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 drivers 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 drivers 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 Councils 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 drivers 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 drivers 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 drivers 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 Councils legal representative. The Committee was also advised that the drivers 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 Councils Legal Services and Democratic Services, withdrew whilst the Committee determined the review.
Subsequently all interested parties returned and the Chair announced the Committees 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 drivers 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 drivers 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.