The Assistant Director of Improving Public Health submitted an exempt report in connection with a Review of a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 42/15, 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 driver was first licensed as a Private Hire Vehicle driver with the Council on 8 January 2007. At that time, Members had considered four offences now considered to be too old to be of relevance to this application and had decided to grant the licence but the driver was warned that any further offences would result in the driver being referred back to the Licensing Committee.
In April 2011, Licensing Officers were in the process of arranging for the driver to appear in relation to offences now considered too old to be relevant when the driver contacted the Licensing Section to advise that he had been disqualified from driving following the offence detailed at 4) in the report. The driver subsequently decided to surrender his Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence.
The driver next appeared before Members on 15 October 2012 with a new application for a Private Hire Vehicle driver licence. On that occasion, Members advised that he would be required to complete the Driver Improvement Scheme prior to a licence being granted. The applicant had undertaken the course and officers subsequently issued his licence on 21 December 2012.
On 3 June 2013 information was received from Cleveland Police via the Notifiable Occupations Scheme, that the applicant had been arrested in relation to an alleged sexual assault involving a female passenger in his vehicle. Following receipt of this information, the applicant's Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence was suspended with immediate effect on 5 June 2013. On 4 July 2013. Officers received confirmation that no further action was to be taken by the Police in relation to this matter. The applicant had consistently denied any wrongdoing and his licence was unsuspended and returned to him on that date.
The applicant next appeared before Members following the submission of a complaint regarding his behaviour by a member of the public on 27 January 2014 and an incident where the applicant had been identified as parking in an appropriate manner. On that occasion, Members allowed the applicant to retain his licence, however they advised the applicant that they did not believe his version of events he gave in relation to the complaint and issued a warning in relation to his future behaviour.
The applicant now appeared before Members in relation to an incident that occurred on 19 August 2015. The applicant was interviewed by the Senior Licensing Officer on 22 October 2015, at which time he confirmed that there were no outstanding matters of which the Council were unaware, confirmed his previous explanations in relation to the previous complaints and offered additional information in relation to the most recent incident.
The Senior Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case in relation to the Complaint 1 that was received on 27 January 2014, and the incidents that occurred on 30 May 2013, 8 January 2014 and 19 August 2015.
The driver confirmed that the report was an accurate representation of the facts and was invited to address the Committee. The driver presented his case 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 driver and officers of the Council, other than representatives of the Councils Legal Services and Members Office, withdrew whilst the Committee determined the application.
Subsequently all interested parties returned and the Chair announced the Committees decision.
ORDERED that Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 42/15, be revoked with immediate effect for the following reasons:
1. The Applicants taxi driving licence includes a condition which states that drivers are not permitted to engage in any sexual activity with their passengers, make inappropriate personal contact, or make inappropriate comments of a sexual nature.
2. The Policy Guidance to Applicants, Licensed Drivers and Members of the Licensing Committee states that "an Applicant having sexual relations, committing sexual acts or discussing matters of a sexual nature with a passenger should expect to have his licence revoked and a new application will not normally be considered unless an Applicant can show a period of 3 to 5 years free of incident since the revocation of his licence".
3. The Applicant admitted to knocking and walking into the passenger's house at 4.00 am - 4.30 am in the morning and having sex with her. This was after taking the passenger, who was travelling alone, to a shop to buy wine and food, back to her home, where she was alone, at about 1.00 am - 2.00 am in the morning. The Committee considered there were indications that the passenger was vulnerable and considered the actions of the Applicant to be wholly inappropriate as a Private Hire Vehicle driver.
4. The Committee considered that an allegation of sexual assault was made by a female passenger against the Applicant in May 2013 and the information provided by the police. The Committee was concerned that a separate allegation had been made by a seemingly vulnerable passenger whilst travelling alone with the Applicant, but noted that the police took no further action and that the Applicant advised that the incident was entirely a fabrication on the females part.
5. The Committee also considered the Applicants driving history, complaints, the Applicants responses and warnings referred to in the report.
For these reasons the Committee did not consider the driver to be a fit and proper person to hold a Private Hire Vehicle Driver's Licence.
The driver was advised of his Right of Appeal to the Magistrates Court within 21 days of the date of the decision; however, he was also reminded that, as the suspension was with immediate effect, he was prohibited from driving taxis during any appeal period.