Date: 16/07/2018
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25 taxi drivers lose licences as part of Operation Sanctuary sex exploitation investigation

From the Chronicle, newspaper of Newcastle and the North East

Twenty five taxi drivers have had their licences taken off them as the shockwaves from Tyneside’s biggest exploitation investigation continue. We can today reveal that the cabbies were taken off the roads following the launch of Operation Shelter, a probe into sex exploitation in Newcastle’s West End.

The investigation was launched in early 2014 after allegations that vulnerable girls and young women were being abused, and it has resulted in a catalogue of convictions for offences including rape and trafficking for sexual exploitation.

The inquiry forms part of Northumbria Police’s Operation Sanctuary, an ongoing initiative aimed at tackling a wide range of exploitation issues. As well as bringing 25 people before the courts, police and the local authority have also been carrying out ‘disruption’ activities in a bid to halt exploitation and keep victims safe.

And we can now reveal that 25 taxi drivers have lost their licenses as a result of these disruption activities.

A Newcastle City Council spokesman said: “We have used the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 to suspend or revoke 25 drivers’ licences both hackney and private hire in relation to allegations of sexual offences.” 

....The city council has also been ensuring all law-abiding taxi drivers are fully aware of the issues surrounding exploitation, and know what to do if they fear someone in their car may be vulnerable to abuse, or suspect they may be carrying a perpetrator. And so far more than 1,000 drivers have received training.

The council spokesman added: “Attendance at Safeguarding Vulnerable Passengers training is now a prerequisite of any new license application and will be required for renewal of an existing license. Failure to attend training on two occasions results in the license being reviewed. To date 1,200 taxi drivers have received vulnerability training.”

Eighteen people have been convicted as part of Operation Shelter. Their identities became known for the first time this week after reporting restrictions were lifted.

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