Licensing Committee Minutes

Licensing Committee Minutes

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

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor B E Taylor (Chair), Councillor J A Walker (Vice-Chair), Councillor S Biswas, Councillor R Brady, Councillor D J Branson, Councillor S Dean, Councillor J Goodchild, Councillor T Higgins, Councillor D McCabe
Officers:
B Carr, C Cunningham and T Hodgkinson
Apologies for absence:
Councillor R Arundale, Councillor T Lawton, Councillor L Lewis, Councillor T Mawston, Councillor J Rathmell
Declarations of interest:

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

Item Number Item/Resolution
PUBLIC
16/62 MINUTES - LICENSING COMMITTEE - 14 NOVEMBER 2016.

The minutes of the Licensing Committee held on 14 November 2016 were submitted and approved as a correct record.

16/63 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
Reports of the Assistant Director Community Protection Service
16/64 APPLICATION FOR PRIVATE HIRE 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.

The Principal Licensing Officer advised that the applicant had been due to appear before Members at the Licensing Committee on 24 October, however he had failed to attend on that occasion and the matter was deferred to the meeting on 14 November 2016. The applicant, failed to attend on 14 November and the Licensing Office subsequently discovered that the applicant was on holiday and had not received the invitation to attend the meeting. The matter was therefore adjourned to this meeting however the applicant was advised that if he failed to attend the meeting, the matter would be heard in his absence.

The Principal Licensing Officer advised Members that the applicant was not in attendance and had not contacted the Licensing Section to advise that he would not be attending. Subsequently, Members decided to hear the matter in the applicant's absence as he had been given three separate opportunities to attend the meeting.

The Principal Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case in relation to the offences detailed at 1) and 7) in the report. The Committee was advised that the applicant had not declared any of the above offences on his application form and when asked by the Licensing Officer why he had failed to declare the offences, he stated that the training company who had helped him complete the form had advised him that he did not need to declare the convictions as they were too old to be relevant.

It was confirmed that there were no further questions 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.


The Committee considered that the hearing was the third arranged hearing, the two previous hearings had been adjourned because the Applicant failed to attend. The Committee also considered that the letter inviting the applicant to the previous hearing and to the current hearing informed the Applicant that if he failed to attend the matter would proceed in his absence. The Committee noted that no response had been received from the Applicant. In view of these consideration the Committee decided to proceed in the absence of the applicant.

 

The Committee considered the application on its own merits and took into consideration the report and the representations made by the applicant in the report together with the Council’s policy guidance on convictions, cautions, complaints and driver conduct.

 

ORDERED as follows:

 

The Committee decided to Refuse the application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver’s Licence under Section 51 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 on the grounds that it was not satisfied the applicant was a fit and proper person to hold a driver’s licence for the following reasons:-

 

1. The applicant’s first offence involving fraud and therefore an element of dishonesty was in 2004. The applicant claimed that he was sixteen years old at the time and excited to get his first car, however, the Committee noted that according to his date of birth he would have been 18 at the date of conviction. The Committee noted again in July 2004 he was convicted of an offence involving dishonesty, namely interfering with a vehicle. The applicant claimed he was not responsible for the offence and was in the vehicle the day before, however, he was found guilty by a criminal court after considering the evidence. The Committee noted that these offences were 12 years old however took them into consideration because the Applicant was again convicted of a dishonesty offence of failing to notify of a change in circumstances which affected his entitlement to benefits in 2013. Also the Applicant did not declare any of his offences on his application form. The Applicant claimed that he was told he need not declare the convictions as they were too old. However, the Committee considered that the application form is clear and asks "have you ever been cautioned or convicted of a criminal offence" , that an applicant signs a declaration that the information is true and that knowingly or recklessly omitting information is an offence. The Committee considered the applicant was dishonest in failing to declare the convictions. The committee therefore considered that the applicant had a propensity to be dishonest and was not a fit and proper person to drive private hire vehicles where he would be in a position of trust. The guidance advises that an application will normally be refused if a person has more than one conviction for dishonesty, showing a propensity to be dishonest.


2. In addition to the dishonesty incidents above, the Committee noted that the applicant also had motoring offences, a conviction for harassment in 2009 and Battery in 2010. Although being found guilty in a criminal court the Committee considered that the applicant’s representations about the offences showed that he had not taken responsibility for the offences to be able to learn from his previous behaviour.


3. For these reasons the Committee did not consider the applicant was suitable to drive private hire vehicles in Middlesbrough.
 

The driver would be advised of the decision in writing and reminded of his Right of Appeal to the Magistrates Court within 21 days of the date of the decision. 

16/65 APPLICATION FOR A PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE - REF: 43/16.

The Assistant Director of Supporting Communities submitted an exempt report in connection with an application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 43/16, 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 14 November 2016, however, the applicant had failed to attend and it was subsequently discovered that he was out of the country. Information had also transpired that the letter inviting him to the meeting had been sent to his previous address.

