Licensing Committee Minutes

Licensing Committee Minutes

Date:
Monday 5 September 2016
Time:
1:00 p.m.
Place:
Mandela Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor J A Walker (Vice Chair in the Chair), Councillor S Biswas, Councillor D J Branson, Councillor S Dean, Councillor J Goodchild, Councillor T Higgins and Councillor L Lewis.
Observers:
C Breheny - Democratic Services.
D Taylor - Legal Services.
Officers:
C Cunningham, J Dixon and M Vaines.
Apologies for absence:
Councillor T Mawston, Councillor D McCabe, Councillor J Rathmell, Councillor B E Taylor.
Declarations of interest:

There were no Declarations of Interest made by Members at this point in the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution
PUBLIC
16/32 MINUTES - LICENSING COMMITTEE - 15 AUGUST 2016

The Minutes of the previous Licensing Committee held on 15 August 2016 were submitted and approved as a correct record.

16/33 HACKNEY CARRIAGE AND PRIVATE HIRE LICENSING SCHEME OF DELEGATION - DRIVER IMPROVEMENT SCHEME

The Assistant Director of Improving Public Health submitted a report asking Members to consider amending the Council’s Scheme of Delegation relating to the licensing of Hackney Carriage/Private Hire drivers.

 

It was proposed that delegated authority be given to the Assistant Director of Improving Public Healthand the Head of Public Protection (and/or any successor roles) to offer existing licensed drivers and/or new applicants with nine or more points on their DVLA licence for minor traffic offences, the option of completing a suitable Driver Improvement Scheme as an alternative to appearing before the Licensing Committee.

 

One of the sanctions in the Council’s Policy Guidance on the relevance of convictions when dealing with motoring offences is to require new applicants and existing licensed drivers, with nine or more points on their DVLA licence to complete a suitable driver improvement scheme at their own expense. The scheme operated by Stockton Borough Council was considered a suitable scheme and was used to satisfy this requirement.

 

At the present time, all drivers and new applicants with nine or more points on their DVLA licence were brought before the Licensing Committee for Members to determine whether to impose this sanction, in relation to both minor and major traffic offences.

 

Examples of minor traffic offences, as set out in the Council’s Policy Guidance, included:-

  • Using a vehicle with defective tyre, brakes, etc.
  • Contravention of pedestrian crossing regulations, waiting in a restricted street, obstruction, etc.
  • Exceeding speed limits.
  • Failure to comply with traffic signals.

The Committee agreed with the proposals, in principle, but requested that it be made clear that any driver accepting the offer of the Driver Improvement Scheme must complete the course within four weeks of the date of acceptance and that any driver who failed to attend the course, as arranged, or failed to complete the course to a satisfactory standard, would be referred to the Licensing Committee.

 

ORDERED as follows:-


1. That delegated authority be granted to the Assistant Director of Improving Public Health and the Head of Public Protection (and/or any successor roles) to offer the Driver Improvement Scheme to existing licensed drivers, and/or new applications, with nine or more points on their DVLA licence for minor traffic offences as an alternative to appearing before the Licensing Committee.


2. That, upon acceptance of attending the Driver Improvement Scheme as an alternative to appearing before the Licensing Committee, the existing driver/new applicant be required to book the next available course within 14 days from the date of the decision.


3. That any existing driver/new applicant be required to appear before the Licensing Committee should they fail to attend the Driver Improvement Scheme as arranged or should they fail to complete the course to a satisfactory standard.

16/34 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 Paragraph 3 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.

16/35 ANY OTHER BUSINESS

Procedure for Vulnerable Witnesses attending Licensing Committee

 

The Committee held a discussion in relation to devising a procedure for vulnerable witnesses attending Committee. It was highlighted that, in law, there was no requirement for complainants/witnesses to attend Committee and that Members could consider their written representations. It was acknowledged that some witnesses were willing to attend Committee but did not wish to be face to face with the driver and that the option of providing a video link to the Committee was being explored.

 

The Committee agreed that this would be a good idea for vulnerable witnesses, particularly in relation to more serious complaints, but highlighted the importance of ensuring that the complainant was located in a separate building when the video link took place.

 

It was subsequently agreed that a report be submitted to the Licensing Committee, setting out the proposed procedure for Members’ consideration, once the option of video link had been explored.

 

ORDERED that the Head of Legal Services submit a report to the Licensing Committee, setting out the proposed procedure in respect of vulnerable witnesses attending Committee once the option of a video link or other appropriate methods had been explored.

EXEMPT
16/36 REVIEW OF COMBINED HACKNEY CARRIAGE/PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF: NO. 07/16

The Assistant Director of Improving Public Health submitted an exempt report in connection with the review of Combined Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 07/16, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.

 

The driver’s legal representative joined the meeting in order to raise a query in relation to the matter to be considered. It was confirmed that the two witnesses would not be attending Committee today and that Members would consider the written information before them and any verbal representations made at the meeting by the driver and his legal representative.

 

The driver’s legal representative highlighted that he had not had the opportunity to ask questions of the witnesses at the previous hearing and had hoped to do so today. The Council’s legal representative asked whether the legal representative and the driver felt able to proceed on the basis outlined above.

 

**ADJOURNMENT OF MEETING


The Chair announced that the meeting would be adjourned for a period of 10 minutes to allow the driver’s legal representative to consult with the driver and to make a decision as to whether they wished to proceed with the matter today.


