30 Aug Who makes sure sex offenders can’t get a taxi driver’s license?
“Raping and driver’s licenses are two different things. We are not dealing with rapists here.”
30 August, 2017. Samoa – It is not the Land Transport Authority’s responsibility to decide whether a convicted sex offender can get a taxi driver license. Rather, that decision rests with the Courts and the Ministry of Justice.
This was the message from a senior LTA spokesperson who did not wish to be named. He told Samoa Planet that the Court issues stop orders to revoke a license or block someone from obtaining a license.
“Whatever comes from the Court, that’s what we follow. The Court issues a stop order for traffic driving offences. When we get the stop order, we put a note in our system. Whatever the Court says – stop driving for how many months or whatever – then that’s what we do.”
“If it’s a serious or dangerous offence, then it’s the decision of the Court.”
However, when asked if the LTA had ever received a stop order for a person convicted of sexual offences, the spokesperson said, “No. We have never gotten a court order because of rape.”
He added, “Raping and driver’s licenses are two different things. We are not dealing with rapists here.”
When applying for a commercial driving license to drive a taxi, a person must submit a current police report to the LTA. If the report states they have a previous conviction, then according to the spokesman, the LTA asks the Court for clarification.
“We are only dealing with traffic matters. If there’s a conviction, then we refer to the court to clarify the issue. When police report says previous convictions then we have to look at it – some are for drink, misbehaviour, minor offences. They can still get a taxi license if okay from the Court.”
“On our side, we do our job. We work together with the Court. But if the Court delays then it’s not us.”
In May this year, Justice Tuala-Warren had strong words for the LTA as she sentenced a taxi driver, Latana Fretton, to 16yrs in prison for raping a passenger.
She said, “It is in the public interest that the Land Transport Authority be given a copy of this decision so that they can consider the importance of a clean police record for any driver of a public transport vehicle. It is particularly important to ensure that a driver of a public transport vehicle has no previous convictions for sexual offences. This case will no doubt lessen the public confidence in travelling by taxis. Any license for driving public transport vehicles held by the defendant in this case should be revoked.”
At the time of the offence, Mr Fretton had 5 previous convictions, including 3 for carnal knowledge.
When asked about Mr Fretton’s case, the LTA spokesperson said, “It’s the Court’s responsibility to tell us about his previous conviction and give us a stop order.”
He did not confirm whether Mr Fretton had produced a police report when he first applied for a commercial license, saying that if further details of Mr Fretton’s taxi driver’s license were wanted, then to submit a request in writing.
He was quick to add however, that when the police were carrying out their investigation into Mr Fretton, “the Court gave us a stop notice then.”
“Everything is under control now. The Court order has suspended Fretton’s license and any time he comes again we will say sorry no more.”
The spokesman went on to speculate about the reliability of Court, Registry and Police records, saying, “You should ask more to the Court about the history of this man. How many names does he have? What I saw on his records he has changed his name from time to time. You know it can be so easy to change the pepa fanau (birth certificate). Its why I’m little bit worried about this.”
He concluded with a reassuring message for anyone worried about Samoa taxi drivers. “Tell the public and the tourists – don’t worry. They are safe.”
Mandated by the Land Transport Authority Act 2007, the prime objective of the LTA is “to provide a safe and environmentally friendly land transportation network for Samoa.”
Samoa does not yet have a Sex Offender’s Register but a Bill to establish a SOR is now with the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly for tabling before Parliament.
When the Bill is passed, the SOR will require offenders who have committed registrable offences to provide personal details to the Ministry of Police and keep them informed of their whereabouts.
It remains to be seen whether the SOR will also limit what types of employment a registered offender is able to engage in, and for example, whether they will be able to obtain a commercial driver’s license.