Camera System is to Stay in Oxford

Taxi driver, Khalid Ahmed, has been told by the Oxford City Council that the plans to record all plans to record all conversations in city cabs will stay, despite his campaign.

The council has told Ahmed that the camera plan was vital to improve safety and that most drivers support the plans.

On Tuesday the Oxford Mail reported that Ahmed had got 100 signatures from drivers who opposed the scheme.

It is believed by a former taxi chief that an increasing number of drivers are now against the camera plans.

Julian Alison, Council licensing leader, told Ahmed in a letter, “The argument relating to ‘privacy’ is not so relevant in this matter.

“Once a vehicle is licensed, the level of privacy expected is not the same as for a private motor car.”

He said it was requested by drivers to record sound and audio as soon as the ignition is switched on.

Alison said, “Any concerns raised have been discussed and resolved.”

Over 900 drivers are licensed and covered by private hire insurance to drive the city’s 665 taxis or vehicles, he said that the petition did not represent the views of most of them.

The recordings from the taxis will only be assessed by council officers if evidence of antisocial behaviour is needed, or over a “specific incident”.

It has also been said that recordings will help tackle breaches of council codes for drivers. He said, “Unfortunately, the level of non-compliance (with driver codes) is of great concern, and exceeds one incident each day.”

The supporters also say that the recordings will provide very important evidence for passenger allegations against drivers.

However, Ahmed said the response showed “disdain” for the views of drivers.
He said, “There is a big, big majority of opinion against this. It is not just drivers who are saying it, it is members of the public.”

Alan Woodward, former City of Oxford Licensed Taxi Cab Association backed cameras when they were agreed in 2011. However, he said, “Once they (drivers) realised what it involves, they are not interested.”

The cameras, which cost £400 must go in new cabs after 1st April and be fitted in all the vehicles by March 2015.

Richard Barlow, a private hire driver, said he would get a system this year. He said, “I’m all for it. You will get more passengers, women will travel more.”

Although he did say recordings should start when the meters are activated instead of when the engine is.

During Barlow’s 35 years working on and off in the city, a few passengers have refused to pay and he has also suffered three minor attacks.

He said, “What have they got to hide? I’d rather have my safety than anything else.”

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