Licensing Committee Minutes

Licensing Committee Minutes

Date:
Monday 30 June 2014
Time:
1:00 p.m.
Place:
Mandela Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor B E Taylor (Chair), Councillor J A Walker (Vice Chair), Councillor R Arundale, Councillor R Brady, Councillor T Mawston, Councillor G Purvis, Councillor P Sharrocks and Councillor M B Williams.
Officers:
C Cunningham, J Dixon, T Hodgkinson and B Roberts (start of meeting only).
Apologies for absence:
Councillor M Hudson and Councillor M Thompson.
Declarations of interest:

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

Item Number Item/Resolution
PUBLIC
14/17 APPOINTMENT OF CHAIR PRO TEM


The Council’s Legal Services Manager opened the meeting and sought nominations for the appointment of Chair of the Licensing Committee, pro tem. Councillor Taylor was nominated and seconded and, therefore, appointed as Chair of the Committee.

 

ORDERED that Councillor Taylor be appointed Chair of the Licensing Committee, pro tem.
 

14/18 MINUTES - LICENSING COMMITTEE - 16 JUNE 2014

The Minutes of the previous Licensing Committee meeting held on 16 June 2014 were submitted and approved as a correct record.

14/19 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 and 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
14/20 APPLICATION FOR PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE LICENCE - REQUEST FOR EXEMPTION FROM CURRENT LICENSING CONDITION RE: WINDOW TINTS: REF NO: 38/14

The Assistant Director of Development and Planning Services submitted an exempt report in connection with an application for a Private Hire Vehicle licence with an exemption from the current licensing condition regarding window tints, in respect of a specific Private Hire Vehicle, Ref: 38/14, 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 was in attendance at the meeting accompanied by a Legal Representative, and verified the name and address of the Operator and the vehicle in question and confirmed that a copy of the report had been received.

 

At this point in the meeting, the applicant’s legal representative raised a preliminary matter and asked the Chair to consider whether he wished to declare an interest in the matter. He stated that the Committee was quasi judicial and that there may be a public perception of bias on the part of the Chair. The Council’s legal representative clarified that the Committee was not quasi-judicial but administrative and the Rules of Natural Justice applied. As each matter was considered on its own merits, it was for each individual Member to consider whether they had a pecuniary or non-pecuniary interest to declare in any matter and that the public perception of bias would be an element that they should consider when making their decision. The Chair confirmed that he did not have an interest to declare in the matter.

 

The Principal Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case in relation to an application for an exemption from the current licensing condition in relation to window tints, in respect of a specific Private Hire Vehicle (vehicle registration number provided). It was highlighted that a previous vehicle test indicated that some windows fitted to the vehicle did not comply with the Council’s current licensing condition in relation to window tinting, therefore, the matter had been referred to Committee.

 

It was explained that the Council’s Policy in relation to vehicle window tints was introduced in 2010 following a general review of all the Council’s Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle conditions and policies. At that time, the following condition was introduced:-

 

"Window Tints - This condition shall be applied to vehicles licensed after 15 July 2010. No vehicle shall have tinted windows beyond the following levels:-
Light transmissible through windscreen shall be no less than 75%.
Light transmissible through any other window should be no less than 70%.
When testing vehicles the Council’s testing centre will allow up to a 5% error margin.
This comfortably takes into account n error margin of 3% recommended by the testing instrument's manufacturer."

 

The legal requirement in relation to all road going vehicles required that the windscreen allowed light transmission of at least 75% and both the passenger and driver side front windows allowed light transmission of at least 70%. There was no legal requirement in relation to tint levels on other windows of the vehicle.

The condition was introduced to improve passenger and driver safety and to ensure compliance with this condition, tint testing equipment was purchased and supplied to both the Council’s vehicle testing centre and the Licensing Section.

 

In April 2014, it became apparent that the testing procedure in relation to window tints had not been followed correctly by staff at the Council’s vehicle testing centre and Officers had identified a small number of vehicles that had been presented for test with window glass in place that did not comply with the Council’s requirements in relation to window tints. As a result of failures in the testing process, these vehicles were passed and subsequently issued with Private Hire Vehicle/Hackney Carriage licences.

