A Taxi driver who was assaulted while on shift has called for an increase in safety measures for cabbies.

John McCaskie, 61, was beaten up by a group of men after they demanded he give them a lift.

The incident took place on Fore Street in Hertford when he wound down the window to ask them to stop leaning on his vehicle, only to be punched in the face.

A fracas followed outside his vehicle, which saw Mr McCaskie attacked on the ground before bouncers managed to intervene.

He now believes all cabs should have cameras to deter criminals and also follow the example of towns such as Luton, where all taxis are specifically designed for added security.

“The vehicles need to be purpose-built like black cabs,” he told the Mercury.

“Private cars are no good for customer safety or for driver safety.

“It’s far too small to have four fully-grown, often overweight, men crammed in and they are too close to the driver, especially when they start messing around.

“I see small saloon cars parked outside that rank and I think that’s a terrible business.

“They have no cameras in because most people just use their family cars and the council don’t want to pay for them. It’s hard enough for us to earn a living as it is.”

Earlier this month, 22-year-old Cameron Alder, from Warner Road in Ware, pleaded guilty to the assault and was fined £110,with the victim receiving £50 in compensation.

Despite his assailant also incurring other costs totalling £265, Mr McCaskie, who works for himself, believes the punishment for the October attack was not strict enough.

He is calling on East Herts District Council, which is responsible for licensing cabs, to step up.

“It didn’t even cover my loss of earnings, there was no way I could carry on working that night, let alone the trauma I suffered,” he said.

“I think it’s absolutely shocking. I’m running a public service and if the council cannot provide transport late at night then I think they need to do more to help us.

“All they want is to clean the streets up and they don’t care about the rest of us.”

The leader of the Hertford and Ware Street Pastors, Rick Harwig, earmarked the area by the war memorial, where the attack happened, as a potential hotspot for crime.

He said: “I think that would be the most likely place for it to happen as there is a kebab shop there and a lot of people looking for a lift.

“My advice to him for stopping it happening in the first place would be not to stop anywhere other than the official taxi rank.

“Not being able to afford a camera sounds like an excuse to me, you can get one to sit on your dashboard quite cheaply.”

It appears, however, that many taxi drivers are aware of the issue but are willing to accept it.

A spokesman for Foxholes Car Services said: “Assault happens in some form every weekend, it just the degree of assault which changes.

“I think a lot of drivers just see it as a hazard of the job and a lot of the time it goes unreported.”

An East Herts District Council spokesman said: “Taxi drivers are self-employed and choose which vehicle to present for licensing. If a driver feels unsafe in the vehicle they have chosen to licence then they could take any safety measures they feel appropriate or select a different vehicle to licence. This is the same principle that would apply to a shop or any other business.

“East Herts Council takes the issue of safety very seriously and can offer a range of advice to drivers.”

Police were unavailable for comment.
Source: Hertfordshire Mercury