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Uber loses its license to operate in London

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Uber is to be sensationally stripped of its licence to operate in London in a huge blow to the ride-hailing firm.

The dramatic announcement today by Transport for London chiefs will dismay 3.5 million Londoners who have come to rely on cheaper rides.

The decision also raises questions over the future of 40,000 minicab drivers who ply a trade with Uber in the capital.
Mayor Sadiq Khan, who heads up TfL, said after the shock ruling that “companies must play by the rules”.

Uber said its users and drivers would be “astounded” by TfL’s decision and accused the transport body and the Mayor of “caving in” to a small number of critics.

The firm confirmed it would “immediately” challenge the decision in the courts.

However the technology giant’s expulsion by TfL will delight opponents, including the black cab trade, who have criticised its safety record.

Others have raised concerns over the San Francisco company’s business methods and argue it has contributed to worsening traffic congestion on London’s streets.

Uber’s lawyers will now pore over the decision which is almost certain to be challenged in a lengthy courtroom battle.

TfL ruled that Uber was “not fit and proper” to hold a private hire licence and had shown a “lack of corporate responsibility” in relation to public safety.

Its licence is currently due to expire next Saturday, September 30. The app firm has 21 days to appeal the decision. However, they can continue to operate on London’s streets while the legal process is exhausted.

In May Uber’s licence was extended for just four months, instead of the usual five years, raising uncertainty about its long-term future in London.

The issue is politically sensitive for the Mayor although both his officials and TfL stressed that he was not personally involved in the decision. The decision was made by TfL chiefs on the advice of lawyers.

He is understood to be concerned about the safety of the Uber service, amid claims of alleged sex attacks by drivers, but also aware that banning the firm will spark a backlash from drivers and users.

When TfL proposed strict new private hire rules that would have limited Uber’s operations in 2015, more than 200,000 people signed a petition against them and most of the proposals were dropped.

In today’s ruling, TfL raised concerns over Uber’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences and how it obtained enhanced criminal records checks for drivers.

In August the firm was accused by police of allowing a driver who sexually assaulted a passenger to strike again by not reporting the attack, along with other serious crimes.

Weeks later the vetting process for thousands of drivers offering the under-fire service was declared invalid, after TfL decided minicab firms had to use its chosen contractor to apply for a DBS check.

It flagged up Uber’s approach to how medical certificates were obtained – for example drivers using an online GP service via video rather than having a check in person as the regulations insist.

The transport body also queried Uber’s use of Greyball software, which could be used to block regulators’ access to the app.

Despite being one of the world’s most popular apps the firm has not been without controversy since it first appeared on London’s streets in 2012.

Earlier this year, a tribunal ruled that the company should treat two drivers as workers and pay them the minimum wage and holiday pay.

It was one of many legal battles, regulatory disagreements and driver strikes that have taken place across the globe – in addition to a string of internal problems.

Earlier this month MPs on the all parliamentary group on taxis claimed the US firm was not a “fit and proper operator” following a string of alleged sex attacks by drivers.

They claimed police figures showed an allegation of rape or sexual assault against Uber drivers is made every eleven days.

The group, chaired by Labour MP Wes Streeting, wrote a letter to TfL urging it to follow the example of other cities and revoke Uber’s licence for operating in the capital.

Earlier this week TfL increased the cost of licences for the largest minicab firms, including Uber, up to £2.9 million, to cover extra enforcement costs.

Mr Khan said: “I want London to be at the forefront of innovation and new technology and to be a natural home for exciting new companies that help Londoners by providing a better and more affordable service.

“However, all companies in London must play by the rules and adhere to the high standard we expect – particularly when it comes to the safety of customers. Providing an innovative service must not be at the expense of customer safety and security.

“I fully support TfL’s decision – it would be wrong if TfL continued to licence Uber if there is any way that this could pose a threat to Londoners’ safety and security. Any operators or private hire services in London need to play by the rules”.

Tom Elvidge, General Manager of Uber in London, said: “3.5 million Londoners who use our app, and more than 40,000 licensed drivers who rely on Uber to make a living, will be astounded by this decision.

“By wanting to ban our app from the capital Transport for London and the Mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice. If this decision stands, it will put more than 40,000 licensed drivers out of work and deprive Londoners of a convenient and affordable form of transport.

“To defend the livelihoods of all those drivers, and the consumer choice of millions of Londoners who use our app, we intend to immediately challenge this in the courts.

“Uber operates in more than 600 cities around the world, including more than 40 towns and cities here in the UK. This ban would show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies who bring choice to consumers.”

Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, said: “The Mayor has made the right call not to relicense Uber.

“Since it first came onto our streets Uber has broken the law, exploited its drivers and refused to take responsibility for the safety of passengers.

“We expect Uber will again embark on a spurious legal challenge against the Mayor and TfL, and we will urge the court to uphold this decision. This immoral company has no place on London’s streets”.

However, London Assembly member Andrew Boff said: “This is a hugely damaging decision by Sadiq Khan that will effectively put 40,000 people out of work at the click of a finger.

“The Mayor consistently tells us London is open but in shutting down the operations of an innovative market leader like Uber he has caused immense reputational damage to our city as a global business hub.

“With 3.5million registered users – almost half the city’s adult population – Uber has shown to be providing a hugely beneficial service to Londoners.

“Sadiq Khan has ignored their needs and instead believed the smears and propaganda propagated by Uber’s rivals.”

