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Drivers attack cops 'slow' 999 response

PUBLISHED: 16:02 10 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:45 23 August 2010

ANGRY taxi drivers have slammed the police for taking nearly 30 minutes to respond to 999 calls after a cabbie was assaulted outside a pub. The United Taxi Group, which represents drivers in Gravesham, voiced their concerns at a meeting at the Perry Stre

ANGRY taxi drivers have slammed the police for taking nearly 30 minutes to respond to 999 calls after a cabbie was assaulted outside a pub.

The United Taxi Group, which represents drivers in Gravesham, voiced their concerns at a meeting at the Perry Street Conservative club.

Steve West, a driver for Phoenix taxis, was attacked in his cab by two men outside the Crown pub in Perry Street, Northfleet, on April 24.

UTG chairman Terry James 57, said: "We were staggered to learn it took more than 30 minutes for a police patrol vehicle to arrive at the scene. The new Ebbsfleet Police station is just half a mile away and it took four calls to 999, and a local takeaway hitting its panic button with an alarm linked directly to a police station, for them to respond.

"We want to see the response times improved for the safety of all of our drivers."

It is now compulsory for drivers in the borough to have CCTV fitted in their cars. So far 170 drivers have taken up the scheme. It followed the murder of popular Sikh cabbie Gian Chand Bajar, who was run over by his own cab in 2007.

But Mr James, who said he was pleased with the changes, said the system should not be used as a replacement for CCTV.

He added: "UTG is very concerned that the police may be relying on the in-car CCTV to save the day.

"CCTV just provides a deterrent, and a very strong source of evidence in cases which go to court. In another case, a driver had to wait three hours for police to arrive when a female passenger refused to leave the taxi. To make matters worse, the driver was then told- incorrectly- that this was not a police matter."

Chief Inspector Pete Ayling said at the time the call came in on April 24, they were dealing with a high volume of calls.

He said: "A patrol was immediately dispatched to the scene but whilst on the way, was diverted to another call. This call involved potential serious or life-threatening injuries and so was made a priority. The patrol originally en-route to Perry Street, along with another, was diverted to the incident mentioned. Another patrol was instead dispatched to Perry Street.

"North Kent Police Station is not very far away from Perry Street, but patrols are rarely simply sitting at the station waiting to be dispatched, especially on a Friday night. In this case, another call came in which took priority. Unfortunately, we were not able to get to Perry Street as quickly as we would have liked."

l Stephen Richardson, 33, of Greenhill Road, Gravesend and Gavin Clark, 20, of Snelling Avenue, Northfleet, will appear at Dartford Magistrates Court on June 19 in relation to the incident in Perry Street.

They are both charged with affray and assault causing actual bodily harm.

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