A Bedford taxi driver has been sacked and reported to the Council’s licensing department after he was accused of holding a female passenger and her baby ‘hostage’.
On Saturday, 13 January, a young mum from Kempston had booked a cab from A1 Taxis on Mill Street to take her and her baby daughter from their home to a doctor’s appointment on Church Lane in Putnoe.
After the three-month-old baby was slightly sick on the car seat, the unnamed driver told her she would have to pay the fare plus a £60 fine.
According to the woman he then contacted his control room who told him to pull the car over. The driver stopped at Bury Court, near Goldington Green and locked her in his cab.
Speaking to the Bedford Independent, the passenger, who asked not to be named, said she was in the taxi for around an hour in total, during which time the driver made her feel terrified.
“I cannot describe how petrified I was,” she said.
“I was locked in the back of a car with my ill baby, I didn’t know what was going on and I didn’t know what the outcome would be. It was terrifying.”
Fearing for her safety, she called 999 and a call handler from Bedfordshire Police was able to speak to the driver and get him to release her and her child.
However, the call handler decided the situation was a ‘civil dispute’ and did not deploy any officers to investigate.
Let down by police
According to the traumatised passenger, after the driver released her, the police call handler asked her to get back into the car.
“I am utterly devastated with Bedfordshire Police,” she said.
“I feel let down that they didn’t send anyone to help me and didn’t contact me afterwards to check if I was ok.”
In an initial statement to us, a spokesperson for Bedfordshire Police said: “Bedfordshire Police were called on 13 January shortly before 10am to a report of a woman locked in the back of a taxi in Church Lane, Bedford.
“Whilst speaking to her on the phone, call handlers in our Control Room were able to ascertain that there had been a civil dispute between the driver and the customer.
“The call handler was able to safely resolve the dispute between the two parties over the phone and as a result, police presence was not required at the location.”
In a phone call to her yesterday, the victim claimed an officer apologised for the failings of the force and said that the call handler should have sent someone out.
She has now given a full statement to the police and told us she has lodged a formal complaint.
Bedfordshire Police provided the follow-up comment, “As with any incident, any further information that comes to light will be assessed and actioned further if needed.”
Response from A1 Cars
Speaking to the Bedford Independent about the incident, a spokesperson for A1 Cars on Mill Street said they were taking the matter seriously.
“We want to sincerely address the recent incident involving a customer and the conduct of the driver and controller,” said the spokesperson.
“The driver’s actions were unacceptable, and he has been dismissed and reported by A1 Cars to the licensing department at Bedford Borough Council, who have the authority to revoke his licence.
“The member of staff at our office has received a formal warning regarding the way the situation was handled and will undergo further training to ensure they handle future situations with the utmost care and professionalism.
“We regret that this incident occurred and are committed to taking all necessary steps to ensure such an incident does not happen again.
“We pride ourselves on providing a safe, respectful, and reliable service for all passengers of A1 Cars.”
Once she was released from the car the woman walked with her baby to the doctor’s surgery on Church Lane where staff consoled her.
“I was completely traumatised,” said the woman. “But I would like to say the biggest thank you to the De Pary’s Group doctors and to the amazing receptionist and nurses who supported me and also my mum, family and partner.
“I wouldn’t have got through this traumatic experience without them.”