Killer taxi driver: council says its hands were tied over licence for man who killed Sunderland teenager

Sarah Jane Burke
Sarah Jane Burke
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A COUNCIL boss said his hands were tied when it came to granting a licence to a taxi driver who killed a Sunderland teenager.

David Baillie was granted a taxi licence despite a criminal records check revealing his horrific catalogue of motoring convictions.

The 40-year-old is now serving a seven-year jail sentence after knocking down and killing Sarah Burke, 17, as she crossed Ormonde Street in Sunderland on her way home from college last September.

A CRB check did reveal Baillie’s driving record to council bosses and when the Echo contacted the council about its decision to grant the licence, they said they were only following Department for Transport (DfT) guidelines which suggest applicants be “free of driving or motoring convictions for a period of between one to three years.”

All Baillie’s previous convictions pre-date 2000.

The decision to grant the licence was discussed at the latest meeting of the council on Wednesday.

Tory councillor Lee Martin suggested that the council should review its policy in the wake of the tragedy.

Council leader Paul Watson said: “That decision was made in line with Department for Transport advice and guidance that is provided by that department and the government.

“I don’t think we have the authority to look at the issue anyway.”

However, the DfT guidance says councils do have the final say on whether licences are granted.

It states: “The key premise remains the same – it is for individual licensing authorities to reach their own decisions both on overall policies and on individual licensing matters, in the light of their own views of the relevant considerations.

“This guidance is intended to assist licensing authorities but it is only guidance and decisions on any matters remain a matter for the authority concerned.

“The aim of local authority licensing of the taxi and PHV trades is to protect the public.”

After a jury found him guilty of causing death by careless driving in June, Baillie’s previous convictions came to light. They include 12 convictions for theft and attempted theft of vehicles, six for taking without consent, and eight for driving while disqualified.