30 Nov Hero taxi driver saves teenager from kidnap and rape ordeal
A local taxi driver from Gloucestershire saved a 13 year old girl from an horrific sex ordeal by alerting police to his concerns about his passenger.
The driver, Satbir Arora, who runs the minicab firm along with his wife, picked up the girl from Bicester and was due to driver her to Gloucester station where the journey would be paid for.
However, because the passenger was in her school uniform and no one arrived to meet her at the drop off point. Mr Arora tried to ascertain whether the girl’s parents knew where she was, calling the man she was due to be meeting and recording the calls. He also called his wife and told her of his concerns before passing the phone to the girl who admitted her parents did not know where she was.
The council which authorised his license, Cherwell District Council, provided safeguarding training in December 2016.
“The training was really useful. Because of the cases we read about on the safeguarding course I was able to recognise the signs and quickly spot that it was a grooming case” Mr Arora said.
Sam Hewings, 24, met the girl online and persuaded her to take a taxi from her Oxfordshire home to meet him in Gloucester.
Hewings did not turn up on time to meet her but was caught on CCTV walking in the area of the station, Gloucester Crown Court was told.
Prosecutor Giles Nelson said it was thought that Hewings got cold feet when he saw there was a police car parked near the taxi.
When Hewings was arrested later that day police searched his belongings and found a sinister set of items in a rucksack – two knives, a roll of duct tape and a spectacles case filled with co-codamol tablets.
Hewings, of Hadley Road, Cam, admitted attempting to abduct the girl on February 20 this year.
He also admitted possessing and distributing child porn in November last year and again in February.
Judge Michael Cullum jailed him for a total of five years and placed him on the sex offender register for life.
He also made a lifelong sexual harm prevention order against him.
Concerns have been raised previously about some councils handing out badges to drivers too easily, with Fareed Baloch from Zoom.taxi specifically mentioning Wolverhampton.
He said drivers were “concerned that the council was handing out badges too easily and without stringent tests which used to be a hallmark for the industry.”
“The industry has always taken passenger safety very seriously and many licensing authorities now include mandatory training on child sexual exploitation or unaccompanied packages,” he said.
“You cannot assess if someone is competent at driving or their awareness of issues like CSE and terrorism from an online form.”
His concerns were backed up by Union Cars owner Ebrahim Suleman, who said he thought the rules needed to be harder. “When we did our tests, they were very hard,” he said. “We had a practical test, a theory test, a numeracy test and an A to Z test. Then Uber came along and things started changing.”
“Uber was granted the license and the strategy was already in place for Uber to monopolise the trade.”