Prevention of child sexual exploitation and private hire vehicles

Part of Policing and Crime Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:15 pm ar 12 Ebrill 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Llafur, Dwyrain Abertawe 4:15, 12 Ebrill 2016

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Licensing authorities have a duty to protect children from harm. Horrific cases that we have seen on television, in connection with Rotherham, have highlighted the need for this amendment, which could bring us a step closer to making our communities safer for our most vulnerable children. We already place duties on authorities that license premises to sell alcohol to carry out functions with a view to protecting children from harm. This amendment would create similar duties for licensing authorities in relation to taxis and minicabs. We know that taxis and private hire vehicles often feature in cases of child sexual exploitation. Indeed, in February of this year, Mohammed Akram was found guilty of sexual activity with a child under the age of 16, which took place in the back of his cab. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

This is not to say that all drivers are inherently likely to be involved in these crimes. The vast majority of drivers are law-abiding citizens but, along with other night-time economy workers, they have a role to play in helping to keep young people safe. Licensing authorities have a role to play in raising awareness so that drivers can spot the signs of harm and know how to intervene. There have been examples of good practice in Oxford, but we should have good practice across the United Kingdom. We need much more consistency.

Barnardo’s has been working with a range of night-time economy workers across the country to help improve awareness of children at risk. It is a part of the move towards prevention, which we need to see in this area. Will the Government consider introducing new duties on licensing authorities so that communities can be confident that all taxi and minicab drivers are able to spot the signs of abuse, and can help to keep children safe?