**At 1.35pm the meeting re-convened when the driver and his legal representative entered the meeting and announced that they wished to proceed with the matter.

 

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 Acting Principal Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case as detailed in the submitted report.

 

Members were reminded that the matter considered on 7 March 2016. On that occasion, the matter was deferred to enable a summary of the questions that Members had put to the two female passengers, and the mother of one of the passengers who had heard some of the incident over the telephone, together with their responses, to be forwarded to the driver’s legal representative. Following written permission from the witnesses, the information was forwarded accordingly on 26 July 2016. A copy was attached for Members’ information at Appendix 3.

 

The driver was first licensed with Middlesbrough Council in July 2003 and now appeared before Committee in relation to a complaint submitted to the Licensing Section regarding an incident on 10 October 2015. It was alleged that the driver had behaved inappropriately whilst transporting two young female passengers in his taxi.

 

The driver was invited for interview by the Senior Licensing Officer on 1 February 2016, however, he was unable to attend at that time due to his wife having just had a baby. The driver had been interviewed in relation to the incident by a Licensing Enforcement Officer on 23 November 2015 (transcript of the interview attached at Appendix 2), therefore, given the significant delay in referring the matter to Members, the Senior Licensing Officer chose to refer the matter to Committee without any further interviews with the driver. He was, therefore, unable to confirm whether there were any further matters of which the Council was unaware.

 

It was reported that the Licensing Section were contacted by Cleveland Police on 13 October 2015 in relation to the incident on 10 October 2015. The Police indicated they were investigating a complaint regarding the actions of a taxi driver towards two 13-year-old girls who had been travelling in his taxi on 10 October 2015. The Police stated that, as no criminal activity was apparent, they would not take any further action in relation to the incident.

 

Licensing Officers obtained statements from the two female passengers and a statement from the mother of one of the girls who had heard some of the incident whilst on the telephone to her daughter. Copies of the statements were attached at Appendix 1 to the report.

 

The driver confirmed that the report was an accurate representation of the facts and confirmed that there were no outstanding matters of which the Council was unaware.

 

The driver was invited to address the Committee. The driver’s legal representative and the driver presented the case in support of the driver and the driver provided his version of events in relation to the incident on 10 October 2015. The driver responded to questions from Members and the Council’s legal representative. The Committee was also advised that the driver’s vehicle could be made available for inspection should Members wish to view it.

 

It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the driver, his legal representative, and officers of the Council, other than representatives of the Council’s Legal Services and Democratic Services, 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 and Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 07/16, be retained. The Committee had considered the written evidence before it and the driver’s verbal representations at the meeting. The Committee accepted that the two female passengers had attempted to get out of the vehicle and may have been frightened, however, the Committee considered that in light of the driver’s submissions, and that he had been licensed since 2003 without complaint, it appeared, on balance, that the incident was the result of a misunderstanding and therefore no further action was to be taken.

16/37 APPLICATION FOR PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF: NO. 35/16

The Assistant Director of Improving Public Health submitted an exempt report in connection with an application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence 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 Acting 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.

 

The applicant was interviewed by a Licensing Enforcement Officer on 13 July 2016 at which time he confirmed that there were no outstanding matters of which the Council was unaware and offered an explanation for the offence.

 

Members were informed that the applicant had indicated on his application form that had been refused a licence by Stockton Council within the last five years. Enquiries with Stockton Council confirmed that an application for a Private Hire Vehicle driver licence was refused by its Licensing Committee on 31 May 2016 on the grounds that the applicant was not a fit and proper person to hold such a licence due to his conviction. The applicant provided the Committee with a copy of the refusal letter, for information.

 

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

 

The applicant presented the case in support of his application and responded to questions from Members and the Council’s legal representative.

 

It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the applicant, and officers of the Council, other than representatives of the Council’s Legal Services and Democratic Services, 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 35/16, be granted. The Council’s Policy Guidance on Convictions, Cautions and Complaints stated that an applicant convicted of a serious offence, or more than one offence involving drugs, would normally be refused unless a period of at least 5-10 years free from conviction had lapsed since the date of conviction, completion of any sentence imposed or detoxification treatment, whichever was the later.

 

The Committee took into account that, although the applicant was convicted of a serious offence involving drugs (namely conspiracy to supply controlled Class A drug), it was an isolated offence that had occurred when the applicant was young. Nine years had elapsed since completion of the sentence with no further convictions or incident. The Committee noted that Stockton Council had refused the applicant’s application for a licence but it was also noted that Stockton Council’s policy differed from Middlesbrough Council’s policy in that Stockton’s policy stated that it was unlikely a licence would be granted if there had been a conviction for an offence involving the supply of prohibited drugs.

16/38 REVIEW OF COMBINED HACKNEY CARRIAGE/PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF: NO. 36/16

The Assistant Director of Improving Public Health submitted an exempt report in connection with the review of Combined Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 36/16, which required special consideration by the Committee.

 

The Acting Principal Licensing Officer advised that the driver was not in attendance and had not contacted the Licensing Section to advise that he would not be attending. Subsequently, Members decided to defer consideration of the matter to afford the driver a further opportunity to attend.

 

ORDERED that consideration of the review of Combined Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 36/16, be deferred to the next meeting in order to afford the driver a further opportunity to attend. The Committee requested that the driver be informed that, should he fail to attend the next Licensing Committee without good reason, the matter would be considered in his absence.

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