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 Members that the applicant was not in attendance and had not contacted the Licensing Section to advise that he would not be attending.

Due to the fact that the invitation for the 14 November meeting had been sent to the applicant’s previous address, Members decided to again defer consideration of the matter to the Licensing Committee scheduled for 9 January 2017, 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 43/16, be deferred to the meeting scheduled for 9 January 2017, 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.

16/66 REVIEW OF COMBINED HACKNEY CARRIAGE AND PRIVATE HIRE 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 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 matter was due to be considered by Members at the Licensing Committee scheduled for 14 November 2016, however, on the Friday before the meeting the applicant had contacted the Licensing Office to advise that he was unable to attend as he had a booking for his taxi at that time. As a result, Members had decided to adjourn the matter to this meeting. 

 

The Principal Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case in relation to the offences detailed at 1) to 6) in the report.

 

The report contained information in relation to a complaint submitted in June 2004 where Members had decided to revoke the applicant's licence. The applicant had subsequently appealed the decision to the Teesside Magistrates Court where the decision of the Council was upheld. The applicant had submitted a further appeal to Teesside Crown Court, where the Council's decision was overturned as the Court felt that the decision to revoke the licence was too severe a consequence when compared to the nature of the complaint against the applicant.

 

The applicant next appeared before Members on 15 July 2013 in relation to offences 1) to 4) and two instances where the applicant had parked inappropriately and a further incident where the applicant had failed to return expired Hackney Carriage plates to the Licensing Office upon request. On that occasion, the applicant's licence was suspended for three weeks.  The applicant had subsequently submitted an appeal to the Teesside Magistrates Court, where the decision of the Council was upheld. The applicant submitted a further appeal to Teesside Crown Court where the appeal was dismissed however the length of the applicant's suspension was reduced from three weeks to two weeks.

 

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.


ORDERED that Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 46/16, be retained but that the driver be required to complete the Driver Improvement Scheme, at his own expense, within 8 weeks.

 

The Committee considered the Review on its own merits, the report, the representations made by the Driver and the Council’s policy guidance on convictions, cautions, complaints and driver conduct.

 

The Committee decided that the Driver could continue being licensed as a Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle driver but was required to attend and complete to a satisfactory standard, a driver improvement scheme approved by the Council, at his own expense, within 2 months from the date of the decision letter. The Driver currently had 9 points on his DVLA licence for Speeding and failing to provide information which would have related to a motoring offence. Therefore the Committee considered that there was an issue relating to the Driver’s driving standards and safety which should improve by the driver completing the course. The decision to require the Driver to attend a driver improvement scheme is supported by the Guidance. If the driver completed the course to a satisfactory level, there would be no requirement to return to Committee. 

 

In addition, the Committee noted that the Driver failed to declare the motoring convictions to the Licensing Office, in writing, within 7 days from the date of conviction. The driver had also previously failed to declare convictions and this issue had been raised at a previous appeal in court. The Committee considered the condition was clear and did not consider that the Driver’s reasons for failing to report the convictions was truthful. Therefore the Committee decided give a warning to the driver for failing to declare the convictions. It is necessary for the Licensing Office to be informed of convictions including motoring convictions to ensure the drivers it licences are safe drivers.

16/67 REVIEW OF PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER LICENCE - REF 47/16

The Assistant Director of Supporting Communities submitted an exempt report in connection with the review of Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 47/16, 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 three incidents that had occurred between June 2015 and September 2016.

 

The driver was first licensed by Middlesbrough Council in January 2012 and appeared before the Licensing Committee in relation to the offences detailed at 1) to 6) in the submitted report. The driver now appeared before Members following three further incidents, one of which resulted in him being offered a driving improvement course by the Police as an alternative to prosecution.

 

The driver was interviewed by a Licensing Enforcement Officer on 17 October 2016 when he confirmed that there were no outstanding matters of which the Council was unaware and offered explanations in relation to the incidents.

 

Incident 1) related to a complaint made by a member of the public on 19 June 2015 in relation to an incident that occurred on 30 May 2015. The complainant alleged that the driver dangerously overtook his vehicle causing a car on the other side of the road to swerve and causing him to break hard to avoid an accident.


The Principal Licensing Officer advised that CCTV footage was available in relation to Incident 2). A complaint was made on 12 July 2016 by a member of the public in relation to an incident outside Ayresome Primary School. The driver was identified by the Private Hire Operator as being the driver of the vehicle at the time. The complainant provided CCTV footage taken from the rear of the complaint’s vehicle which showed the driver’s private hire vehicle overtaking two vehicles, including a learner driver, on a school crossing close to the school entrance. Members viewed the footage during the meeting.

