A senior police officer has accused Uber of failing to report a sex attack on a woman by one of its drivers, with the omission leading to a second assault on a different victim a few months later.
Inspector Neil Billany, head of the Metropolitan police’s taxi and private hire unit, wrote an explosive letter to Transport for London titled “Concerns with Uber not reporting serious crimes.”
Liberal Democrat politician Caroline Pidgeon obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information request. It was first reported by The Sunday Times, and has been given to Business Insider. You can read it in full below.
The letter deals with the fact that Uber reports serious crimes to Transport for London, but not the police directly, potentially putting passengers in danger.
In the letter, Billany detailed how Uber failed to report a sexual assault to the police in January this year. According to his account, Uber spoke with the driver, who denied the offence, then did “nothing more.” Then the driver struck again four months later, assaulting a different female passenger. Three days later, Uber fired the driver and informed Transport for London, which in turn told the police.
“Had Uber notified police after the first offence it would be right to assume that the second would have been prevented,” he wrote.
He also said the female victims in both instances thought Uber would contact the police about the cases, which it didn’t. “It is also worth noting that once Uber supplied police with the victim’s details both have welcomed us contacting them and have fully assisted with the prosecutions,” he said.
He added that Uber didn’t automatically report serious crimes in case it breached passenger rights.
In another incident, an Uber driver terrified a passenger after getting into a “road rage” altercation with another driver. The Uber driver pulled what looked like a handgun from a the gloved box, and chased after the other vehicle. “At this point, the passenger … fled the vehicle in fear,” Billany wrote. It turned out the “handgun” was actually pepper spray, which is still classified as a firearm, he said.
He accused Uber of reporting “low-level” fraud, but of not reporting more serious episodes because they might damage the company’s reputation.
“My concern is two-fold,” he wrote. “Firstly it seems they are deciding what to report (less serious matters / less damaging to reputation over serious offences) and secondly by not reporting to police promptly they are allowing situations to develop that clearly affect the safety and security of the public.”
Uber told The Sunday Times it had refused to help because of a misunderstanding. And it said the pepper spray was actually a legally permitted self-defence spray.
A spokesman said: “We were surprised by this letter as in no way does it reflect the good working relationship we have with the police. We advise people to report serious incidents to the police and support any subsequent investigations, but respect the rights of individuals to decide whether or not to make such reports.”
Here’s the letter in full: