Taxi driving is a great business to get into. Provided you can drive, there’s not a great deal of additional training you’ll need to go through in order to get behind the wheel and start earning, especially as the driver of a PHV. Being your own boss, working flexible hours, meeting and helping others and the ability to earn a decent living – it’s easy to see why someone with a conviction would seriously consider this type of work.


But how does having a criminal record affect your chances of becoming a licensed taxi driver? Is it possible to become a taxi driver if you have a conviction? Read this Taxi Insurer article and get the low down on this tricky dilemma.


Remember, once you’ve gone to all the effort of getting your taxi licence, you’ll need to protect your business from harm. The number one way to do this is to have the right monthly taxi insurance tailored for your particular business needs.


Whether you’re driving a taxi cab, minibus or executive car, Taxi Insurer’s specialist team is sure to find a bespoke monthly taxi insurance policy suited to you and your needs.


What is a criminal conviction?


The criminal law can be a mystery to many of us and it might not be clear to you what a criminal conviction even is. So, let’s get this question cleared up first.


Basically, if you’ve pleaded guilty or been found guilty in court of a criminal offence then you’ll receive a criminal conviction on your record. You might be surprised to learn the following aren’t in fact criminal convictions:


  • A minor crime for which you received a caution.
  • A conditional caution, as long as you followed the conditions of the caution.
  • A fixed penalty notice, as long as you paid the fine within the time-limit. You could receive one of these for a variety of offences, including a motoring offence like speeding, anti-social behaviour and littering.
  • A penalty notice for disorder, as long as you pay the fine. Offences such as shoplifting or possessing cannabis could be dealt with by one of these.


Be aware, while these aren’t classed as convictions, a record of them will still be kept on police computers and might be disclosed as part of a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. So, these are still matters that a wannabe taxi driver will need to keep in mind when applying for their taxi licence.


Taxi licensing authorities will still be interested in any cautions, motoring offences, warnings, current court proceedings and any other concerning conduct. While not all of these can be defined as offences for which you’ve received a criminal conviction, they are all seen as relevant for the purpose of taxi licensing.


Even if no formal criminal charges or action has been brought, a licensing authority will want to weigh up the potential danger to customers.


Spent and unspent convictions – what’s the difference?


Another important point to consider is whether a previous conviction is ‘spent’ or ‘unspent’. Under the Rehabilitation of Offenders legislation, some criminal convictions become spent after a certain amount of time.


This means the individual can then be treated as though the offence never happened and will have a legal right not to tell organisations like employers and insurers about it. Although for certain jobs you might still need to disclose them if asked directly.


Charity Unlock says there are currently over 11 million people in the UK with a criminal record, the vast majority containing spent convictions. So, the chance of you having a criminal record is in fact quite high. You are certainly not alone in your situation.


Around 735,000 people have ‘unspent’ convictions on their files, which creates huge problems when it comes to finding a home, job and even arranging insurance. If a conviction is unspent, you have to disclose it if you’re asked about any past criminal convictions.


Working out whether a conviction is spent


Taxi driving is a great business to get into. Provided you can drive, there’s not a great deal of additional training you’ll need to go through in order to get behind the wheel and start earning, especially as the driver of a PHV. Being your own boss, working flexible hours, meeting and helping others and the ability to earn a decent living – it’s easy to see why someone with a conviction would seriously consider this type of work. 


As you can see, it’s important to know if or when your conviction will become spent. But this is not always a straightforward matter.


As you might expect, some very serious crimes, such as violent or sexual offences or crimes for which you received a prison sentence of over four years, will never be spent. So, they will always show up on your criminal record and will need to be disclosed.


However, the vast majority of criminal convictions will become spent after a period of time. How long exactly will depend on your age on the date of conviction, the sentence length, and the type of sentence.


Surprisingly for something so important and which affects people’s lives so much, you’ll receive no official notification to tell you the conviction has become spent. So, the only way to work it out is to get out your calendar and calculator. This can be tricky to do and you’ll probably be worried about making a mistake.


Fortunately, all is not lost. Unlock has an invaluable guide on how to find out when your conviction will become spent. It also has a handy disclosure calculator that’s both completely anonymous and easy to use.


