For the uninitiated, background screening may not seem necessary or even relevant.
However, two separate, yet similar situations in both London and in Malaysia have shone the spotlight on background screening – a practice which is more commonplace in developed countries.
Uber had recently been embroiled in a legal battle to reinstate its expired license in London. Last September, the city’s governing transport agency, Transport for London (TfL) had initially decided not to renew the ride-hailing company’s license due to concerns for public safety. Uber was found to have endangered the public by failing to report criminal misconduct by its drivers to the police – instead sharing the complaints only with the TfL.
In an expose in the UK by The Independent newspaper, it was revealed that 32 sexual assault claims were made against Uber drivers in 2015, whereby a neglect in profiling their drivers had highlighted the urgency on the seizure of its license. Following the latest court hearing in June this year, Uber has been given a short-term license under a 15-month probationary period that would require the company to perform more stringent background checks and practice proper criminal reporting procedures.
Meanwhile in Malaysia, the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) had earlier this year identified that there are about 1,000 ride-hailing drivers with criminal records after screening about 74,000 registered drivers. Worryingly, the actual figures of drivers with criminal records are much higher, as SPAD had revealed that there are over 300,000 existing ride-hailing drivers in the country!
Thankfully, SPAD will be screening the rest this year and are working closely with the Royal Malaysia Police and the Road Transport Department (JPJ) to regulate the screening process for public safety.
We do note that ride-hailing companies like Uber have a point-based system in place in order for users to rate the services provided by a driver, however this system maybe a step too late, especially for more serious problems such as sexual crime. Point systems aren’t a preventive tool, and only addresses problems after the fact.
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure and one of the best way to stop serious crime such as sexual assault is to prevent it from happening in the first place.
As situations in both countries have shown – Uber learning from its case in London, and our own SPAD, Police and JPJ which are doing the right thing by screening all ride-hailing drivers – background screening is indeed a useful and necessary step for all concerned.
Background screening may not have been a practice in the past, but it is definitely becoming mainstream as seen in both the cases in UK and in Malaysia.
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