Justin’s Weekly Swindon Adver Article – 15th February 2019

Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting with Swindon resident Elaine Pickford and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust to discuss the important issue of passenger safety in taxis and private hire vehicles.

I first became involved with the Trust after getting to know Elaine whose daughter Sian was murdered by taxi driver Christopher Halliwell. Elaine approached me to discuss her voluntary work supporting families connected to victims of homicide.

Throughout our conversations, I’ve always been struck by Elaine’s calm, quiet dignity and her fierce commitment to improving the rules which govern licensing for taxi drivers & the protection of passengers.

After our initial meeting, I worked closely with Elaine, the Trust, and Sammie Woodhouse (a victim of the Rotherham child sexual abuse scandal), to draw up plans to bring in new robust national checks to prevent those with certain criminal convictions from being licensed as a taxi driver.

This is an incredibly important issue and I was honoured when the charity asked me to host a Parliamentary event to launch the its plans on national minimum standards for licensing & passenger safety.

In advance of the event, I also actively lobbied Ministers who backed an important review of the law.

The event we hosted, supported by MPs from every party, gave MPs the opportunity to discuss the need for reform as well as the personal experiences of Elaine, experts from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, and Sammie.

Following its review, the Government has announced this week it is backing our plans – a huge victory for our hard-fought campaign.

Legislation will be introduced to enable enforcement and compliance checks to be conducted by any licensing officer against any vehicle regardless of where they have been licensed; and introduce a national licensing database to assist the sharing of relevant information between licensing authorities.

In addition to this the Government has also launched a consultation on new legal guidance for licensing authorities which includes a range of tough new rules for licensing authorities, such as enhanced criminal record checks for drivers.

The vast majority of taxi drivers are law abiding citizens who provide a vital community service – however, there are occasions where some drivers have abused the trust of a passenger with truly horrific & heartbreaking consequences.

Drivers locally and nationally are very supportive of these important reforms as they too want the highest possible standards for their industry, and I’m pleased that organisations which represent the profession have worked closely with charities and Government Ministers to shape these changes.

These changes to the law are a huge credit to the passion and commitment of Elaine & the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. They will provide new, stronger protections for taxi users going forward and I am incredibly proud our work has brought about these vital changes.

Finally, I’m sure readers will have seen the news about the sad passing of the World Cup winning England goalkeeper Gordon Banks, and former Swindon Town manager Danny Williams.

Gordon will be remembered for his magnificent performances during the 1966 World Cup and THAT save from Pele in 1970, but I hope people will also recognise his vital fundraising & community work.

Danny led Town to a famous victory at Wembley in the 1969 League Cup Final, beating Arsenal, before taking The Robins to triumph in the inaugural Anglo-Italian with a stunning 5-2 win over Roma.

My thoughts are with both Danny & Gordon’s families at this time, and I hope local residents will remember the significant achievements of both.