Hundreds of taxi drivers in north-west England have been granted licences to work despite declaring criminal convictions for sex offences, burglary and assault, figures show.
A Freedom of Information request by the BBC revealed that one in five drivers applying for a taxi licence in the region over the last two years had a criminal record, with six councils granting or renewing permits for more than 300 convicted drivers since 2012.
Of the six councils that responded to the request — Blackpool, Burnley, Cheshire East, Sefton, Eden and Trafford — all granted or extended licences for drivers with convictions.
These included three drivers with convictions for sexual offences, inadequate exposure and drug dealing, violence and harassment.
While Local Government Association (LGA) guidelines state applicants convicted of sexual or violent offences should be refused a licence, councils are free to decide who they consider to be “fit and proper” drivers, and can take into account the date of the offence, the circumstances, and the applicant's behaviour since.
Responding to the findings, the Licenced Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) said granting licences to convicted drivers was “putting the public at risk”.
In April last year it emerged that the number of cab drivers charged with violent or sexual offences in London had hit a five-year high. A month later, figures showed that Uber drivers in the capital were accused of sexually assaulting or raping customers almost three times a month.