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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 October 2006, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
The 'deadly danger' of bogus cabs
By Nigel Pankhurst
BBC News

A bogus minicab driver has been found responsible for the death of 20-year-old Stephanie Hammill, who was run over and killed by another vehicle after she jumped from his moving car. The case of Ioannis Revenikiotis highlights the dangers posed by unlicensed cabs.

There have been several poster campaigns to warn women of the danger

Stephanie Hammill was walking home with her fiance in Wakefield, West Yorkshire in November 2003 after a night out when they decided to flag down a taxi.

She climbed into a car which pulled up but the vehicle sped off before he could join her.

It proved to be a fatal mistake.

Terrified of being abducted and assaulted, Stephanie jumped from the moving car but died after being hit by another vehicle.

'Ongoing problem'

The incident highlights a common danger for late night revellers.

Licensed Private Hire Car Association chairman, Steve Wright, said people were putting their lives at risk by getting into unlicensed cabs.

He said: "It's an ongoing problem. If you go into London or any major city in the UK you get unlicensed cabs approaching passengers.

In London 10 women are sexually assaulted by unlicensed minicab drivers every month and in 2002 the Safer Travel at Night campaign was launched with the slogan "Know what you're getting into".

Birmingham City Council started a minicab initiative in the same year which urged people to "Phone them up. Don't flag them down".

Cardiff Council has asked the public to be their "eyes and ears" and report any unlicensed cabs.

In Manchester "taxi marshals", who operate at city centre ranks on Friday and Saturday nights, can take action against vehicles illegally plying for hire.

Stephanie Hammill
Stephanie Hammill thought she was getting into a genuine minicab

Mr Wright said: "Minicabs are licensed now and in London we're campaigning for better signage. We want to see more visibility and the ability to put the name of the company on the car. People need to see it is a cab from the outside of the vehicle."

He said passengers needed to be sure what sort of vehicle they were getting into, otherwise the consequences could be tragic.

"People risk dying. There's actually no such thing as an unlicensed cab, they're just touts. They are bogus cabs. These people can be rapists, murderers, thieves. It could be anyone in there.

"Minicabs can't pick up in the street without pre-booking. My advice would be never approach a vehicle and always try to arrange a cab in advance."

'Save life'

Local authorities are taking steps to warn people about the risks involved in taking an illegal cab.

Richard Massett, from the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said: "People could be facing all sorts of dangers. The car may not be roadworthy and you don't know what the driver is out there for. There are many sexual assaults and rapes that take place."

"The problem's not getting any better. The Mayor (of London) has put money into it but it hasn't made much difference.

At two o'clock in the morning when people want to get home they wouldn't care if the driver was a green Martian with tentacles
John Thompson
National Association of Licensing and Enforcement Officers

"The police tend to arrest people but that takes up their time and means they can't be on the streets.

"We feel the police could be more proactive in moving them on and put more pressure on them. That would be more effective."

John Thompson, national secretary of the National Association of Licensing and Enforcement Officers, said ultimately the public must act responsibly.

He said: "At two o'clock in the morning when people want to get home they wouldn't care if the driver was a green Martian with tentacles. That is the problem.

"If you're going to get in a car make sure it's licensed. It could save your life."

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust gives advice to women on personal safety and a spokesman said: "They should get into the habit of taking the phone number of a licenced cab company with them and ringing for a cab when they are thinking about leaving."

She said: "There is no difference between getting into an unlicensed minicab driver's car and getting into a kerbcrawler's car."

Taxi firms join ranks for safety
13 Mar 06 |  North Yorkshire
Police hunt bogus taxi attacker
04 Feb 06 |  Scotland
Taxi texting to stop bogus cabs
11 Jan 06 |  South East Wales
Woman is attacked by bogus cabbie
08 Nov 05 |  Bristol/Somerset

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