Licensing Committee Minutes

Licensing Committee Minutes

Date:
Monday 11 August 2014
Time:
1:00 p.m.
Place:
Mandela Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor B E Taylor (Chair), Councillor R Arundale, Councillor S Biswas, Councillor R Brady, Councillor T Mawston, Councillor G Purvis, Councillor M B Williams.
Officers:
C Cunningham, J Dixon and T Hodgkinson.
Apologies for absence:
Councillor T Harvey, Councillor M Hudson, Councillor C M Rooney, Councillor P Sharrocks, Councillor M Thompson, 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
14/33 MINUTES - LICENSING COMMITTEE - 21 JULY 2014

The Minutes of the previous Licensing Committee meeting held on 21 July 2014 were submitted and approved as a correct record.

14/34 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 the Assistant Director Economic Development
14/35 REVIEW OF COMBINED HACKNEY CARRIAGE/PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF NO: 42/14

The Assistant Director of Economic Development submitted an exempt report in connection with the review of Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 42/14, 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 an incident on 17 February 2014, which resulted in the offences detailed at 2) in the submitted report.

 

The driver was first licensed with Middlesbrough Council in June 2008 and first appeared before Members in November 2009 following a complaint submitted by a member of the public in August 2009.
 

On that occasion, the driver was permitted to retain his licence and advised that, should any similar incidents occur in future, he should immediately notify the Police.

 

The driver next appeared before Members in February 2014 following inappropriate parking on three occasions. On that occasion, Members determined to suspend his licence for a period of two weeks.

 

The driver now appeared before the Committee following an incident that occurred in February 2014 which resulted in the offences at 2). The driver was interviewed by the Senior Licensing Officer on 30 July 2014, at which time he confirmed that there were no outstanding matters of which the Council was unaware, confirmed his previous explanation in relation to the offence at 1) and offered an explanation for the offences at 2).

 

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 Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 42/14, be retained but that the driver be issued with a warning regarding his future conduct.

 

The Council's Policy Guidance on convictions stated that an isolated conviction, caution or complaint for a major traffic offence would not usually prevent a person from being considered for a licence, however, it may be considered necessary to issue a warning regarding future conduct. The Committee considered that as the driver had been convicted of a major traffic offence, namely driving without due care and attention, the fact it was a one off isolated incident, the issue of a warning was appropriate in this case.
 

14/36 APPLICATION FOR PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF NO: 40/14

The Assistant Director of Economic Development submitted an exempt report in connection with an application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 40/14, 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 accompanied by a representative, 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 offence detailed at 1).

 

The applicant first appeared before Members with an application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver licence in November 2013. On that occasion, Members considered the offence detailed at 1) and refused the application as the Council’s guidelines on convictions in relation to assaulting a Police Officer in the course of their duties stated that an application would be refused unless a period of at least 3-5 years free from conviction had elapsed. The applicant was convicted in 2012 and the Committee did not consider that sufficient time had elapsed.

 

The applicant now appeared with a fresh application. He was interviewed by the Senior Licensing Officer on 28 July 2014, at which time he confirmed that there were no outstanding matters of which the Council was unaware and confirmed his previous explanation in relation to the offences at 1).

 

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

 

The applicant’s representative addressed the Committee and presented the case in support of the applicant. The applicant subsequently responded to questions from Members.

 

It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the applicant and his representative, 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 40/14, be granted.

 

The Council's Policy Guidance on convictions stated that in relation to offences involving an assault on Police or an Enforcement/Authorised Officer or other Public Servant acting in the course of their duties, a period of at least 3-5 years free from conviction should elapse since the date of conviction or completion of any sentence imposed, prior to the issue of a licence. Whilst the applicant had been convicted of such an offence in February 2012, the Committee accepted that the offence was committed in 2011 when the applicant was a juvenile. The Committee departed from the guidance because it considered that the applicant had matured and had incurred no further convictions and that a period of three years had elapsed since the applicant had committed the offence.
 

14/37 REVIEW OF PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF NO: 43/14

The Assistant Director of Development and Planning Services submitted an exempt report in connection with the review of Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 43/14, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.

 

At the appointed time, the driver was not in attendance, therefore, Members considered whether to proceed with consideration of the matter in the driver’s absence. It was confirmed that the driver had not advised that he was unable to attend. It was highlighted that three letters had been sent to the driver from the Licensing Section and that he had failed to attend interview appointments made for him on three occasions. In response to a query regarding the driver’s last known address, the Principal Licensing Officer advised that the driver had been at the same address since he was first licensed with Middlesbrough in October 2010 and had not notified the Licensing Section of any change of address, as required by condition on his licence.

 

Following discussion, the Committee agreed to proceed in the absence of the driver as he had failed to respond to three letters from the department and had failed to attend three appointments. The issue to determine the review involved the driver’s failure to provide a DBS disclosure certificate to the Licensing Section. This was considered to be an important issue, therefore, Members agreed that the matter should be heard without delay and decided to proceed in his absence.

 

The Principal Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case in relation to the driver’s failure to produce a copy of his Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) criminal records check to the Licensing Section.

 

It was explained that it was a requirement for any local authority to establish that a person was fit and proper to hold a Private Hire Vehicle driver licence before issuing a licence. In order to do this, the Licensing Section required all new applicants to undertake a number of checks including a criminal records check. Once a licence was granted, licensed drivers were required to undertake a criminal record check once every three years. Whilst all licensed drivers were legally required to inform the Council of any convictions or cautions for any offences, a triennial check was undertaken to ensure that drivers had not committed offences and failed to report them to the Licensing Section.

