Licensing Committee Minutes

Licensing Committee Minutes

Date:
Monday 14 November 2016
Time:
1:00 p.m.
Place:
Mandela Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor Taylor (Chair), Councillor J Walker (Vice Chair); Councillors Arundale, Biswas, Brady, Branson, Dean, Goodchild, Higgins, Lewis and McCabe.
Observers:
D Taylor - Legal Services
Officers:
C Cunningham, J Dixon and T Hodgkinson.

Apologies for absence:
Councillor T Mawston, Councillor J Rathmell
Declarations of interest:
Name of Member Type of Interest Item/Nature of Interest
Councillor R Arundale Non-Pecuniary Agenda Item No. 9 - made a complaint against the driver
Item Number Item/Resolution
PUBLIC
16/53 MINUTES - SPECIAL LICENSING COMMITTEE - 20 SEPTEMBER 2016.

The minutes of the Special Licensing Committee held on 20 September 2016 were submitted and approved as a correct record.

16/54 MINUTES - LICENSING COMMITTEE - 24 OCTOBER 2016.

The minutes of the previous Licensing Committee held 24 October 2016 were submitted and approved as a correct record.

16/55 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 Paragraphs 1, 2, 3 or 7 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.

EXEMPT
16/56 APPLICATION FOR PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF: 23/16

The Assistant Director of Supporting Communities submitted an exempt report in connection with an application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 23/16, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.

 

The Chair introduced those present and outlined the procedure to be followed. The 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 Principal Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case in relation to additional information included on the applicant’s DBS criminal record certificate and the offences detailed at 1) and 2) in the report.

 

The applicant first appeared before Members in April 2014 in relation to additional information included on his DBS criminal record certificate. On that occasion, Members refused the application as they were not satisfied that the applicant was a fit and proper person to hold a licence. The decision was based on the grounds that the applicant had received a street caution for possession of cannabis in February 2012. He confirmed he last used drugs in October 2013. The Council’s guidance in relation to convictions, cautions and complaints stated that an incident free period of at least 12 months should have elapsed before considering an application. In this case only six months had passed since the applicant’s last use of drugs and, therefore, the Committee was not satisfied that he was a fit and proper person at that time.

 

The applicant now appeared before Members with a fresh application and was interviewed by the Senior Licensing Officer on 5 May 2016 at which time he confirmed that there were no outstanding matters of which the Council was unaware and confirmed his previous explanation in relation to the additional information on his DBS certificate. He also provided explanations in relation to the offences detailed at 1) and 2).

 

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

 

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

 

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.

 

Members considered the application on its own merits, the report and representations made by the applicant in writing in the report and orally to the Committee and the Council’s policy document in relation to the relevance of convictions, cautions, complaints and driver conduct.

 

ORDERED that the application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver licence, Ref 23/16, be refused under Section 51 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 on the grounds that the Committee could not be satisfied that the applicant was a fit and proper person to be granted a licence, for the following reasons:-

 

1. A serious view was taken of any drug-related offence in the interests of the travelling public. The applicant had been cautioned on 12 February 2012 for possession of cannabis whilst in his vehicle. In July 2013, the Police found cannabis bush in his vehicle and on 13 November 2013 the Police stopped his vehicle and found a strong smell of cannabis. The applicant admitted to smoking cannabis earlier in the evening and confirmed that he had an issue with cannabis abuse and had been a regular user.

 

2. The applicant advised the Committee that he had stopped using the drug in late 2013 and had received treatment for the abuse. However, the Committee was concerned that, when questioned, the applicant could not recall the date or month when he had last used the drug. The applicant had previously informed the Committee that he had last used the drug in October 2013, however, this was not the case as he admitted to the Police that he had smoked cannabis on 13 November 2013. The Committee noted that the doctor had ticked a box on the applicant’s medical form to state that there had been no drug dependency in the last three years and this form was dated September 2016. It was clear from the incidents and the representations that the applicant had used the drug since September 2013 (three years from the date of the form signed by the doctor), namely in November 2013.

 

3. The Committee also considered that the applicant was very vague regarding the treatment he claimed to have received. The Committee was concerned that the applicant could not recall when the treatment was completed or when the treatment had taken place. When asked, several times, for clarification, the applicant stated treatment could have been ten sessions over weekly or two weekly intervals but, again, was vague about this.

 

4. All of the incidents where the Police found the applicant in possession of cannabis or when he had admitted to previously smoking cannabis, the applicant was in his vehicle. On 13 November 2013, the Police observed the applicant driving erratically and driving through a red light. Although he was not charged with driving a vehicle whilst unfit through drugs, the applicant confirmed he had smoked the drug earlier in the evening and the Police Officer said that there was a strong smell of cannabis in the vehicle. The Committee considered such incidents to be of serious risk to the travelling public.

 

5. The applicant had also been convicted of illegally depositing old tyres in March 2q014 and, more recently in August 2015, the applicant had been convicted of a speeding offence which the Committee again considered was a serious safety issue, reflected in the points on the applicant’s licence being six instead of the usual three points issued.

 

6. Although the Committee took into consideration that the applicant was employed, it did not consider him suitable to drive private hire vehicles in Middlesbrough.

 

7. The Committee noted the policy that where there had been a propensity for substance abuse there should be a period of at least one to five years free of incident since the last incident or completion of treatment otherwise an application would normally be refused. The Committee considered that insufficient time had lapsed without incident and considered that in order to protect the public, the period should be towards the end of the scale in view of the applicant’s previous drug abuse, his vagueness as to when he stopped using drugs, what treatment was undertaken and when this was completed, together with the safety issues in relation to his driving for the reasons set out above.

