Authority had ‘limited’ powers over probe into racist Facebook posts

Portsmouth taxi driver Viv Young
Portsmouth taxi driver Viv Young
Picture: Stephen Kelly/PA Wire

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A COUNCILLOR who oversaw an investigation into racist posts on a taxi boss’ Facebook page has defended Portsmouth City Council’s handling of the probe.

Cllr Lee Mason says the authority was ‘limited’ in terms of what action to take over Viv Young, shareholder of City Wide Taxis.

No complaint had been put in, The News had made a complaint yet no member of the public had made a complaint, so we were very limited in terms of our options.

Tory councillor Lee Mason

The News reported a stream of abusive messages that appeared on Mr Young’s social media profile to the authority.

It led to an investigation before a committee made up of Cllrs Lee Mason, Sandra Stockdale and Hannah Hockaday which concluded no action was to be taken.

The panel said at a hearing that Mr Young’s Facebook profile was set to private and no-one came forward to complain about the posts, so he got to keep his taxi licence.

But The News knew the page was public as it was able to view the comments – and was only set to private and shut down after enquiries were made.

When The News reminded Cllr Mason the profile was public, he demanded further evidence be brought forward if that was the case and said it was ‘outrageous’ if information was being withheld.

That’s despite The News reporting that fact back on March 4.

‘We went with the evidence we were presented with,’ he said. ‘No complaint had been put in, The News had made a complaint yet no member of the public had made a complaint, so we were very limited in terms of our options. Mr Young’s licence had already expired, so we couldn’t suspend it.

‘If the comments had been made in the public arena, then yes, that would have been stronger evidence.

‘We were told it was a private account. Since it has now been deleted, it’s very hard to verify.’

He added: ‘If The News has more information and is not bringing that forward, then that is outrageous.’

One of the shocking online posts on Mr Young’s Facebook page read: ‘I was driving me cab today and picked up a tribe of, shall we say (not typically English coloured people).

‘I was wondering by having them in my cab, am I leaving myself open to catch malaria, cholera, dengi fever, and of course tics.’

Another post of a man wearing a burkha while holding a can of lager was uploaded – with each getting likes from Facebook users – while another message called Muslim ‘nonces’. Among them included a picture of a bowl of dog food captioned ‘Islamic Xmas Dinner’.

A derogatory remark was made about a taxi passenger’s ethnicity, and another made a racist slur about Nelson Mandela.

Cllrs Stockdale and Hockaday were unavailable for comment.