Uber not reporting sexual assaults
Uber not reporting sexual assaults by driversSpencer Platt/Getty Images

A senior officer from Metropolitan police's taxi and private hire team has accused Uber of not being prompt in reporting sex crimes by its drivers.

In a strongly worded letter to Helen Chapman, head of taxis and private hire at Transport for London (TfL), Inspector Neil Billany expressed "significant concerns" over Uber's operation in the region and said the company has been picking and choosing what to report to the police and "putting its concerns for reputation over public safety".

The letter, dated 12 April, cited the case of an Uber driver who was allowed to continue by the company, despite allegations of sexual misconduct against him. After the first incident, the said driver committed another serious crime against a woman in his car.

"Had Uber notified police after the first offence, it would be right to assume that the second would have been prevented," the letter read. The officer stressed that the company was deciding what to report and only informing on "less serious matters" that would be "less damaging to its reputation".

Billany noted a bunch of assaults that Uber did not report, along with an incident in which a driver apparently produced a pepper spray. He also claimed Uber's policy of first logging criminal complaints with TfL rather than the police had led to delays of up to seven months in police investigations. In 2016, six cases of sexual assault, two public offences, and one case reported by Uber came to the police department.

Stressing on the fact that Uber is risking public safety by not reporting cases on time, the officer said, the two public offences reported last year were subject to a six-month prosecution time limit but they could not take it further because, by the time they were made aware of the incident they had no power to take any action, even with the evidence in hand.

As the letter surfaced, Uber issued a statement saying, "While we were surprised by this letter – as we don't feel it reflects the good working relationship we have with the police and the extensive support we provide – we would welcome further collaboration and to establish how we can do more to strengthen our existing processes".

The ride hailing giant reiterated its efforts towards ensuring a safe experience for its riders and said, "Uber does not routinely report incidents retrospectively to the police on behalf of others – we advise those involved to make a report themselves and then assist the police with any subsequent enquiries".

It also noted that if a licensed driver commits a crime, he/she is deactivated from the Uber app, and the regulator, TfL, is apprised about the case in detail.

Uber would look to maintain its working relationship with TfL as its long-term licence is due for renewal by the transport committee next month.