A COUNCIL has come under fire for its handling of an investigation into racist messages which appeared on a taxi boss’ Facebook page.
Viv Young, who has a share in Portsmouth cab firm City Wide Taxis, has been allowed to hold on to his hackney licence despite Portsmouth City Council being made aware of a stream of abusive messages which surfaced on his account.
I have no grievance with anyone. I have sponsored a little girl in Africa for years.Taxi trade official and City Wide Taxis shareholder Viv Young
The News reported the shocking online posts to the authority, which included: ‘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’.
The council’s licensing team looked over the evidence presented to it, before a committee at a meeting decided no action would be taken against Mr Young, saying the Facebook messages were private and that no complaints had been made by members of the public.
At the hearing, Mr Young insisted his Facebook profile had been set to private – which The News knows not to be true as the messages were viewed by reporters before Mr Young deleted his account.
Questions have now been raised as to why the council did not look further into whether the posts were public – and why it needed further complaints to take action.
Jabeer Butt, deputy chief executive of The Race Equality Foundation said: ‘I don’t know a great deal about how the taxi trade is regulated, but part of those regulations states the safety of customers is paramount.
‘It seems odd Portsmouth City Council has managed to carry out an investigation where someone has repeatedly posted such statements about these customers, and concluded no action should be taken.
‘Clearly, there are some terrible things said on the internet and it’s become a haven for people to make very abusive comments.’
Lib Dem Councillor Gerald Vernon- Jackson said: ‘This is not acceptable.
‘It’s pushing the onus on to the victim to put in a complaint.
‘It’s not right people can be putting out racial abuse – then doing this is saying “it’s all right”.’
Mr Young, who received the support of other taxi drivers at the meeting, many of whom were from ethnic minority backgrounds, said some of the posts on his Facebook wall appeared as they had been shared by other users and had not directly been written by him.
And Mr Young defended himself by making references to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf.
He said: ‘Have you read Mein Kampf? If you don’t want to read it then don’t –it’s not compulsory. My Facebook (page) was personal – if you don’t like it then don’t look or delete me.’
In his statement at the meeting, overseen by Cllrs Hannah Hockaday, Lee Mason and Sandra Stockdale, Mr Young said: ‘This is a News witchhunt.
‘Some parts of the postings may have been taken out of context.
‘There were no poppy burnings or pig beheadings. I have no grievance with anyone. I have sponsored a little girl in Africa for years.
‘Portsmouth City Council councillors and officers come under the political umbrella and speak as such – I use industrial language.
‘I’m surprised and disappointed by reactions, this should never have got this far.
‘There have been no complaints from the public. I am one of the best drivers in Portsmouth. In my opinion there’s no case to answer.’
Cllr Hockaday, committee chairwoman said: ‘The comments made were private. Mr Young has friends from a diverse range of background.
‘We will renew his licence but will make it clear that if there’s any recurrence of this then we will revoke it in the future.’
She also said the comments were ‘disappointing’ and can be seen as disrespectful by members of the wider community.’
‘You don’t have to wait for someone to complain to take action on this,’ she added.
Cllr Hockaday was unavailable for comment following the hearing to explain the decision further.