The Assistant Director of Supporting Communities submitted an exempt report in connection with the review of Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 44/16, 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 in relation to an incident involving a Police Officer in July 2016 and three further incidents that had occurred between November 2013 to date, as detailed in the submitted report.
The driver was first licensed by Middlesbrough Council in May 2013 and now appeared before Members for review of his licence following an incident with a Police Officer on 24 July 2016 and three further incidents that had occurred on 29 November 2013, 5 April 2014 and 3 April 2015, that had resulted in warnings being issued to the driver by Licensing Officers. The driver was interviewed by a Licensing Officer on 1 September 2016 and offered explanations in relation to the incidents.
In relation to the incident that occurred on 23 July 2016, it was noted that the driver had reacted in an abusive manner towards a Police Officer from Cleveland Police whilst carrying out a routine taxi enforcement exercise with an officer from the Councils Licensing Section. A copy of the statement from the Police Officer was attached at Appendix 1 and a copy of the statement supplied by the Licensing Enforcement Officer was attached at Appendix 2.
The driver confirmed that the report was an accurate representation of the facts and was invited to address the Committee.
The driver addressed the Committee and responded to questions from Members 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 Democratic Services, withdrew whilst the Committee determined the review.
Subsequently, all interested parties returned and the Chair announced the Committees decision.
Members considered the review on its own merits, the report and written representations made by the Police Officer and the Licensing Officer, the representations of the driver and the Councils policy document in relation to the relevance of convictions, cautions, complaints and driver conduct.
ORDERED that Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver licence, Ref 44/16, be suspended for a period of four weeks, under Section 61 (1)(b) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 for "any other reasonable ground", for the following reasons:-
1. The Committee noted that the driver claimed he had been licensed with Redcar and Cleveland District Council for 13 years without complaint and that he was also licensed with Hambledon District Council.
2. However, since the grant of his licence by Middlesbrough Council in May 2013, the driver had committed two speeding offences, had been found to be inappropriately parked in his private hire vehicle on two occasions and had been found using or holding a mobile phone whilst using his private hire vehicle on two occasions. The driver had sworn at a Police Officer and had received two previous warning s and a final written warning from Licensing Officers. The Committee noted that the driver disputed that he had used his mobile phone on 3 April 2015 and claimed that it range and vibrated, resulting in it falling to the floor from the side compartment and that he had Bluetooth connectivity so would not need to answer the phone. However, in light of his previous conviction for using a mobile phone, a previous incident in 2014 when the driver was seen with a mobile phone and a memo from the Police stating the driver had been driving around town using a mobile phone, the Committee believed, on balance, that it was likely that the driver was holding the phone or using the phone at traffic lights which was a safety issue.
3. The driver failed to report, in writing, within seven days of the date of conviction, two speeding offences on 17 July 2013 and 12 July 2015. Although the driver claimed he informed the Licensing Office verbally about the first offence, the requirement, on condition of his licence was to inform the Council in writing. This condition was to enable Officers to monitor the safety of licensed drivers. The Committee considered it was reasonable to assume that the driver was aware of this condition or a reasonable driver ought to be aware of this condition and the Committee considered that failure to report the offences was a serious breach of condition and could be seen as being an attempt to hide the convictions from the regulators.
4. It was in the Councils policy that, where a driver showed a history of unsafe driving, the Committee could require the driver to attend a Driver Improvement Scheme, at his own expense, however, the Committee noted that the driver was due to attend a driving awareness course on 24 November 2016 arranged by the Police.
Therefore, the Committee did not consider it appropriate to require the driver to attend the Driver Improvement Scheme.
5. The Councils policy stated that a significant history of offences showing a disregard for safety may result in a licence being revoked unless there was a period of at least one to three years free from conviction. The drivers last incident was on 23 July 2016. As stated, since the driver was granted his licence on 21 May 2013, there had been six driving incidents and the Committee considered that he had shown a disregard for safety. In addition the driver had failed to disclose the offences and had sworn at a Police Officer.
6. The Committee, however, considered that a suspension period of four weeks should deter the driver from failing to drive and park safely, to declare offences in accordance with a condition on his licence and to treat Officers with respect. It considered the driver awareness course should improve his driving standards and knowledge. For those reasons the Committee decided not to revoke this licence but to suspend it for four weeks.
The driver was reminded of his Right of Appeal to the Magistrates Court within 21 days of the date of the decision.