The Assistant Director of Improving Public Health submitted an exempt report in connection with the review of Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 55/14, 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 and a complaint submitted by a member of the public in relation to the driver.
Members were reminded that the matter was first due to be considered on 24 November 2014. On that occasion, both the driver and witnesses failed to attend the meeting and Members, therefore, deferred consideration of the matter to the next meeting.
The matter was next due to be considered by Licensing Committee on 15 December 2014. The driver again failed to attend. Members chose to suspend the drivers Private Hire Vehicle Driver licence with immediate effect until such time that he appeared before the Committee. The driver was notified of his suspension and the vehicle operator, from whom the driver hired a Private Hire Vehicle, was also advised of the suspension.
The matter was again due to be considered by Committee on 6 January 2015. The driver attended the meeting, however, the Principal Licensing Officer advised Members that investigations were ongoing in relation to allegations that the driver had driven Private Hire Vehicles during the period when his licence was suspended. Members determined to reinstate the suspension of the drivers licence, with immediate effect, until such time that investigations had been carried out in relation to the allegations. Members advised they would consider the matter at Committee on 26 January 2015.
It was highlighted that the driver was first licensed with the Council in September 2011. He now appeared before Members in relation to the offences detailed at 1) to 3), a complaint submitted by a member of the public relating to an incident on 8 June 2014 and allegations of driving Private Hire Vehicles whilst his Private Hire Vehicle Licence was suspended (with immediate effect). The driver was interviewed by the Senior Licensing Officer on 2 October 2014, at which time he confirmed that there were no outstanding matters of which the Council was unaware, confirmed all fines in relation to the offences had been paid in full and offered explanations in relation to the offences detailed at 1) to 3). The driver also confirmed his previous explanation in relation to the complaint.
Reference was made to the complaint which was received on 25 June 2014 in relation to an incident that occurred on 8 June 2014. It was alleged that the driver had driven his taxi dangerously. Statements obtained from the complainant and her husband were attached at Appendix 1. The driver was interviewed in relation to the complaint on 8 July 2014 at which time he denied driving in the manner that had been described. The drivers version of events was attached at Appendix 2. Enquiries made with the drivers private hire operator and booking records for the date of the incident suggested that the vehicle and the driver were employed on booked private hire jobs during the period of the incident. A copy of the booking records received from the drivers private hire vehicle operator was attached at Appendix 3.
The Senior Licensing Officer spoke to the driver on 5 November 2014 at which time the witness statement were again read to the driver. The driver stated that he wished to obtain statements from his family and friends who he claimed were in the vehicle at the time of the incident. To date, no such statements had been received.
In relation to the drivers failure to attend Committee on 24 November and 15 December 2014, the driver claimed that he had been out of the country from approximately 9 November to 23 November 2014 and had not returned to Middlesbrough until 7 December 2014. As a result, he had been unaware of the Committee meeting. Information was obtained from the drivers Private Hire Vehicle operator confirming that the driver had worked as a Private Hire Vehicle driver and had carried out bookings on behalf of the Company on 11, 12, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29 and 30 November 2014 and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 December 2014. The driver stated he had failed to attend Committee on 15 December 2014 as he had not received the paperwork in relation to the Committee.
Following the suspension of the drivers licence on 15 December 2014, the driver complied with the requirement of the suspension notice and returned his driver identification bade to the Licensing Section on 16 December 2014. The driver was again interviewed by the Senior Licensing Officer on 19 December 2014 and was supplied with a further copy of the suspension notice. It was fully explained that the driver was prohibited from working as a Private Hire Vehicle driver until such time that the suspension was lifted.
Information was received by the Licensing Section that the driver had been driving Private Hire Vehicles for a different operator over the Christmas period, despite his licence being suspended. Legal proceedings in relation to driving a private hire vehicle without the appropriate licence and no insurance were currently ongoing, however, Officers had obtained statements from staff at the operating Company who stated that the driver had approached them for work on 19 December 2014. He had produced the paper copy of his Private Hire Vehicle driver licence and informed them that he had lost his driver badge and was waiting to be supplied with a replacement. He was subsequently employed and booking records produced by the firm confirmed that the vehicle was used to undertake in excess of 100 bookings between 20 and 24 December 2014.
The driver was interviewed in relation to the offences on 8 January 2015 and confirmed that he had deceived staff at the taxi firm in order to undertaken work whilst knowingly suspended. In relation to the allegations of using a vehicle without the correct insurance cover, the driver stated he was unaware that driving a Private Hire Vehicle without the appropriate licence may invalidate the insurance cover on the vehicle.
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 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 Councils Legal Services and Members Office, withdrew whilst the Committee determined the review.
Subsequently all interested parties returned and the Chair announced the Committees decision.
ORDERED that Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 55/14, be revoked, with immediate effect, as the Committee did not consider the driver to be a fit and proper person to hold a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence for the following reasons:-
The driver had two convictions for excess speed and one conviction for no insurance resulting in 12 points on his DVLA Licence. There had also been a Complaint from Members of the Public in relation to the driver driving in an unsafe manner and the Committee upheld the complaint, believing the witness statements to be credible.
The driver failed to report the offences detailed at 1) to 3) in the report within seven days of conviction, as required by a condition on his licence, nor did he declare any of the offences on his most recent application to renew his licence, dated 7 August 2014.
The driver failed to attend Committee on the 24 November 2014 and informed the Licensing Officer that he had been out of the country and had stayed with his brother in Leeds, however, his operator informed Licensing Officers that the driver had carried out bookings on the 24 November 2014. He claimed that he had not attended Committee on the 15 December 2015 because he had not received the notification/papers. The Committee considered that his reasons were dishonest.
Following his suspension with immediate effect and handing in his badge he misled and lied to a different operator stating that he was a licensed private hire vehicle driver by showing them his paper licence. He knowingly undertook private hire bookings whilst he was suspended putting the public at risk and had driven the vehicle not knowing whether he was insured or not.
The private hire vehicle drivers licence was revoked with immediate effect in the interests of public safety because the driver had persistently been dishonest and had a propensity to be dishonest to the Licensing Authority. The driver had lied to operators to obtain work, had driven unsafely and without insurance, thereby putting the public at risk.
The driver was reminded of his Right of Appeal to the Magistrates Court within 21 days but was reminded that, as the revocation was with immediate effect, he was prohibited from driving taxis during any appeal period.