Sexual Assaults By Taxi Drivers 'Soaring'

Reported sexual assaults by taxi or private hire vehicle drivers have surged in the past three years, figures obtained by The Guardian reveal.

According to the paper, "at least 337 assaults were reported between April 2016 and March 2017 in England and Wales—up from 282 in 2014-15."

The figures, gathered under Freedom of Information requests to 23 out of 43 English and Welsh police forces, do not distinguish between minicabs, drivers for the Uber ride-hailing service, or traditional black cabs.

But the issue of sexual violence and passenger safety has been at the heart of political and business disputes between traditional providers and disruptive newcomers.

Uber is appealing at present against a decision by TfL, London's transport authority, to strip it of its licence thanks partly to concerns over how to handle passenger safety.

Representatives for London's black cab drivers, who worry about the threat Uber poses to their business, have in the past accused the ride-hailing app of being unsafe for passengers.

But campaigners pointed out that the rise in the figures could partly be due to an increased willingness on the part of victims to report sexual assaults.

Katie Russell, a spokesperson for Rape Crisis England and Wales, told the paper: "It's an alarming figure but it is always hard to know whether the increase is due to a rise in crime taking place or an increase in sexual assaults being reported.

"Sexual offences have been massively underreported so an increase in willingness to report will play some part in the statistical increases. The obvious next step is for companies themselves to do urgent reviews of their security systems because obviously there are some weaknesses.

"We know rapists and sexual offenders are often quite devious in how they plan their attacks. They often get themselves in positions of authority and responsibility, where they have access to potential victims—those industries may be attractive to sexual offenders."