 

The applicant was reminded of his Right of Appeal to the Magistrates Court within 21 days of the date of the decision.

16/57 APPLICATION FOR PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF: 41/16

The Assistant Director of Supporting Communities submitted an exempt report in connection with an application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 41/16, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.

 

Members were reminded that the matter was due to be heard by the Licensing Committee on 24 October 2016, however, the applicant failed to attend without prior notification. The Committee decided to defer consideration of the matter to the next meeting to afford the applicant a further opportunity to attend, however, the Committee requested that the applicant be notified that should he fail to attend the next meeting the matter would be considered in his absence.

 

The Principal Licensing Officer advised that the applicant had made contact with the Licensing Section to advise that he was currently away on a four week holiday and that he had missed the appointment letter. Due to the extenuating circumstances, Members decided to again defer consideration of the matter to the next Licensing Committee to allow the applicant a further opportunity to attend but requested that he be advised that the matter would be considered in his absence should he again fail to attend.

 

ORDERED that consideration of the application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver licence, Ref 41/16, be deferred to the next meeting in order to afford the applicant a further opportunity to attend. The Committee requested that the applicant be notified that the matter would be considered in his absence should he, again, fail to attend.

16/58 REVIEW OF PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF: 43/16

The Assistant Director of Supporting Communities submitted an exempt report in connection with the review of Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 43/16, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.

 

The Principal Licensing Officer advised that the driver had notified the Licensing Section that he was on holiday and would not be able to attend. Members subsequently decided to defer consideration of the matter to the next Licensing Committee to allow the driver a further opportunity to attend but requested that he be advised that the matter would be considered in his absence should he fail to attend.

 

ORDERED that consideration of the review of Private Hire Vehicle Driver licence, Ref 43/16, be deferred to the next meeting in order to afford the driver a further opportunity to attend. The Committee requested that the driver be notified that the matter would be considered in his absence should he fail to attend.

 

** Councillor Arundale declared a non-pecuniary interest in relation to the following item as he had made a complaint against the driver. Councillor Arundale withdrew from the meeting and took no part in the discussion or determination of the case. **

16/59 REVIEW OF COMBINED HACKNEY CARRIAGE PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF: 44/16

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 Council’s 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 Council’s legal representative.

 

It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the driver 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.

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 Council’s 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 Council’s 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 Council’s 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 driver’s 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.

16/60 REVIEW OF PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF: 45/16

The Assistant Director of Supporting Communities submitted an exempt report in connection with the review of Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 45/16, 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 a complaint made to the driver’s Private Hire Operator which was subsequently forwarded to the Licensing Section on 18 April 2016, as detailed in the submitted report.

 

The driver was first licensed by Middlesbrough Council in December 2015 and now appeared before Members for review of his licence following receipt of information by the Licensing Section on 18 April 2016 from the driver’s Private Hire Operator in relation to their receipt of a complaint from a relative of a 13-year-old female who had been a passenger in the driver’s vehicle. A copy of this was attached at Appendix 1.


The complainant alleged that the driver had made inappropriate comments to his granddaughter and her friend (both aged 13) during a school run on 14 April 2016 and believed that the driver may have been attempting to groom the girls.

 

As a result of the initial complaint, the driver’s Private Hire Operator advised the complainant to report the matter to the Police and took the decision to prevent the driver from carrying out any further bookings involving the transporting of children to and from school.

 

Licensing Officers had attempted to contact the complainant several times but had been unable to obtain a formal complaint or statements from the passengers, despite making initial contact.

 

The driver was interviewed by a Licensing Officer on 6 October 2016 in relation to the incident. A copy of his interview 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, the Council’s legal representative and the Principal Licensing Officer.

 

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 review.

 

Subsequently, all interested parties returned and the Chair announced the Committee’s decision.

 

The Committee considered the report and appendices and the representations made by the driver. The Committee considered that it would like further information before it proceeded to make a decision on what action, if any, should be taken. It decided to defer the matter in order for the legal adviser to refer the matter to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) to investigate the matter and to allow the driver the opportunity to make further representations, in writing, if he so preferred. The Committee considered that the matter be adjourned to the next available licensing committee once the information has been provided.

 

ORDERED consideration of the review of Private Hire Vehicle Driver licence, Ref 45/16, be deferred. In view of the potential risks, and for child protection purposes, the Committee requested the Council’s legal adviser to refer the matter to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) for investigation to assess any potential risks. The Committee also considered it appropriate to defer the matter to allow the driver the opportunity to make further representations, in writing, if he preferred. The Committee requested that the matter be returned to the next available Licensing Committee once the information had been provided.

16/61 REVIEW OF COMBINED HACKNEY CARRIAGE/PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE: REF: 46/16

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: 46/16, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.

 

The Principal Licensing Officer advised that the driver had telephoned the Licensing Section on Friday to advise that he had a booking, that could not be covered by another driver, and that he was unable to attend. Members subsequently decided to defer consideration of the matter to the next Licensing Committee to allow the driver a further opportunity to attend but requested that he be advised that the matter would be considered in his absence should he fail to attend.

 

ORDERED that consideration of the review of Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver licence, Ref 46/16, be deferred to the next meeting in order to afford the driver a further opportunity to attend. The Committee requested that the driver be notified that the matter would be considered in his absence should he fail to attend.

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