Review of taxi licensing rules after driver killed Sunderland teenager

Stephen Burke, whose daughter Sarah was knocked down and killed last September.
Stephen Burke, whose daughter Sarah was knocked down and killed last September.
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COUNCIL bosses have vowed to look into tightening the rules on taxi drivers after a meeting with the parents of a girl killed by a cabbie.

Sunderland City Council said it was following Government guidance when it granted David Baillie a Hackney licence, despite his appalling driving record.

The 40-year-old had eight previous convictions for driving while disqualified and had been banned from the roads nine times, when the council gave him a licence days before he knocked down 17-year-old Sarah Jane Burke in Ormonde Street.

The council insisted it had followed guidance issued by the Department for Transport, which states applicants should be “free of driving or motoring convictions for a period of one to three years”.

All of Baillie’s convictions were committed before 2000.

Sarah Jane’s parents, Stephen and Theresa, are calling for tougher rules to ensure others do not face the loss they have, as well as greater sentences for offenders.

With the backing of charity Road Peace, they hope the more stringent rules will prove a deterrent.

After a face-to-face meeting between the Burkes and council leader Paul Watson, the council has said it will be carrying out a review of its regulations.

Coun Watson said: “As a result of meeting with Mr and Mrs Burke, I have asked our licensing team to review our guidelines and compare them with those of other local authorities across the country.

“I want to ensure Sunderland’s are the most stringent and we are leading the way in making our city safe for its people.

“I will also be writing to the Secretary of State for Transport to urge him to review the guidelines his department issued to local authorities.

“So, when considering an application for a Hackney carriage or private hire vehicle driver’s licence, and a driver has previous driving convictions, they state that the number and type of previous convictions can be taken into account by us, as well as the time that has elapsed since the last conviction – which is the present position.

“We do need to be proportionate in the decisions we take as a licensing authority.

“Any decision we take to not issue a licence can then be appealed through the courts.

“However, having met with Mr and Mrs Burke, I would like to support them in their efforts to see something positive come from their tragic loss.”

Baillie had been overtaking another car on the wrong side of the road last September when he struck art student Sarah Jane, who was a high achiever in her studies and hoped to follow a career in fashion journalism.

He was found guilty of death by careless driving in June after a trial at Newcastle Crown Court and was jailed for seven years.