 

Since discovering the errors in the testing procedure, Officers had ensured that all vehicle testers were aware of the correct testing procedure in relation to tinted windows and, where a vehicle was identified as having window tints that did not satisfy the licensing condition, vehicle proprietors had been required to either replace the window glass or, where a film had been applied to the window glass to increase the level of tint, ensure that the film was removed. Those vehicles failing to meet the required standard had their vehicle licenses suspended for failing to comply with the licensing condition.

 

In April 2014, discussions were held with the applicant and other interested parties to highlight the errors in the testing procedure. This information was also passed to all other members of the trade in a letter dated 6 June 2014.

 

The applicant’s vehicle was first submitted for licensing as a Private Hire Vehicle in January 2012. Following a test at the Council’s testing centre, the vehicle was given a 24 hour failure notice as a result of a minor fault with the front passenger seatbelt. The problem was rectified and subsequently passed the test and was issued with a Private Hire Vehicle licence in the Operator’s Company name.

 

In May 2012 the Licensing Section was informed that the vehicle licence had been transferred, therefore a new licence was issued to joint licence holders. As all licensed vehicles were subject to two annual tests, with the first being carried out before a licence was issued and the second being carried out six months after a licence was issued or renewed, the vehicle passed its first intermediate test in July 2012 without issue.

 

In November 2012, the Licensing Section was informed that the vehicle licence had transferred again and a new licence was issued to joint licence holders. In December 2012 an application to renew the vehicle licence was submitted and a fitness test took place as part of the renewal process, again the vehicle passed without issue.

In June 2013, the vehicle underwent its intermediate test and failed as a result of problems with a headlight and an imbalance in the breaking system. These issues were subsequently resolved and the vehicle was returned to the test centre, passing the same day.

 

In November 2013, an application to renew the vehicle licence was received. As part of the process, a fitness test was undertaken in December 2013 when the vehicle failed as the nearside sliding door could not be opened, it was missing some obligatory signage, a lamp lens was damaged and a dust cover on a ball joint was

damaged. The problems were duly rectified and the vehicle subsequently passed the test and was issued with a licence commencing on 1 January 2014 and due to expire on 31 December 2014.

 

The test sheets completed for the vehicle throughout its licensing history indicated that either the window tints had not been checked or that they had been checked and no issue was raised about them being unsuitable.

In June 2014, the vehicle was submitted for an intermediate test which included testing of the window tints on the vehicle. A number of the vehicle’s windows were found to have light transmission levels below that required by the Council’s condition in relation to window tints. As a result, the vehicle was given a 24 hour period to rectify the issue before a suspension of the vehicle was issued.

 

Three days later, the vehicle licence was surrendered and the following day, a fresh application was submitted in relation to the vehicle accompanied by a letter from the applicant, a copy of which was attached at Appendix 1.

On 19 June 2914, the vehicle was presented to the Licensing Section where a test was carried out in relation to the level of tints on the windows. The results of those tests were detailed in the report. In conclusion, it was highlighted that all windows tested were within the limits required by the Council’s window tint condition, other than the nearside middle passenger window and the nearside rear passenger window.

 

Following submission of the application to licence the vehicle, the Senior Licensing Officer contacted the applicant requesting information regarding the initial application made in respect of the vehicle. Information requested related to whether the applicant was made aware of the condition in relation to window tints when the application was initially made to licence the vehicle and, if so, why the vehicle was submitted for licensing when it did not comply with that condition. The applicant stated that legal advice had been sought in relation to the application and had not been received prior to the deadline for producing Committee reports. The applicant was advised that the report would be produced without this additional information which the applicant could table at the Committee meeting.

 

The applicant’s legal representative confirmed that the report was an accurate representation of the facts and was invited to address the Committee and presented the case in support of the application.

 

With the permission of the Chair, the applicant circulated a bundle to the Committee, containing the following:-

  • Report of Birmingham City Council regarding the Licensing of Vehicles with Factory Fitted Privacy Glass (dated 16 April 2014).
  • Article 68 for the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 in relation to Fitness of Hackney Carriages and Private Hire Vehicles.
  • Middlesbrough Council’s web page in relation to Taxis.
  • Middlesbrough Council’s Conditions and Policies in relation to Private Hire Vehicles.
  • Department for Transport Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing: Best Practice Guidance.
  • Photographs of the vehicle.

