A taxi driver who saved a teenage girl from abduction by an armed paedophile she met online was awarded by Cherwell District Council today (Monday, November 27).
Satbir Arora was presented with a certificate for outstanding achievement in safeguarding by lead member for public protection Cllr Kieron Mallon at Bodicote House.
The Bicester-based cabbie recognised his 13-year-old passenger was a victim of grooming after taking her to Gloucester railway station.
Mr Arora recorded conversations with the man she was meant to meet and told police who arrested him, resulting in a successful conviction and a five-year jail sentence.
The taxi driver received safeguarding training from the council in December, 2016, and said: “The training was really useful.
“Because of the cases we read about on the safeguarding course I was able to recognise the signs and quickly spot that it was a grooming case.”
On February 20, Mr Arora received a booking from a 13-year-old passenger in Oxfordshire who asked to go to Gloucester railway station.
While waiting to see if anyone was coming to meet his passenger, Mr Arora discussed his concerns with his wife, who is also the operator of their taxi firm.
Aware that she was not being forthcoming about the reasons for her journey, he asked the teenager to speak to his wife.
She established that her parents were unaware of her plans and called the police.
When no-one arrived to meet her, Mr Arora’s suspicions were aroused and he alerted a police officer who was parked nearby.
He telephoned the person his passenger had said was going to meet her, and made recordings of the calls, which were later used as evidence against Sam Hewings, 24, of Hadley Road, Cam.
Cllr Mallon said: “Online grooming is a continual menace which we cannot afford to be complacent about, and this shocking case reinforces the importance of the safeguarding training we provide to our taxi drivers.
“I can’t praise Mr Arora enough for his caring attitude and for recognising that his passenger was in grave danger.
“He saved his passenger from an unthinkable ordeal and had the presence of mind to record his calls with the would-be kidnapper, providing crucial evidence to the prosecution service.
“He has clearly put his safeguarding training into action and I hope he displays his certificate in pride of place in his vehicle.”
When police arrested him at his home they found a rucksack containing knives, duct tape and co-codamol tablets.
Online chat logs presented to Gloucester Crown Court revealed Hewings’ paedophilic tendencies and showed he had discussed kidnapping, sedating and raping a victim.
Last week, Hewings was sentenced to a total of five years in prison for attempted abduction, and the distribution and making of indecent images.
Detective Constable Ian Bennett of Gloucestershire Police said: “I cannot praise the taxi driver enough for his actions in this case.
“He undoubtedly saved harm from coming to the girl and provided vital evidence for the prosecution.
“Safeguarding training for taxi drivers is hugely important as this case highlights, and it’s good to see it happening in other parts of the country.”
The council requires mandatory safeguarding training to all taxi drivers as a condition of their licence and this year launched a ‘Rate My Taxi’ initiative which allows customers to provide feedback on the quality of service they receive, based on a short survey.
Passengers can access this via a QR code displayed in participating vehicles.
For more information on ‘Rate My Taxi’, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01295 753744.