May 2017

Taxi driver who was allowed to continue working for three years after being convicted of abusing an austitic boy is FINALLY sacked

A taxi driver who was allowed to continue driving his cab for three years despite being convicted of abusing an autistic boy has finally been sacked after The Mail on Sunday exposed the scandal.

As this newspaper revealed last week, John O’Sullivan brutally assaulted the 13-year-old, trussing him up with bungee cords as he ferried him to a special school.

The youngster, known as Boy B, was left so traumatised by the attacks that he was unable to speak for five months.

O’Sullivan was convicted in 2013 on two counts of assaulting the boy and fined and ordered to pay compensation. However, he was allowed to continue driving by South Ribble Borough Council in Lancashire.

Astonishingly, it has now emerged that the council, which twice renewed O’Sullivan’s taxi licence despite the offence, mounted a surveillance operation against the boy’s father – simply because he protested about the way the case was being handled.

The council used an expensive law firm, Weightmans, to threaten the father with a lawsuit for supposed ‘harassment’ after he wrote a letter of complaint to all councillors.

As part of a special investigation, we disclosed last week that O’Sullivan was one of several child abusers in Leyland, Lancashire, whose licences were renewed despite their predatory behaviour.

A five-year-old girl – known as Girl A – was left severely traumatised after being sexually assaulted. Another girl was propositioned by a driver on her 16th birthday.

On Monday, O’Sullivan’s employer, Avacab in Leyland, said he had sacked ‘with immediate effect’.

The surveillance of Boy B’s father emerged on Thursday, when he was given 400 pages of internal council emails in response to a special request made under the Data Protection Act.

Documents show that as he tried to draw attention to the scandal, senior officials and councillors were monitoring his tweets and public statements – and discussing legal action to silence him.

The papers show the surveillance continued for most of last autumn and into this year. Yet on November 23, the council was warned by a government agency that to monitor individuals’ social media output in this way might be unlawful. It said that the surveillance could amount to a breach of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and the Human Rights Act. The surveillance involved top- level officers and, at times, was almost obsessive.

On Boxing Day, Labour councillor Keith Martin wrote to South Ribble’s legal director Dave Whelan, saying he had been ‘monitoring social media over the holidays as per request from my group leader’. He said he had copied various tweets and would be delivering them on a memory stick.

One of the father’s chief concerns was the campaign – revealed by the MoS – to force out whistleblower Ian Parker, a senior South Ribble officer who had taken the scandal seriously. In January, the council replaced him with Caroline Elwood, who had previously worked in East Cheshire and Sefton, Merseyside.

On January 23, the father wrote to councillors citing media reports showing Ms Elwood had left these jobs in controversial circumstances. She had unsuccessfully sued Sefton for sex discrimination, and left East Cheshire in the wake of a massive political row over a failed waste management scheme.

The council responded by sending the father a legal threat from Weightmans. ‘I was terrified,’ he said. ‘They had ignored my protests. It now felt they were trying to destroy my family.’

His lawyer, abuse expert Richard Scorer, from solicitors Slater and Gordon, said: ‘You’d expect these tactics to be used to pursue criminals, not a father who had reported serious abuse perpetrated against his son. Councillors and officials chose to deploy Orwellian surveillance, public funds and resources against a victim’s father rather than take action to protect the public.’

The father has now submitted a formal complaint to Tory council leader Peter Mullineaux.

He said yesterday: ‘We will consider the complaint as soon as possible. The council has strict procedures and policies in place governing the use of residents’ data and our staff know they must always maintain a high standard of professionalism.’