The applicant’s legal representative explained the background to the submitted application and, in doing so, made reference to Section 68 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, highlighting that the applicant's vehicle would have had its licence suspended due to failing its intermediate test in relation to the window tint requirement and that there was no option to appeal a suspension under Section 68 of the Act. The applicant had, therefore, surrendered the vehicle licence and submitted a fresh application with the request for an exemption from the Council’s current Policy condition in relation to window tints.

 

The applicant’s legal representative also referred to the submitted document from Birmingham City Council, which had recently amended its restrictions on issuing vehicle licences to those with dark tinted glass, to allow standard manufacturer fitted tints and privacy glass, but not aftermarket film or replacement glass darker than originally supplied by the manufacturer. In reviewing its policy, Birmingham City Council had taken into account an increase in the amount of applications it had received for exemptions from the tinted glass restrictions, apparent lack of evidence to show that dark glass contributed to criminal activity and an increase in privacy glass being fitted as standard by manufacturers on higher specification vehicles.

 

The applicant’s legal representative circulated photographs of the vehicle and highlighted that the darker, manufacturer-installed windows were the ones that had failed the Council’s test in relation to light transmission. The lighter tinted glass, on the other side of the vehicle, had been fitted at a later date (following the original windows being broken), however, this glass had passed the Council’s test in relation to light transmission.

The applicant’s legal representative responded to questions from Members and the Council’s legal representative.

It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the applicant, the applicant’s legal representative, 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 the application for a Private Hire Vehicle Licence, Ref No: 38/14, with request for an exemption from the current licensing condition in relation to window tints in respect of a specific vehicle (registration number supplied) be refused for the following reasons:-

  1. The Council's policy required all windows of the vehicle to allow a specific amount of light transmission so that the driver and passengers were visible through all windows, day and night. 
  2. This policy was introduced in the interest of safety for both drivers and passengers. The named vehicle did not currently comply with this condition.
  3. The Committee, therefore, did not consider there to be good reason or exceptional circumstances to depart from the Council's current policy in respect of the applicant's named vehicle.

In determining this matter, the Committee had considered the submitted report and the representations made by the applicant.

 

The applicant was reminded of the Right of Appeal to the Magistrates Court within 21 days of the decision.

14/21 REVIEW OF COMBINED PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE/HACKNEY CARRIAGE DRIVER LICENCE: REF NO: 26/14

The Assistant Director of Development and Planning Services submitted an exempt report in connection with the review of Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 26/14, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.

 

The Principal Licensing Officer advised Members that the driver had contacted the Licensing Section to advise that he was unable to attend as he would be away on holiday.

 

ORDERED that consideration of the review of Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 26/14, be deferred to the next available Licensing Committee in order to afford the driver a further opportunity to attend.
 

14/22 REVIEW OF PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF NO: 35/14

The Assistant Director of Development and Planning Services submitted an exempt report in connection with the review of Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 35/14, 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 address and confirmed that he had received a copy of the report.

The Principal Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case in relation to the offences detailed at 1) to 3) in the submitted report.

 

The driver was first licensed with Middlesbrough Council in July 2012. In February 2014, the driver produced his DVLA driving licence to the Licensing Section to advise that he had been convicted of the offence of speeding and, as a result, currently had nine penalty points on his DVLA licence. Members were reminded that the Council’s policy in relation to traffic offences required any driver convicted of offences resulting in their DVLA licence being endorsed with nine or more penalty points be referred to Committee for review of their licence.

 

The driver was interviewed by the Senior Licensing Officer on 12 March 2014, at which time he confirmed that there were no outstanding matters of which the Council was unaware, confirmed that all fines in relation to the offences had been paid and offered explanations in relation to the offences at 1) to 3).

 

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

 

The driver addressed the Committee and responded to questions from Members.

 

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 Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 35/14, be retained but that the driver be required to complete the Driver Improvement Scheme, at his own expense, within the next two months. The driver currently had nine penalty points on his DVLA licence and the Council's Policy Guidance on Convictions in relation to currently licensed drivers with nine or more points on their DVLA licence was that drivers would be expected to successfully complete the Driver Improvement Scheme.

 

The driver was reminded of his Right of Appeal to Magistrates Court within 21 days of the decision.

