The Assistant Director of Improving Public Health submitted an exempt report in connection with a Review of Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 37/15, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.
The Chair introduced those present and outlined the procedure to be followed. The 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 driver was first licensed as a Private Hire Vehicle Driver in 1993 and his current licence was due to expire on 30 June 2016. He had first appeared before Members on 25 September 2000 in relation to 3 motoring convictions now considered too old to be relevant to the current matter. On that occasion, Members had allowed the driver to retain his licence but issued him with a warning regarding his future behaviour.
The driver next appeared before Members on 23 September 2002 in relation to a further motoring conviction now considered to be too old to be of relevance to the current matter. On that occasion, Members had allowed the driver to retain his licence but required him to undertake the Driver Improvement Scheme (DIS) prior to renewing his licence. The driver completed the DIS on 20 June 2003.
The driver appeared before Members on 14 November 2005 when Members considered 3 further offences now considered to be too old to be of relevance to the current matter. On that occasion, Members allowed the driver to retain his licence, but issued him with a warning with regard to his future behaviour.
The driver now appeared before Members in relation to the offence detailed at 1) which arose as a result of information passed to the Licensing Section by the Council's CCTV Centre.
The Principal Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case in relation to the offence detailed at 1) in the submitted report.
At the previous meeting of the Committee, there was a dispute in relation to two further offences that were raised as part of this incident. In order to clarify the situation, the Principal Licensing Officer had requested a copy of the Memorandum of Conviction in respect of these two offences from the Courts. The Principal Licensing Officer advised that the Memorandum of Conviction in relation to the offence of "carrying passengers in a manner likely to cause danger" and "causing a vehicle other than a Hackney Carriage to wait on a Hackney Carriage stand" had been received from Teesside Magistrates Court and a copy was circulated to Members of the Committee and the driver.
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, the Principal Licensing Officer and the Councils Legal Officer.
It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the applicant 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 as follows:
That Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence: Ref No: 37/15 be suspended for a period of four weeks for the following reasons:
1. The applicant had in the past been warned on two occasions and required to complete the Driver Improvement Scheme because of historic motoring convictions which brought into question the safety of road users and passengers.
2. In July 2015 the applicant was found guilty of driving without insurance, and pleaded guilty to using a vehicle carrying passengers that caused or was likely to cause a danger to any person in it or on a road and to illegally waiting on a Hackney Carriage stand.
3. Although the committee noted that the applicant advised he had had a clean driving licence for ten years and his mitigation for committing the offences, the Committee considered that the combination of driving without insurance and picking up five passengers whilst acting as a Private Hire Driver were serious safety issues. Waiting on a Hackney Rank in a Private Hire Vehicle clearly is not permitted and is in breach of the taxi legislation.
4. The Committee considered that the applicant had been untruthful to Licensing Officers in his interview when he claimed that he had been found not guilty to the offences of using a vehicle carrying passengers causing or likely to cause a danger and illegally waiting on a Hackney Carriage stand. When Licensing officers obtained a memorandum on conviction it showed that in fact he had pleaded guilty to those offences. When questioned at Committee in response to this, Members considered the applicants responses to be vague.
5. The Committee also considered that the applicants explanation to officers and the Committee of the circumstances surrounding the offences that the last passenger hid behind the seat, that he was distracted and unaware at the start of the journey that there were five passengers was untruthful. The CCTV footage shown to the Committee contradicted the applicant's version of events and clearly showed five adult passengers getting into the taxi with discussions taking place with the driver and one of the passengers.
In making their decision, the Committee considered the report and representations made by the applicant. The Committee also considered the Council's Policy Guidance on Convictions, Cautions and Complaints.
The guidance ranges from warnings to revocations and in light of the reasons given above the Council considered it appropriate to suspend the Licence for a period of four weeks under Section 61 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
The applicant was reminded of his Right of Appeal to the Magistrates Court within 21 days of the date of the decision.