfield Examiner
Cabbie Stephen Wilson’s life was wrecked when he was attacked with a shoe by an angry woman reveller. The assault led to a serious brain injury after he collapsed and hit his head outside a nightclub. He was left unable to speak, read or write and had to give up his driver’s licence because he could no longer control a car.

Lichfield Mercury
A taxi driver has described his horror at being subjected to a racist attack and having his cab battered with bricks by a group of youths who refused to pay their fare. Neshad Hussain was left shaken when missiles rained down on his £40,000 Hackney cab early on Saturday morning in Handsacre.

Birmingham Mail
Police are investigating a second violent attack on a private hire driver in the same area and only days after Mohammed Arshad was brutally murdered. Father-of-four Ansar Naeem was repeatedly punched in the face and head in the assault in Shannon Road, in Kings Norton.

Lancashire Evening Post
Two dangerous robbers who attacked a Preston cabbie with an iron bar – and told another they had a gun – are today behind bars. The pair targeted two Preston taxi drivers in separate incidents in November last year, which came in the middle of a spate of other attacks and robberies that terrified many of the city's cabbies.

Lincolnshire Echo
Three drunks who carried out a frightening attack on a Lincolnshire taxi driver during a 60mph journey have been put behind bars by a judge. Taxi driver Simon Coulson had blows rained on him from behind by his passengers and one of them tried to strangle him after he decided to turn his cab round because of their behaviour.

Daily Express
A taxi driver whose wife is expecting their fourth child died in a savage attack after he went to pick up a fare. Colleagues said the 36-year-old cabbie, who has three ­children under the age of 10, had been beaten to an “unrecognisable pulp”.

The article in the Herald concerns the use of CCTV in taxis, which Glasgow City Council is launching a consultation on. Drivers are currently not allowed to use surveillance equipment, and the council's investigation will encompass such issues as civil liberties, human rights and data protection.

However, according to the Herald's article the city's Green councillors and MSP Patrick Harvie have already made up their minds, saying that the party remains "completely opposed to creeping video surveillance of this sort". Mr Harvie also said that people have an expectation that they have "some degree of privacy" in a taxi, and that the proposal would "reinforce the perception that local authorities are snooping on citizens".

Privacy in an enclosed space close to a driver who the passenger has probably never met previously? That doesn't seem a very private situation; perhaps a passenger should expect confidentiality as regards their journey, but privacy hardly seems an issue. Indeed, many local authorities won't allow heavily tinted windows on taxis for security reasons - what's happening in the vehicle should be visible from the outside.

Mr Harvie also claims that the Glasgow City Council paper contains no "real justification of any kind", but perhaps that is because the need is so self-evident that it does not need explicitly stating. Except, it would seem, in the rarefied world of Green politicians - would a corner shop owner using CCTV really need to state a rationale, for example?

But hopefully the extracts from the press quoted above help underline the obvious, and it should be emphasised that the articles quoted cover only a period of a fortnight or so.

As for the benefits, taxi drivers in Mansfield said CCTV had an "almost miraculous" effect on drunk and violent passengers, in Sheffield incidents of abuse and attacks reduced from around 14 per cent of fares to one per cent, while in Stoke a taxi firm owner said his drivers were getting "zero hassle".


Observer said...

Have absolutely no idea what Harvie is on about here. This is about health and safety. There are CCTV cameras in other workplaces - buses for example, shops, Council Offices (including interview booths), anywhere really that a member of the public can attack someone who is just doing their job.

I think he's barking up the wrong tree here altogether.

Stuart Winton said...

Thanks, Observer. The comments perhaps convey the impression that it's basically like council-run CCTV in the streets - hence the Big Brother perspective - but in a less public environment.

However, I think it's more about taxi drivers wanting to put CCTV in their cabs - a la a corner shop - but the authorities having concerns about various aspects of it and thus, I mean seeking to regulate it.

It's not as if public employees will be sitting in a control room watching what people are getting up to in the back of a taxi.