Taxi drivers in Leicester could have their licences suspended if they fail to attend courses on spotting the signs of child sexual exploitation.

Officials at Leicester City Council are proposing the compulsory measure in the wake of child abuse scandals elsewhere in the country. An inquiry into widespread exploitation in Rotherham, between 1997 and 2013, concluded 1,400 youngsters were groomed by gangs of men and also found taxi drivers played a “prominent role” in the abuse. Licensing bosses in Leicester have stressed there is no evidence of cabbies in the city being involved in abuse but they say the trade could play a vital role in preventing it in the future.

The city council’s head of regulatory services Mike Broster said there are some 1,900 licenced drivers.

He said: “They could be the eyes and ears to help spot the signs of child sexual exploitation.

“The courses will show them how to recognise the signs and how they can go about reporting them either to their managers, the police our safeguarding people.”

Mr Broster insisted the aim was not to get drivers to inform on each other but to raise awareness of child sexual abuse.

He said: “We want drivers looking for the warning signs – for example if they have taken a young person to where and thought it was a strange place.”

Under the proposed rules private hire and hackney drivers would be compelled to take the half-day course within three months of renewing their licences. If a driver did not take the training without a reasonable explanation, and with out having made plans to do so, they would lose their licence.

Nearly 240 drivers involved in school transport contracts have already been briefed and there rest would be trained within a year.

All drivers are already required by the council to undergo criminal records checks

New drivers would have to pay £20 to take the course which would be added to the cost of applying for their licences.

Any drivers who book a place on the monthly-run courses and fail to attend would be charged.

A city hackney cab driver, who did not wish to be named, said: “I reckon most cab drivers would report anything suspicious to the council anyway if they though a kid was at risk.

“It’s obvious it but they might not know exactly what to look for so a course might help.”

Another driver said: “There will be some drivers who will feel they are being recruited as council snoopers and some who see it as another hoop to jump through just to get to work.

“I’d need to do the course before coming to a proper opinion though.”

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