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Violence and abuse against taxi drivers "getting much worse" says Ross-shire cabbie who faced late-night city assault

By Alasdair Fraser

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Taxi driver Eric Taylor. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Taxi driver Eric Taylor. Picture: Callum Mackay..

A fed-up Ross-shire taxi driver is calling out a worrying rise in violent and abusive behaviour by passengers in 2023.

Eric Taylor's worst moment of the year came late at night in Inverness as an enraged woman attacked him and threw rocks at his cab.

But the 35-year-old claims to have experienced more instances of nasty verbal abuse, fare-dodging and threatening behaviour than in any of his previous 11 years as a taxi driver.

The Dingwall-based husband and dad, who works in and around Inverness, believes police should do more to protect drivers.

His call comes after a 59-year-old woman passenger was arrested and charged for an alleged hate crime after an incident in Inverness city centre in September. Dash-cam footage of the incident went viral at the time.

While no official figures exist, Mr Taylor was backed up anecdotally by several drivers we spoke to.

One had quit evening work completely this year after several threatening incidents.

Another said he regularly used skills and training learned as a London nightclub bouncer to defuse potential violence or abuse.

Mr Taylor, who is self-employed and works with Inverness Taxis, said: “Since January 1 this year I have experienced around 30 incidents of foul and abusive language or people trying to kick off aggressively.

“I feel it is getting much worse.

Taxi driver Eric Taylor. Picture: Callum Mackay..
Taxi driver Eric Taylor. Picture: Callum Mackay..

“There is a certain level of behaviour, as drivers, we know we have to tolerate, but some of it has gone way beyond.”

In the early hours of Sunday, August 20, Mr Taylor took two women from Milton Crescent to Milton of Leys.

A heated argument broke out between the passengers and when he stopped the car to pacify matters, he was stunned by one of the women’s reactions.

He recalled: “I asked for payment and the female behind me started punching the headrest.

“She got out of the car and started kicking it. I shouted at her to stop and she opened my passenger door and started punching and kicking me.

“After I managed to get the door locked, she started throwing rocks at the car.”

Having phoned 999, Mr Taylor says officers were still to show up after half an hour.

When a 4x4 vehicle driven by a male friend of the women arrived, Mr Taylor felt seriously vulnerable.

It was only when he drove away, with the violent woman having already left, that he encountered a police car approaching.

Frustrated at the slow response, he declined to take the matter further.

Mr Taylor added: “Some have suggested it is a post-lockdown phenomenon, with people letting off steam, but I don’t accept that.

“I also don’t accept hardship as an excuse for fare-dodging. People know the tariffs.

“My mental health is not the greatest at times and some of the stuff you hear can take a toll.

“It’s a great job, mostly, but some of what I’ve experienced this year is just unacceptable.

“Personal experience with Police Scotland in reporting crimes within the taxi does not fill me with the greatest of confidence. I have found control room staff to be very dismissive.”

Another driver, who did not wish to be identified, told us: “The situation, particularly weekend evenings, just grew intolerable. I now work days only.

“Some of the verbal abuse, more from those under the influence of drugs than drink, would shock people.”

Another driver said: “I understand what some colleagues face and it isn’t good, but I’m quite lucky.

“I have worked as a bouncer and security guard at big venues in London and can look after myself. I know how to approach these situations and diffuse them, but I understand how vulnerable some drivers must feel.”

Duncan Fraser, acting vice-chairman of Inverness Taxi Alliance, believes all drivers should invest in dash-cam technology costing around £300.

Duncan Fraser of the Inverness Taxi Alliance.
Duncan Fraser of the Inverness Taxi Alliance.

Mr Fraser added: “There is always a percentage of the public who act in that way.

“One of the aggravating issues this year was the size of the increase of tariffs across the board, a 20 per cent rise, which we objected to.

“The rises were badly handled by councillors and didn’t sit well with the public.

“We’ve definitely noticed, through our website, a higher number of ‘runners’ not paying.

“I’m afraid to say the relationship between the taxi trade and the police is not anywhere near where it should be.”

Cllr Bet McAllister. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Cllr Bet McAllister. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Bet McAllister, councillor for Inverness Central, condemned the behaviour.

She said: “There doesn’t seem to be enough politeness and respect. I’m disappointed to hear how bad it has been for our drivers.

“There is no excuse for subjecting any driver to foul language or abuse.”

Police Scotland Chief Inspector Judy Hill said: "We actively engage in proactive measures to ensure the city is a safe place for everyone.

"Every incident reported to us is assessed based on the information provided to us at the time. This ensures our resources are deployed effectively to meet the demands of our communities.

“Officers are also briefed on any emerging issues at the beginning of every shift to ensure they are best placed to deal with concerns efficiently and effectively.

"We continue to work with our partners, including the local authority… to tackle street disorder, violence and antisocial behaviour."

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