For each conviction or caution you’ll simply need the following:


  • The type of conviction.
  • The date of conviction.
  • The length of sentence, or the date any conditions ended.


Be aware the calculator only applies to convictions in England and Wales.


Another alternative is to apply for a basic DBS check and see whether your conviction appears on it. A basic DBS check currently costs £23, and will show any unspent criminal convictions. A DBS usually takes around 14 days to arrive.


Be aware that even if a conviction does not appear here, it might still appear on an Enhanced DBS check. This check is necessary for jobs that involve working with children or vulnerable adults, such as a taxi driver. It will show both spent and unspent convictions, as well as any additional other relevant information held by police.


You can find out what is on your police record for free by making a request through the ARCO Criminal Records Office. This will provide you with a copy of what is held about you on the Police National Computer database.


It won’t present you with data held about you on local police force systems though. If you want information like statements, records of interviews, or further details relating to any specific offence, you will need to contact the relevant police force.


Will a conviction always show up on my criminal record?


Finding out what’s on your criminal record will really help when it comes to knowing what you will need to disclose to a potential employer or licensing authority. Particularly as the name of an offence or conviction may be different to what you thought you were charged with initially.


As we’ve already mentioned, some serious convictions will never disappear and will always need to be disclosed. However, the DBS system does filter out many other spent convictions in order to prevent people from being unfairly discriminated against on the basis of old or irrelevant crimes.


Crimes are treated slightly differently depending on the age you were at the time of conviction.


If you were 18 or over then the spent conviction will be filtered out if:


  • It’s been 11 years since the conviction.
  • It’s the only conviction you have.
  • You didn’t receive a custodial sentence.
  • It’s not an offence that will never be filtered out.


If you were under 18 then the same rules apply, but the spent conviction will be filtered after five and a half years from conviction.


The filtering process also applies to cautions in the following circumstances:


  • If you were 18 or over then it will be filtered out 6 years from its date of issue. Unless it’s included on the list of specified offences.
  • If you were under 18, it will be filtered out 2 years from its date of issue. Again, this only applies if it’s not included on the list of specified offences.


How to apply for a taxi licence with a criminal conviction


The role of a licensed taxi driver involves a high degree of trust to be placed in the driver. And if you want to work as one, you’ll need to apply to your local council’s licensing unit, or Transport for London if you want to work in the capital.


The process of applying for a taxi licence varies across the country between councils. And they will all have slightly different ways of dealing with criminal records. If you have a criminal record then it’s well worth doing some research beforehand to find out what the position is with your council.


Some councils appear to be more willing than others to give those with convictions a second chance. It might be that your nearest council isn’t the best one to apply to.


Many councils have information freely available to guide potential taxi drivers when it comes to licence applications and previous convictions. For example, Horsham District Council has a useful and very informative policy document that outlines the criteria taken into account when deciding whether someone is a ‘fit and proper person’ to hold a taxi licence.


It includes how to make an application, appeals, how disclosed criminal history is used, types of offences, cautions and much more


Whether you’re applying for a hackney carriage licence or a private hire vehicle licence the licensing criteria and qualifications needed are broadly the same.


You’ll need to:


  • Hold a full UK or EU driving licence.
  • Agree to an enhanced DBS check.
  • Have appropriate insurance, such as monthly taxi insurance.
  • Be aged over 18. Although some areas will require you to be over 21.
  • For those applicants looking to undertake any type of school transport contract work there might be additional requirements.


Any application process will require a certain amount of paperwork. But leaving such important matters for another day is never a good idea as you might miss something very important.


When you’re just starting out it can be difficult to manage both form-filling and expenses. Paying for cover by way of a monthly taxi insurance plan can make insurance costs more manageable and take some of the stress out of the job.


By paying for monthly taxi insurance, you can spread the cost throughout the year. Avoiding the need to suddenly find a big cash sum is always a good idea if you want your business to stay on the straight and narrow.


Will I need an enhanced DBS check to get a licence?


Yes, you will. Every council will carry out an enhanced DBS check during the application process to see if you have a criminal record. There’s no getting away from it. The best thing you can do is to have a good understanding of what you’ll need to disclose, and how to appeal if the council refuses your application.


