The Assistant Director of Improving Public Health submitted an exempt report in connection with the review of Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 10/15, 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 Principal Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case. The following documents were appended to the report:-
Appendix 1: Officer Statements from 4 Social Workers
Appendix 2: Statement from the Mother of one of the females concerned
Appendix 3 Common Law Disclosure from Cleveland Constabulary
Appendix 4: Interview Notes of a meeting held on 9 October 2014
Appendix 5: File Note in respect of a meeting held on 23 May 2002
The Principal Licensing Officer took Members through the report.
The driver had been registered as a taxi driver for 20 years and had not previously been required to appear before the Licensing Committee.
He had been referred to the Committee as a result of concerns raised by Social Workers about the nature of the relationship he had developed with a number of vulnerable females, via social media - particularly facebook.
The Committee was reminded that on 10 October 2014 the drivers combined licence had been suspended with immediate effect, as a result of information provided by officers and following consultation with, and the approval of, the Chair of the Licensing Committee; Legal Services Section and the Director of Public Health.
The driver and his legal representative had attended the Licensing Section on 2 December 2014 in relation to the allegations. The driver requested that the interview take place at a later date to give him time to consider the information.
In addition, the drivers legal representative queried whether information from the Police should have been supplied and considered by the Council. Therefore, the interview was terminated.
Officers had highlighted some of the areas of the social media conversation contained in one of the witness statements and had intended to ask the driver if he had any comment to make about this. The specific areas were set out in the report.
Copies of witness statements had been sent to the drivers legal representative. Despite requests from the Senior Licensing Officer to meet further with the driver and his legal representative, no arrangement for interview had been made. Therefore on 17 February 2015 the driver and his legal representative were informed that the matter would be considered by the Licensing Committee on 9 March 2015 and that an interview would need to be held by 24 February 2015. As no response was received by 24 February and it was clear that a number of witnesses would not be available, the driver and his legal representative were advised that the meeting would be held at a later date.
The driver confirmed that the report was an accurate representation of the facts.
The Committee then heard from the witnesses who were present and from representatives of Cleveland Constabulary, in relation to common law disclosures against the driver. The Committee also considered the statements of the two witnesses who were unable to attend todays meeting. Members of the Committee, the Principal Licensing Officer; the Councils Legal Representative and the driver were given the opportunity to ask questions.
The driver then presented his case and responded to questions from Members of the Committee the Principal Licensing Officer and the Councils Legal Representative.
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 matter.
Subsequently, all interested parties returned and the Chair announced the Committees decision.
ORDERED that, having considered all of the evidence, Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 10/15, be revoked, with immediate effect, as the Committee did not consider the driver to be a fit and proper person to hold a Licence for the following reasons:-
1. The Committee considered that the evidence from the Police, Social Workers and Lay Witnesses and the responses from the Applicant showed the Applicant was not a fit and proper person to hold a private hire / hackney carriage vehicle drivers licence.
2. The Committee considered that the Applicant had abused his position of trust as a taxi driver on a number of occasions over a period of time with different passengers and poses a serious threat to vulnerable passengers he has met through or could meet through his role as a taxi driver.
The Committee decided therefore to revoke the Applicants licence to drive private hire vehicles and hackney carriage vehicles with immediate effect under Section 61(1) and (2B) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
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.