Wife killer studying to be taxi driver

A convicted killer and paranoid schizophrenic has been given permission to study the "knowledge" to become a black cab driver despite fears about public safety, it was revealed today.

The man strangled his wife in 2000 and pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility at the Old Bailey, it was reported.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced to indefinite detention under the Mental Health Act in January 2001 but was released in October 2003, London's Evening Standard said.

It is understood that his conviction was declared "spent" in 2005 under offender rehabilitation laws.

His application to study for the knowledge in June 2007 was initially rejected but he appealed and was given permission to begin study in December 2007 after psychiatric assessments.

He was also granted a private hire driver licence at the same time following psychiatric reports.

Under the terms of the permission, among other checks he will have to under go a yearly medical to ensure his condition is under control.

A Transport for London (TfL) spokesman said the decision to give the man permission to study for the knowledge and to grant a private hire vehicle licence had been referred to an independent board for them to adjudicate as to whether the decision was correct.

He said: "We fully recognise this is an issue of concern and the matter has been referred to an independent review.

"Passenger safety is always our first priority. Anyone applying to become a licensed taxi or private hire driver must complete an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check.

"All applicants with a previous criminal conviction are subjected to rigorous checks and we work closely with the Metropolitan Police and the wider criminal justice system before any decision is made to ensure they are suitable to be a taxi driver.

"In this case we received reports from all of the relevant authorities and evidence from clinicians and the decision was based on that evidence."

Examiners at the Public Carriage Office (PCO), the part of TfL which regulates the cab trade, were reported to be "appalled" by the decision.

"The safety of the public is at risk," one told the Evening Standard. "This guy killed his wife less than 10 years ago and if he passes the exam we are going to put him in a cab, on his own, picking up lone women all over London."

Bob Crow, general secretary of taxi union RMT, said: "It defies belief that any individual who has been convicted of manslaughter for the killing of a woman could be even considered as an acceptable candidate for the knowledge and allowed out onto the London streets in a black cab.

"RMT will be taking this matter up with the PCO and TfL and we will be demanding action from the authorities.

"This situation should never have been allowed to get this far and that's a massive failure of the procedures and RMT shares the anger of the taxi drivers who are rightly appalled at this shocking news."