Licensing Committee Minutes

Licensing Committee Minutes

Date:
Monday 6 January 2014
Time:
1:30 p.m.
Place:
Mandela Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Taylor (Chair) Councillors Arundale, Biswas,Kerr, Loughborough, Mawston, G Purvis, M Thompson, Williams
Officers:
B Carr, C Cunningham, J Hodgson and J Wells
Apologies for absence:
Councillor R Brady, Councillor M Hudson, Councillor P Sharrocks, Councillor J A Walker
Declarations of interest:

There were no Declarations of Interest made by Members at this point of the meeting. 

Item Number Item/Resolution
PUBLIC
13/110 ITEM FOR INFORMATION - DIFFERENTIAL CHARGING OF WHEELCHAIR-DEPENDENT PASSENGERS


The Public Protection Operations Manager presented a report to advise Members of action taken by Licensing Officers to ensure that wheelchair-dependant passengers using Private Hire Vehicles were not discriminated against through the imposition of additional charges.

Members were advised that whilst the Council had the authority to set fares in relation to Hackney Carriages, it did not have control on the prices charged by Private Hire Vehicles and as a consequence, Private Hire fare charges were generally determined by market forces. Members were advised however that the prices charged had to be legal and in compliance with the Equality Act 2010 which imposed certain controls with regard to discriminatory behaviour.

The Licensing Section had received comments and complaints with regard to the fact that wheelchair users travelling in Private Hire Vehicles were being charged up to twice the price of able bodied passengers. An article that had been publicised in the Trade and general press in relation to a similar incident that had occurred in Hull; had heightened suspicions that disabled passengers were incurring additional charges for travelling in Private Hire vehicles and possibly wheelchair accessible Hackney Carriage vehicles when sub-contracted to Private Hire Operators to carry out private hire work.

It was highlighted that at the current time, specific provisions within the Equality Act concerning 'Taxis etc.' were not largely in force and referred on the whole to Hackney Carriages. Officers were of the opinion that the practice of imposing an additional charge for carrying disabled passengers constituted direct discrimination and was therefore a breach of the Equality Act. A breach of the Equality Act for these reasons would give grounds for the Licensing Committee to review a Private Hire Operator's licence.

 

It was anticipated that further guidance would be received from the Government with regard to this issue. However given the comparative complexity of the legislation and the suspected widespread level of non-compliance with the Act, a decision was taken to initially address the issue on an advisory basis. As a result letters had been sent to the Taxi Operators, the Hackney Carriage Association and the proprietors of Wheelchair Accessible Hackney Carriages outlining their obligations under the legislation and how best to comply with the requirements. 

 

It was hoped that the provision of clear information and guidance would ensure that wheelchair-dependant passengers using Private Hire Vehicles were not discriminated against through the imposition of additional charges. However the Licensing Team had put in place measures to ensure that all operators were complying with the legislation. Members were advised that a more formal approach would be taken in respect of any future breaches of the legislation which could include the Operators being referred to the Licensing Committee for a review of their Private Hire Operator's Licence.

 

A Member queried whether any information regarding this issue had been circulated to disability groups. The Public Protection Operations Manager advised that the information would be circulated in the near future. In response to a query with regard to the number of complaints received in the Middlesbrough area, Members were advised that two complaints had been received and a further report about this issue meaning that in total three separate Private Hire businesses were involved.

 

ORDERED that the action taken to address the discriminatory issues outlined in the report be noted.  

13/111 EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC.

ORDERED that the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items on the grounds that, if present, there would be disclosure to them of exempt information as defined in Paragraphs 1, 2, 3 or 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 and that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information.

EXEMPT
Reports of Assistant Director of Development and Planning Services
13/112 REVIEW OF COMBINED HACKNEY CARRIAGE/PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF: 1/14

The Assistant Director of Development and Planning Services submitted an exempt report in connection with a review of a Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 1/14, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.

 

The Senior Licensing Officer advised that the driver had contacted the Licensing Section after the paperwork for the Committee had been circulated, stating that his legal representative was unable to attend the meeting and he therefore had requested that the Committee consider deferring the matter.

 

Members agreed to defer consideration of the matter to a future Licensing Committee in order to afford the driver and his legal representative the opportunity to attend.

 

ORDERED that consideration of the review of Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 1/14, be deferred to a future Licensing Committee in order to afford the driver and his legal representative the opportunity to attend. Members determined that the driver be advised that should he fail to attend on the next occasion, the matter would be heard in his absence.

13/113 REVIEW OF PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF: 2/14

The Assistant Director of Development and Planning Services submitted an exempt report in connection with a review of a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 2/14, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.

 

The Chair introduced those present and outlined the procedure to be followed. The driver, who was in attendance at the meeting, verified her name and current address and confirmed that she had received a copy of the report.

 

The Senior Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case in relation to the offence detailed at 1) in the submitted report and the fact that the driver had not notified the Licensing Section of the offence or of her change of address as required by condition of her licence.

 

The driver confirmed that the report was an accurate representation of the facts and was invited to address the Committee in support of her case. The driver spoke in support of her case and responded to questions from Members of the Committee.

 

It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the driver and officers of the Council, other than representatives of the Council's Legal Services and Members' Office, withdrew whilst the Committee determined the application.

Subsequently, all interested parties returned and the Chair announced the Committee's decision.

 

ORDERED that Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 2/14 be retained bur the driver be given a warning regarding her future conduct.

 

The Committee made its decision in line with the Council's Guidance on Convictions which advises that, a driver with a caution for a dishonesty offence may warrant a warning, depending on the circumstances.

 

The driver was reminded of her right to appeal the decision to the Magistrates Court within 21 days of the decision.

