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Sunday, 23 November 2014

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Shock assaults on Cumbrian taxi drivers

MORE than 100 taxi drivers have been subjected to assaults in the past five years.

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Chris Hetherington: ’More goes on than is reported’

Worrying figures released to the News & Star highlight the dangers some cabbies face when going about their work.

The figures have emerged as drivers prepare tonight for New Year’s Eve – a party night that many drivers hope will be one of their busiest and most profitable of the year.

A total of 116 taxi drivers have reported being the victim of verbal or physical abuse since 2008.

But one cabbie believes instances of violence and abuse may be much higher because many will go unreported. Chris Hetherington, 52, of Belle Vue, Carlisle, revealed he has even resorted to wearing “a different hat every week” to avoid being recognised.

He said: “There is more goes on than is reported and the figures might even be higher than that. I’ve experienced a few problems.

“Personally I have never been attacked but I have been put in a situation where a gang of folk got in the taxi and wouldn’t get out.”

In 2008, 32 taxi drivers across Cumbria reported assaults. In 2009, there were 18. The following year there were 26 and in 2011 there were 23. This year has seen 17 reports.

Over the same five-year period, 21 bus drivers also claimed to have been assaulted. There have been a number of cases across north and west Cumbria where objects have been thrown at moving vehicles carrying passengers.

The figures, which go up to November 1 this year, have been released by Cumbria police following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from the News & Star.

Derek Kenney, 63, of Currock, Carlisle, who has been a taxi driver for more than 20 years, said: “I have had my moments but I work days when you get less trouble. Driving a black taxi you have a glass partition which must deter them.

“Each incident is different but there are times when they get nasty and you have to get aggressive, and times when you have to sit back. Yes, I have felt threatened in the job.”

One the most frightening experiences, he said, happened when he intervened in a domestic dispute on Botchergate and was threatened.

Cumbria police has repeatedly stated it takes a zero-tolerance stance against drink-fuelled crime with extra officers targeting hotspot areas to reduce the threat of trouble of evenings such as tonight.

Taxi rank marshals have also been used at times in places including Carlisle and Whitehaven to help quell problems with people waiting for lifts home at the end of nights out.

JConnell@cngroup.co.uk

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