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Crime

Southall shooting: Man charged with murder of Khalid Abdi Farah

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Detectives investigating the shooting of 26-year-old Khalid Farah in Southall have charged a 21-year-old man.

Malique Thompson-Hill was charged with murder on Sunday (December 3), the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

Mr Farah was fatally shot in the chest while he was sat in a Ford Focus car in Lady Margaret Road on November 11.

London Ambulance Service attended the scene and the victim was taken to a central London hospital where he died at 3.32am.

Following his death, Crimestoppers announced a reward of up to £10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

In a statement, his family said: “Khalid was such an amazing son, brother and nephew.

“We can’t stress enough how distraught we are that our beautiful boy was taken away from us.”

The family statement added: “He was a kind and lovable soul who made an impression with everyone he would meet.”

Mr Thompson-Hill was due to appear at Ealing Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

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UK

Murdered Suhaib Mohammed ‘collateral damage’ to drug dealers

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Suhaib Mohammed died two hours after being shot in the chest

A teenager who was murdered in the UK after moving from Somalia was “just collateral damage” to a drug dealing gang, a senior police officer says.
Suhaib Mohammed, 19, was shot through an open window at a house in Milton Keynes, in September 2016.

Two men were jailed for life in March after being convicted of his murder.

Speaking ahead of a TV documentary about the case, Det Ch Insp Mike Lynch said Mr Mohammed had been “groomed into a life he knew nothing about.”

“This was the tragic case of a 19-year-old brought from Somalia to the UK by his family to make a better life for themselves but, ultimately, he was vulnerable,” he said.

“He was was just collateral damage in the world of organised crime and became wrapped up in something he had no control over.”

A teenager who was murdered in the UK after moving from Somalia was “just collateral damage” to a drug dealing gang, a senior police officer says.
Suhaib Mohammed, 19, was shot through an open window at a house in Milton Keynes, in September 2016.

Two men were jailed for life in March after being convicted of his murder.

Speaking ahead of a TV documentary about the case, Det Ch Insp Mike Lynch said Mr Mohammed had been “groomed into a life he knew nothing about.”

“This was the tragic case of a 19-year-old brought from Somalia to the UK by his family to make a better life for themselves but, ultimately, he was vulnerable,” he said.

“He was was just collateral damage in the world of organised crime and became wrapped up in something he had no control over.”

Mohammed Noor (left) and Albert Prempeh should serve a minimum of 30 years, the judge said

Mohamed Noor, 33, and Albert Prempeh, 35, both of Milton Keynes, were sentenced to a minimum of 30 years, following a trial at Luton Crown Court.

Noor, of Radworthy, fired the revolver after Prempeh, from Langland Road, had led him to the house in Osprey Close, Eagleston.

The court heard the pair went to the address to exact revenge on a man known as Hypes, who had robbed Noor earlier and believed to have been involved in a £4,000 bookmaker robbery the previous day.

Prempeh said he had been forced at gunpoint by Noor to go to the house, an accusation Noor denied.

Mr Lynch said: “That was the difficulty of the case – it seemed straightforward.

“But we looked at CCTV and found footage of Prempeh leading Noor to the scene and certainly not under duress”.

The case has been featured in Channel 4 documentary Catching a Killer, to be shown on Thursday, 7 December.
Mr Lynch – who has since retired from policing – said he took part in the programme to show how “emotionally challenging” cases like this are for police staff.

“They have to support families who have lost someone but they have to be impartial and seek the truth, which sometimes causes tension,” he said.

“And there is always a sense of a hollow victory in that no sentence can ever bring someone back”.

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Crime

Father beaten to death with chair as fight breaks out over snooker table in north London cafe

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A father was beaten to death with a chair when a fight broke out over the snooker table in a high street cafe.

Police launched a murder inquiry after Mohamed Hersi, 40, died in hospital following the attack in Bethel Cafe, Finsbury Park.

Mr Hersi, who recently left his job at a central London hotel to care for his elderly father, was set upon when he complained about players jumping the queue for the table.

He was rushed to hospital with critical injuries at 10pm on Tuesday. He died yesterday with his wife and their four children, aged five to 11, at his bedside.

His wife Barlin Ali, 36, told the Standard: “He was the best husband and father you could ask for.”
It is understood that Mr Hersi, who had been working as a hotel kitchen porter, was drinking tea and playing snooker in the cafe when the row broke out.

He was struck with the metal chair, fell to the floor and hit his head, his family said.

Mrs Ali said: “It is vitally important that anyone who saw what happened comes forward because the person who did this should not be on the streets.

“No other family should suffer this. Please come forward if you know anything and speak to police. We want justice for Mohamed because I have lost such a loving man.”

Mr Hersi’s sister-in-law Mariam Ali, 37, said: “Mohamed was a peaceful man. He would always say to us to not worry and ‘enjoy the moment’.
“Those were his favourite words. He was a lovely person and a good father. He was so happy around his children.”

“He was working at a grand hotel in central London until a few months ago when he had to stop work to look after his father.

“We just know he was drinking tea in the cafe on Tuesday night. We got a phone call saying Mohamed was on the floor. My sister ran to the cafe but the police were already there and took us to hospital. Doctors said he would not survive.”

The cafe in Seven Sisters Road was cordoned off. A worker at a nearby internet cafe said: “He was playing snooker. There’s only a small table there, it was full of people. A guy came in and was trying to jump the queue. Then there was an argument.”

The Met’s Homicide and Major Crime Command is investigating. No arrests have been made. Anyone with information is asked to call the incident room on 020 8345 3865 or via 101 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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