14/23 APPLICATION FOR PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF NO: 36/14

The Assistant Director of Development and Planning Services submitted an exempt report in connection with an application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 36/14, 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 Principal Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case in relation to the offences detailed at 1) to 5) in the submitted report. It was highlighted that the application was received by the Licensing Section in July 2013, however, there had been a significant delay in the application process as the applicant had failed his driver knowledge test on a number of occasions (in relation to the location part of the test). The applicant passed his knowledge test on 21 April 2014.

 

The applicant was interviewed by the Senior Licensing Officer on 29 April 2014, at which time he confirmed that there were no outstanding matters of which the Council was unaware, confirmed that all fines in relation to the prosecutions had been paid in full and offered explanations in relation to the offences at 1) to 5).

 

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 in support of his application and responded to questions from Members.

 

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 application.

 

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 36/14, be refused as the Committee did not consider the applicant to be a fit and proper person for the following reasons:-

  1. The applicant had been convicted of driving with no insurance on two occasions which constituted a major traffic offence. The Council's Policy Guidance on Convictions stated that if an applicant was convicted of one or more major traffic offences, and had been disqualified, an application would not be considered until the DVLA licence had been restored and the applicant had been free of convictions for a period of at least 1-3 years since the last conviction or completion of any sentence imposed, whichever was the later. The applicant's last conviction for major traffic offences was in August 2011.
  2. The applicant had also been dishonest in relation to those offences described above and had provided false details to the Police. The Council's Policy Guidance on Convictions stated that an applicant convicted of an isolated offence involving dishonesty would normally be refused a licence unless a period of at least 3-5 years had elapsed since the date of conviction or the completion of any sentence imposed, whichever was the later.

The applicant was reminded of his Right of Appeal to the Magistrates Court within 21 days of the decision.
 

14/24 APPLICATION FOR PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF NO: 37/14

The Assistant Director of Development and Planning Services submitted an exempt report in connection with an application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 37/14, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.

 

The Principal Licensing Officer informed Members that the driver had contacted the Licensing Section to advise that he was going to be out of the country due to a family bereavement and was, therefore, unable to attend.

 

ORDERED that consideration of the application Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 37/14, be deferred to the next available Licensing Committee in order to afford the driver a further opportunity to attend.
 

14/25 REVIEW OF PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF NO: 31/14

The Assistant Director of Development and Planning Services submitted an exempt report in connection with the review of Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 31/14, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.

 

Members were reminded that the matter was due to be considered at the Licensing Committee on 16 June 2014, however, prior to that meeting, the driver contacted the Licensing Section to advise that he was ill and would be unable to attend the meeting. Members chose to defer the matter to the next meeting.

 

The Principal Licensing Officer advised that the driver was not in attendance and confirmed that an invitation letter had been hand delivered to him on 20 June 2014 with advice that the matter may be considered in his absence should he fail to attend.

 

Given the information provided above, the Committee decided to proceed in the driver’s absence as this was the second occasion where he had not attended.

 

The Principal Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case in relation to the offences detailed at 1) to 4) in the submitted report.

 

It was highlighted that the driver was first licensed with the Council in September 2011 when Members considered the offences detailed at 1) and 2). On that occasion, the licence was granted, however, the applicant was issued with a warning in relation to his future behaviour.

 

Members were now being asked to consider the offences detailed at 3) and 4). The driver was interviewed by the Senior Licensing Officer on 20 May 2014 at which time he confirmed that there were no outstanding issues of which the Council was unaware, confirmed his previous explanations in relation to the offences at 1) and 2) and offered explanations in relation to the offences detailed at 3) and 4).

 

The Principal Licensing Officer responded to questions from Members and Members determined the review.

 

ORDERED that Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 31/14, be revoked as the Committee did not consider the driver to be a fit and proper person for the following reasons:-

  1. The Council's Policy Guidance on Convictions stated that where a driver had committed a violent offence similar to that detailed in the report, a licence would normally be revoked unless a period of at least 1-3 years free from conviction had elapsed since the date of conviction or completion of any sentence imposed, whichever was the later. The driver had been convicted of affray in 2009 and had now been convicted of common assault in March 2014 against one of his passengers.

The driver would be advised, in writing, of the Committee's decision and advised of his right of appeal to the Magistrates Court within 21 days.
 

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