 

In 2013 the DBS was formed and began to undertake the duties previously undertaken by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). One of the main differences in the service offered by the DBS was the fact that they no longer sent a copy of the criminal record certificate to the Licensing Section. When required to undertake a criminal record check, drivers were, therefore, informed that a certificate would be sent directly to them and that they would be required to produce it at the Licensing Section where it would be examined by the appropriate officer.

 

The driver submitted a renewal application on 23 October 2013 and, as part of the application process, and was required to complete an application form for a DBS criminal record check. The DBS offered an online tracking service, allowing the progress of each application to be monitored and the system indicated that the check in relation to the driver was completed and dispatched to him on 12 December 2013. To date, the driver had failed to produce a copy of his record check to the Licensing Section. Letters were sent to the driver on 18 February, 4 and 28 March 2014 requesting that he produce a copy of his criminal record check certificate for inspection. He failed to respond to these requests and a decision was made to refer him to the Licensing Committee.

 

Appointments were made for the driver to be interviewed regarding this matter by the Senior Licensing Officer on 7 May, 2 and 28 July 2014. The driver failed to attend on each occasion. It was confirmed that all letters and invitations were sent to the driver’s last known address and also that there had been no notification of any change of address when the driver submitted his application to renew his licence.

 

ORDERED that Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 43/14, be suspended with immediate effect until the driver produced his DBS disclosure certificate to the Licensing Section and appeared before the Licensing Committee, or until 30 September 2014 when his licence was due to expire, whichever was the sooner.

 

The Committee considered it appropriate to suspend the driver's licence with immediate effect as he had failed to produce his DBS disclosure certificate to the Licensing Section despite three written requests to do so and had also failed to attend three subsequent appointments for interview at the Licensing Office. The Committee considered it to be too great a risk to allow the driver to continue driving without knowing whether he had been convicted of offences and failing to produce his DBS Certificate, therefore, posed a risk to the public.

 

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

14/38 REVIEW OF PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF NO: 41/14

The Assistant Director of Economic Development submitted an exempt report in connection with the review of Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 41/14, 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 accompanied by his legal representative, 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 a complaint made by a member of the public on 12 May 2014. It was confirmed that the complainant and another witness were both in attendance and would be invited to join the meeting individually and address the Committee and respond to questions.

 

The report outlined that the driver was first licensed with Middlesbrough Council in June 2013. A complaint was received by the Licensing Section on 13 May 2014 and had initially been made to Cleveland Police on 12 May 2014. The complaint related to a journey undertaken by the complainant and his partner and daughter in the driver’s vehicle on 10 May 2014 where it was alleged that the driver had driver in a manner that had caused the passengers alarm and distress.

 

The driver was interviewed by the Senior Licensing Officer on 28 July 2014, at which time he confirmed that there were no outstanding matters of which the Council was unaware, confirmed his previous explanation in relation to the offence at 1) and offered explanations in relation to the submitted complaint and the offence detailed at 2).

 

Statements taken from the complainant and his partner in relation to the incident on 10 May 2014, were attached at Appendix 1 to the submitted report. The driver was initially interviewed by a Licensing Officer on 10 June 2014 when he denied the allegations made regarding his standard of driving. His version of events were attached at Appendix 2.
 

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

 

Clarification was provided as to when the complaint had been received by the Licensing Section and it was confirmed that the complaint was initially made to Cleveland Police, by email. The driver’s legal representative confirmed that he had not had sight of the email and a copy was duly provided.

 

The complainant joined the meeting and the Chair introduced those present and explained the procedure to be followed. The complainant confirmed his name and occupation and the content of his submitted statement, attached at Appendix 1 to the submitted report. The complainant recalled his version of events in relation to the journey undertaken by the complainant, his partner and daughter, with the driver, on 10 May 2014. The complainant alleged that the driver had been travelling in excess of the speed limit for the majority of the journey, in poor weather conditions, and also that the driver had an unpleasant attitude towards his passengers.

 

The driver’s legal representative asked questions of the complainant and these were responded to accordingly. The witness also responded to questions from Members and the Council’s legal representative. The witness subsequently withdrew from the meeting.

 

A second witness, the complainant’s partner, joined the meeting and the Chair introduced those present and outlined the procedure to be followed. The witness confirmed her name and occupation and the content of her statement attached at Appendix 2 to the submitted report. The witness provided her version of events in relation to the journey in question and subsequently responded to questions from the driver’s legal representative and Members. The witness withdrew from the meeting and it was confirmed that there were no further witnesses.

 

The driver’s legal representative addressed the Committee on behalf of the driver and asked questions of the driver in relation to the complaint and in relation to the offence at 2) in the submitted report. The driver’s legal representative advised that the driver had asked his recent customers to complete a satisfaction survey in relation to his driving and circulated them to the Chair asking that they be taken into consideration.
 

The driver also responded to questions from Members of the Committee and the Principal Licensing Officer.

 

The driver’s legal representative was permitted to sum up the case in support of the driver and it was subsequently confirmed that there were no further questions. The driver, his 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 Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 41/14, be suspended for a period of two weeks.

 

The Committee had considered the case presented by the driver and his legal representative and the case presented by the complainants and made its decision for the following reasons:-

  1. The Committee believed the two witnesses to be credible. and believed that the driver had been speeding.
  2. The Committee believed that the driver had driven at levels in excess of the speed limit for most of the journey, in poor weather conditions, making the incident more serious by putting his passengers and other road users at risk.

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

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