While enhanced DBS checks are standard there’s something else worth knowing if you haven’t been resident in the UK for the previous five years: you might need to produce a Certificate of Good Conduct by some councils before they will grant a licence. This is a letter or certificate from the country you had been resident in confirming your criminal record history when you were there.


You can apply online for this at the relevant country’s embassy in the UK. The UK government website has a complete list of how to apply for every country internationally.


Do people with convictions still get taxi licences?


Just because you have a previous conviction there’s certainly no reason to despair when it comes to applying for a taxi licence. There’s a shortage of labour across the country meaning that employers and other organisations are giving applicants a chance who may have had difficulties before.


For example, Working Chance, which helps women with convictions find employment, has seen an exponential rise in employers knocking on their door.


Obviously, getting a job with a criminal record can still throw up a whole range of difficulties. But if you make sure you know your rights, disclose your conviction in the best way possible, and set yourself up for success then there’s no reason you can’t achieve your dream.


The Big Issue has written an excellent guide on how to get a job with a criminal record that we recommend reading. From applying to sharing your conviction it has everything you need to know.


Always keep in mind that a criminal record should never automatically exclude you from getting a taxi licence.


The aim of any taxi licensing authority is to ensure that:


  • You are a fit and proper person.
  • You don’t pose a threat to the public.
  • The public is protected from a dishonest driver.
  • The safeguarding of children and young people.


When considering your criminal record and whether you’re a fit and proper person, the licensing authority will look into:


  • How relevant your offence is to the licence being applied for.
  • The seriousness of the offence.
  • The date of your conviction for the offence.
  • The circumstances of the conviction.
  • The sentence imposed by the court.
  • Your age at the time of conviction.
  • Whether the conviction is part of a pattern of offending.
  • Any other character check, including personal references.
  • Any other relevant factors.


You’re certainly less likely to be granted a taxi licence if you have an unspent conviction involving dishonesty, violence, a sexual offence or an offence relating to alcohol, drugs or controlled substances. 


However, a person with a conviction for a serious offence may not be automatically barred from obtaining a licence. But the licensing authority will expect them to remain free of conviction and show adequate evidence they are a fit and proper person to hold a taxi licence.


Refused a licence? Here’s what you can do


Hopefully your application will be successful. But if it’s refused, you will have the right to appeal the decision. This can be done through the licensing authority’s appeals panel. If that appeal is refused then you have a right to appeal to the Magistrates Court within 21 days.


The legal appeal process can become expensive and will probably require you to get legal advice. It’s a good idea to speak to a lawyer before going down this route.


An alternative avenue worth pursuing is to simply apply to another local council. Councils will differ in how they treat people with criminal records, so you may have better luck elsewhere.


What can I do if I’m convicted and I already hold a licence?


Any licensed taxi driver who receives a conviction, caution or fixed penalty notice has to disclose this to the licensing authority. This needs to be done within 7 days.


The licensing authority will then weigh up the seriousness of the offence, any aggravating or mitigating factors and your past driving history. If they decide to take action against you then you could have your licence suspended or even revoked.


As before, there is a right of appeal through the licensing committee and through the Magistrates Court. Again, legal advice might be useful in this situation.


A question worth bearing in mind as a taxi driver with a criminal conviction is what you would do if an allegation of criminal conduct was made against you. Something that could prove invaluable in such a situation is having a dash cam or CCTV in your taxi. That way your passengers and you will be better protected.


When you’re already juggling maintenance costs and monthly taxi insurance premiums you might think a CCTV system is an investment too far.


But think again.


If an accident happens or an allegation is made, you’ll be pleased to have footage to back up your version of events.


Protecting your cab with monthly taxi insurance cover


taxi pay dock


Anybody who drives a taxi for a living will need specific taxi insurance. Standard car insurance simply won’t provide you with the cover you require.


Running a taxi business can get expensive, so it’s probably best to discuss the likely cost of monthly taxi insurance with a specialist broker.


Our monthly taxi insurance cover can include benefits such as:


  • Unique rates for public and private hire
  • Low deposits and monthly payments available
  • Discounts for DSA taxi test (with some insurers)
  • Comprehensive cover
  • Third Party Fire & Theft cover
  • Third Party only cover available
  • Public Liability
  • Employers’ liability


Call the Taxi Insurer team and get a quote for monthly taxi insurance today.