 

SUSPENSION OF COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULE NO 10 - ORDER OF BUSINESS

ORDERED that, in accordance with Council Procedure Rule No 10, the Committee agreed to vary the order of business.

ORDERED that the following applications be determined as shown:

13/114 REVIEW OF PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF: 82/13

The Assistant Director of Development and Planning Services submitted an exempt report in connection with a review of a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 82/13, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.

 

The Chair introduced those present and outlined the procedure to be followed. The driver, who was in attendance at the meeting, verified his name and current address and confirmed that he had received a copy of the report.

 

The Senior Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the details of the offences detailed at 1) to 2) in the submitted report and a complaint received from a cyclist with regard to the standard of the applicant's driving.

 

The driver had initially been interviewed by the Senior Licensing Officer in relation to the offences on 22 May 2013 at which time he had advised that he was in the process of appealing against the offences detailed at 2) in the report as he stated that the offences were incorrect. The driver had advised that he had made a Statutory Declaration in relation to the offences and was awaiting the return of his DVLA driving licence.

 

The driver had advised the Senior Licensing Officer that he expected to have the offences detailed at 2) in the report, removed from his licence and under the circumstances, the Senior Licensing officer had delayed the interview with the driver until the issues with the DVLA had been resolved.

 

The Senior Licensing Officer had written to the driver on 24 July 2013 requesting an update with regard to the proposed removal from his DVLA licence of the offences detailed at 2) in the report. The driver did not respond to the Senior Licensing Officer's request.

 

On 11 August 2013, a complaint with regard to the applicant's standard of driving was received and a Licensing Enforcement Officer invited the driver for an interview in relation to the complaint on 3 September 2013. The driver attended that interview.

 

The driver was invited for interview by the Senior Licensing Officer in relation to the review of his licence on 17 September 2013, 3 October 2013 and 2 December 2013 and the driver had failed to attend on each occasion and he did not make any contact with the Licensing Section. The letter sent to the applicant on 2 December advised the applicant that should he fail to attend for interview on that occasion, the matter would be referred to the Licensing Committee on 23 December 2013. The applicant subsequently contacted the Licensing Section and requested that the Senior Licensing Officer contact him. Further attempts were made to contact the driver and another invitation for interview was sent to him however he failed to attend the appointment.

 

The driver confirmed that the report was an accurate representation of the facts and was invited to address the Committee in support of his case. The driver spoke in support of his case and responded to questions from Members of the Committee and the Council's Legal Officer.

 

The driver confirmed that he was still waiting to hear if the eight points had been removed from his licence. He advised that he had made the Statutory Declaration as he had never driven without insurance. He stated that he was going to be retryed for the offence detailed at 2) in the report as he had never received the court summons. He advised that he had misplaced his current licence and he had written to the DVLA to request a replacement. The Senior Licensing Officer advised Members that the Licensing Section had taken a photocopy of the driver's licence on 1 May 2013 and at that time the driver had eleven points on his licence.    

 

It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the driver and officers of the Council, other than representatives of the Council's Legal Services and Members' Office, withdrew whilst the Committee determined the application.

 

Subsequently, all interested parties returned and the Chair announced the Committee's decision.

 

ORDERED that consideration of the review of a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 82/13 be deferred to the Licensing Committee scheduled for 27 January 2014 to enable the driver to obtain further information from the courts with regard to his application for an appeal with regard to the offences detailed at 2) in the submitted report. The applicant was also advised that he should produce his current DVLA driving licence at the Committee on 27 January.   

 

The driver was advised that if he did not obtain any further information, the Committee would consider his case based on the information currently contained within the report.
 

13/115 APPLICATION FOR PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF: 3/14

  • Private Minute (24K/bytes)

The Assistant Director of Community Protection submitted an exempt report in connection with an application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 3/14, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.


The Chair introduced those present and outlined the procedure to be followed. The applicant, who was in attendance at the meeting, verified his name and address and confirmed that he had received a copy of the report.


The Senior Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case in relation to the offences detailed at 1) to 2) in the submitted report and additional information included at the Chief Police Officer's Discretion which was included on the Applicant's Disclosure and Barring Service Form. Cleveland Police had indicated that they believed this information to be relevant to an employer's risk assessment when considering the applicant's application for a Private Hire Vehicle Licence as it was likely that the applicant could have regular contact with children and vulnerable adults in the course of his employment as a Private Hire Vehicle Driver.


The applicant confirmed that the report was an accurate representation of the facts and was invited to address the Committee.


The applicant addressed the Committee and responded to questions from Members of the Committee and the Council's Legal Officer.


It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the applicant and officers of the Council, other than representatives of the Council's Legal Services and Members' Office, withdrew whilst the Committee determined the review.


Subsequently all interested parties returned and the Chair announced the Committee's decision.


ORDERED that the application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 03/14, be refused as the Committee did not consider the applicant to be a fit and proper person to hold a licence, for the following reasons:-


1. The Committee had considered information from Cleveland Police relating to incidents involving vulnerable young women in 2005 and 2009. The complainants did not proceed further with their cases and the driver was not convicted of the offences. The responses given by the driver to the committee about the incidents were evasive and not considered to be credible.


2. Members considered that the accusations and the applicant’s responses could indicate a pattern of behaviour. The Committee considered that a private hire driver was in a position of great trust and the driver would at some point in the course of his employment as a private hire driver, be transporting unaccompanied vulnerable females in his vehicle and the committee considered that the applicant posed a potential risk to young females.


The applicant was reminded of his right to appeal the decision to the Magistrates Court within 21 days of the decision.

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