Northumbria Police are warning students of potential danger after receiving two separate reports of sexual assault in Newcastle City Centre and Jesmond. Both reported incidents are believed to have been committed by a taxi driver.
The first incident dates to around 3 a.m. on Sunday 19th February, and in an official statement, police have given further details on the crime.
The woman got into a black hackney style cab in the Pilgrim Street area of Newcastle. Police confirmed that she was taken to Orchard Place in Jesmond where the taxi driver stopped the vehicle and proceeded to touch the woman inappropriately. The woman screamed, fled the car and reported the incident immediately.
The investigation was in its early stages when police confirmed that a second crime of a similar nature had occurred. On Wednesday 22nd February at around 6:25 a.m., a taxi driver tried to kiss a woman while parked in a carpark near Exhibition Park in Newcastle City Centre.
Enquiries are now being carried out by Northumbria Police to identify the offender(s).
Newcastle University was urged by police to pass on a safety message to all students via email ahead of the two reports. The Liaison Officer encouraged students to arrange to go home in a group of friends and pre-book or use a registered taxi rank.
The email also urged the importance of licensed taxi plates both inside and outside of the vehicle.
Students were asked to take note, where possible of the taxi license number or the driver’s details. The officer also gave some reassurance:
‘We work really closely with the local council and the licensed taxi companies across the area to ensure there are lots of ways for people to get home after a night out.”
Student safety is high on the agenda at the Students’ Union, and Rachael Kitching, Welfare and Equality Officer, commented on the nature of the crimes in question: ‘It has become apparent that there is an increasing need to safeguard students when getting home after a night out.
Safety should never be compromised for convenience or for cost reasons.
“Where students are left with no money after a night out, please use the university’s emergency taxi service (www.ncl.ac.uk/students/wellbeing/about/EmergencyTaxiScheme.htm).”
Rachael Kitching is part of a team at the Students’ Union who are planning a safety campaign during the week commencing 20th March. The aim is to promote the safe taxi scheme and explore all safe means of returning home.
She gave additional advice:
‘If anyone has further information, one of our University Police Liaison Officers hosts a drop-in service at the Student Advice Centre (SAC, Level 0 NUSU) every Tuesday 12-2, and in the Kings Gate Building (Level 1) every Thursday 12-2.
‘If anyone would like support, in light of personal experience, there are various support services, such as the Student Advice Centre (SAC), Student Wellbeing Service, Welfare and Equality Officer, REACH centre (Sexual Assault Referral Centre) and Tyneside Rape Crisis.’
Anyone with information on the incidents listed can also call Northumbria Police on 101 quoting reference number 647 19/02/17 or 134 22/02/17.