Twenty-five of those cases were rapes, down from 34 in 2017. Other offences included intentional sexual touching of another person without their consent, a driver attempting to kiss or grope a passenger, and a driver grabbing a passenger’s hand to kiss it.
Transport for London (TfL) said the increase in reports were “anticipated and welcome” after the government body issued guidance to all private hire operators in 2017, emphasising the importance of reporting criminal conduct to the police.
Mandy McGregor, head of transport policing and community safety at TfL, said in a statement: “We do not tolerate any crime or behaviour that makes passengers feel uncomfortable on any mode of transport, including while travelling by taxi or minicab.
“While we know the majority of taxi and private hire drivers operate safely and legally, we continue to work closely with the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police (CoLP) to improve the safety of taxi and minicab journeys in London.
“This includes our work to tackle taxi and private hire journey-related sexual offences, encouraging and making it easier for passengers to report incidents and investigating and taking action against offenders.
“We expect the highest standards of behaviour and any sexual behaviour by a licensed driver towards a passenger is completely unacceptable. We would urge anyone who experiences this to report it immediately to TfL and the police so it can be taken seriously and investigated,” she added.
Data provided by the Met Police and CoLP showed 17 individual drivers were charged for 21 offences, with two drivers charged for more than one offence each.
Chief Superintendent Colin Wingrove, of roads and transport policing command, told the Independent: “The Met is committed to providing the best possible service to victims of rape and sexual offences. The number of reports has increased in recent years and officers are working hard to meet this rising demand whilst maintaining high-quality investigations and providing tailored support to each and every victim.
“We are working hard with partners to expedite the process and improve it for victims who show great bravery in reporting offences committed against them to police.
“Rape and serious sexual offences, no matter the circumstances, are incredibly distressing and deeply impacting crimes,” he added. “Investigations into rape and serious sexual offences are incredibly complex. We continue to work with partners in the criminal justice system to increase referrals to the Crown Prosecution Service, brings more cases before the courts and improve outcomes for victims.”
Of the 25 rapes reported in 2018, only two charges were brought. TfL said this could be due to a number of reasons, including the driver not being traced and identified, the victim not being able to support the investigation or prosecution, insufficient evidence, or the Crown Prosecution Service deciding there is “no reasonable chance of conviction”.
Uber driver Nadeem Afzal, of Limes Avenue, Chigwell, was handed a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years at Kingston Crown Court earlier this year after pleading guilty to exposing himself to a female passenger, according to the Metropolitan Police.
The 51-year-old repeatedly asked the woman, aged in her early 20s, to touch him and perform a sex act during a journey in the early hours of 1 November 2018.
Uber’s application for a new London operating license was rejected by TfL last November due to “patterns of failures placed on passenger safety and security”.
The ride-hailing firm has been allowed to continue operating pending its appeal against TfL’s decision.
Uber’s UK and Ireland general manager Melinda Roylett said in a statement: “There is nothing more important than the safety of the riders and drivers who use the Uber app.
“Since 2018, Uber is the only operator TfL has required to report every serious incident to the Metropolitan Police and the new statistics reflect that requirement.”
Additional reporting by agencies