The Assistant Director of Development and Planning Services submitted an exempt report in connection with a review of Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 19/14, 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 his name and current address and confirmed that he had received a copy of the report. The driver also confirmed to the Committee that a taxi driver that had witnessed the incident was also in attendance at the meeting.
The Principal Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case in relation to a complaint received by the Licensing Office on 19 August 2013 with regard to an incident involving a collision that had occurred on 15 August 2013. A statement made by the Complainant was attached at Appendix 1 to the report. The statement also included a brief statement submitted to Cleveland Police following the incident and 3 photographs showing the damage sustained by both vehicles following the collision and a plan showing the location of the incident.
On 6 September, a Licensing Enforcement Officer interviewed the driver in relation to the incident and a copy of the notes of that interview was attached at Appendix 2 to the report. The Licensing Section had received information that suggested that another licensed Hackney Carriage driver had witnessed the incident and had submitted an Accident Report Witness Statement to the insurance company who were investigating the incident. A copy of the statement was attached at Appendix 3 to the report. A further statement was obtained from the witness by the Licensing Section and a copy of that statement was attached at Appendix 4 to the report.
Following a number of discrepancies contained within the witness's statement, the witness was invited to discuss the matter with the Principal Licensing Officer. On 19 February 2014, the witness was interviewed by the Principal Licensing Officer in the presence of another Licensing Officer. A copy of the notes of the interview made by the Principal Licensing Officer in relation to the conversation with the witness and a copy of a subsequent letter sent to the witness on 28 February 2014 were attached at Appendix 5.
The driver was given the opportunity to read the version of events given by him on 6 September 2013 and at that time the driver confirmed that the version of events was a true and accurate reflection of the incident that occurred on 15 August 2013. The incident was the subject of an insurance claim made on behalf of the Council by the Council's own Insurance Officer. On 4 February 2014, the Licensing Section received confirmation that the driver's insurance company had accepted liability without prejudice in relation to this incident.
Members were advised that the driver and the witness to the incident had both stated that they were not known to each other, however the Council's Insurance Investigator had advised that they were both friends of each other on the Facebook Networking site.
The driver confirmed that the report was an accurate representation of the facts.
The Chair invited the Complainant into the meeting, introduced those present and outlined the procedure to be followed and invited the Complainant to present his case. The Complainant presented his case and responded to questions from the driver, Members of the Committee, the Principal Licensing Officer and the Council's Legal Officer. It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the Complainant left the room at this point of the meeting.
The Chair invited the witness to the incident into the room. The witness was accompanied by a friend who was known to Councillor Biswas.
**Councillor Biswas declared a non-pecuniary interest at this point of the meeting and took no further part in the meeting and left the room.
The Chair introduced those present and outlined the procedure to be followed and invited the witness to present his case. The witness presented his case and responded to questions from Members of the Committee, the Principal Licensing Officer and the driver. It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the witness and his friend left the room at this point of the meeting.
The Chair invited the driver to present his case. The driver presented his case and responded to questions from Members of the Committee and the Principal Licensing Officer. 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 review.
Subsequently all interested parties returned and the Chair announced the Committee's decision.
ORDERED that Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 19/14, be retained but that the driver be issued with a warning in relation to his future conduct for the following reasons:-
1. The Committee decided to uphold the Complaint made against the driver.
2. The Committee did not consider the driver to be a credible witness. The Committee did not believe his version of events; his representations were not clear and he contradicted himself.
3. The Committee considered the Council Officer was credible and believed his version of events. He explained and recalled the incident clearly and his evidence was consistent. The Insurance Company also concluded that the driver was liable for the accident.
4. The Committee therefore concluded that the driver had caused the accident and did not drive in a safe manner.
The Committee took into consideration the fact that the driver had been licensed since 1997 and that this was the first complaint made against him. The Committee therefore decided that, apart from a warning to ensure that the driver would drive safely in the future, no further action would be taken against him.
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: