What is ‘Sian’s Law’? Stricter taxi driver safety checks come into effect after 2011 Sian O’Callaghan murder
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A change in the law is coming into effect today (April 27) which aims to improve taxi passenger safety by adding additional security checks on drivers. The so-called “Sian’s Law” is named after Sian O’Callaghan, who was murdered after getting into a taxi in Swindon in 2011.
Miss O’Callaghan, 22, was murdered in March 2011 after walking home from a nightclub, when she was picked up by taxi driver Christopher Halliwell and murdered soon after. Halliwell, who was arrested a few days later, also confessed to murdering Becky Godden-Edwards in 2003.
The new law means if a taxi or private hire loses their licence following a sexual harassment claim, that information will be shared nationally. If a driver then applies for a job elsewhere, the new employee of authority will be able to see why they previously lost their licence, in hope of preventing similar cases.
The new law change comes after years of campaigning by O’Callaghan’s family. Elaine Pickford, Sian’s mother, said: “It’s an incredibly vulnerable position to be in.
"To be on your own, in a vehicle where the driver can lock you in, effectively take you wherever they want to take you, which is what happened to Sian. The industry should be as regulated as possible."
Liam O’Callaghan, Sian’s brother, added: "Hopefully no other families will have to go through a similar situation that we had to. More lives will be protected and the good drivers out there are protected as well."
Halliwell, 57, received a life sentence in October 2012 for the murder of Sian. He later received a whole-life sentence for the 2003 murder of Becky.
The Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Safeguarding and Road Safety) Bill, as it is officially known, saw support from personal safety charity Suzy Lamplugh Trust, and was introduced as a Private Members Bill by Darlington MP Peter Gibson.
"I’m going to call it Sian’s Law because it’s a way to remember Sian and pay tribute to the work that Elaine has done along with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust," he said. "It closes that loophole...so that bad people who we don’t want driving taxis can’t circumnavigate the system."
What does Sian’s Law mean for taxi drivers and passengers?
The main aspects of Sian’s Law is that if any licensing authority in England has information about a taxi or personal hire that has been licenced by another authority and that is relevant to safeguarding or road safety concerns in its area, it has to share the information with the authority that issued the driver’s licence. Any licencing authority provided with the information by another authority has to:
- consider whether to suspend or revoke the driver’s licence
- inform the authority that shared the information of its decision
Authorities also have to input any instances where the authority has refused, suspended, chosen not to renew or revoked a driver’s licence into a central database based wholly or partially on the information relating to the driver concerning safeguarding and road safety. Authorities must search the database before it decides to grant or renew a driver licence.
What counts as safeguarding and road safety concerns include information indicating that the person:
- committed a sexual offence (regardless of whether the person was charged with, prosecuted for or convicted of the offence)
- harassed another person
- caused physical or psychological harm to another person
- committed an offence that involves a risk of causing physical or psychological harm to another person (regardless of whether the person was charged with, prosecuted for or convicted of the offence)
- committed an offence under section 165, 168 or 170 of the Equality Act 2010 (regardless of whether the person was charged with, prosecuted for or convicted of the offence)
- did anything that constitutes unlawful discrimination or victimisation against another person for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010
- threatened, abused or insulted another person
- poses a risk to road safety while driving
- may be unsuitable to hold a taxi or PHV driver’s licence for other reasons related to the safeguarding of passengers or road safety