 

Incident 3) occurred in September 2016 when the driver was seen by a Traffic Police Officer looking at his mobile phone. As the driver had a clean DVLA licence, the driver was offered the opportunity to attend a driver improvement course as an alternative to prosecution. The driver confirmed that he completed the course on 23 November 2016.

 

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 driver and the Council’s policy document in relation to the relevance of convictions, cautions, complaints and driver conduct.

 

The Committee considered the review on its own merits, the report, written and oral representations made by the Driver and the Council’s policy guidance on convictions, cautions, complaints and driver conduct.

 

ORDERED as follows:

 

The Committee decided to suspend the Driver’s private hire vehicle driver’s licence for a period of two weeks under Section 61(1)(b) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 on the grounds of any other reasonable cause for the following reasons:

 

1. Since the grant of the Licence on the 9 January 2012 there had been three unsafe driving incidents reported to the Council.


2. The Committee noted that Member of the Public made a complaint about an incident on the 30 May 2015 where it was claimed the Driver dangerously overtook his vehicle causing a driver on the other side of the road to swerve and the complainant to break hard to avoid an accident. The Committee noted that the Driver claimed he had not been at fault and the Complainant had been swerving in and out of the 2 lanes. However, in view of the additional two further incidents below and that the complainant actually found it necessary to speak to the driver and to report the matter to the police and the Council, on balance the Committee considered that the Driver had been impatient and overtook the vehicle as described in the complaint.


3. The Committee were mainly concerned about the incident outside of Ayresome Primary School shown by CCTV footage on the 12 July 2016. The Committee considered the Driver acted dangerously by overtaking vehicles on a school crossing close to the entrance to the school, the manoeuvre was so unsafe it caused parents with children walking on the footpath to stop and turn. The Driver admitted that he had made a mistake.


4. The Committee noted that in September 2016 the Driver was reported for failing to take proper control of a vehicle, however, completed a driver awareness course arranged by the police as an alternative to prosecution. The Driver explained that he had picked up his mobile phone to check a message from his girlfriend because he was concerned as she was expecting their first child, and a police officer had seen him do this. However, the committee considered that although he may have been worried about his girlfriend the police were so concerned as to his standard of driving that they considered the Driver needed to attend the awareness course.


5. The Committee noted that the Driver had recently completed the course which should improve his road safety awareness. The Committee therefore did not consider it was appropriate to send the driver on the Council’s Driver Improvement Course, as recommended by the Council’s Guidance, at this time.


6. However, in view that the Committee considered the Driver’s act outside of Ayresome Primary School to be dangerous and that there have been two other unsafe driving incidents, the Committee decided it was appropriate to suspend the Driver’s private hire vehicle driver’s licence for two weeks to deter the Driver from driving unsafely in the future. It is essential drivers licensed by Middlesbrough Council are safe drivers in order to protect the travelling public. The Council’s Guidance states that if there is a significant history of offences showing a disregard for safety a licence may be revoked. It also states that where there is a history of poor driving a licence may be suspended until completion of a Driver Improvement Scheme. The Committee did consider that the Driver had a disregard for safety but considered that a suspension for two weeks instead of a revocation would result in the Driver ensuring he drives safely in the future.

 

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

16/68 REVIEW OF COMBINED HACKNEY CARRIAGE & PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER LICENCE - REF 48/16

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: 48/16, 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 the offences detailed at 1) to 3) and two incidents that had occurred, details of which were contained in the report.

 

The applicant confirmed that the report was an accurate representation of the facts and was invited to address the Committee. The Principal Licensing Officer advised that CCTV footage was available in relation to Incident 2).

 

A complaint had been made on 4 September 2016 by a member of the public in relation to an incident that had occurred on Grange Road where the driver had driven dangerously and had overtaken another vehicle on the opposite side of the road and had driven through a red light. Members viewed the footage during the meeting.

 

The driver addressed the Committee in support of his case and responded to questions from Members of the Committee, the Principal Licensing Officer and the Council's Legal Officer.

 

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.


The Committee considered the review on its own merits, the report, written and oral representations made by the Driver and the Council’s policy guidance on convictions, cautions, complaints and driver conduct.

 

ORDERED as follows:

 

The Committee decided to revoke the Driver’s Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle Drivers Licence under Section 61(1) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 on the grounds of any other reasonable cause in order to protect the public for the following reasons:

 

1. Since the licence was granted on the 5 June 2005 the Driver has had 11 motoring offence convictions, 7 of which were for speed and, 3 for using a mobile phone and 1 for contravention of a pedestrian crossing. He was reported for 3 further incidents of unsafe driving and was convicted of an offence for charging an excess fare in his hackney carriage.


2. Following a review of the Driver’s Licence by Committee on the 16 July 2007 on the grounds of unsafe driving the Driver was required to undertake a Driver Improvement Course which was completed on the 7 November 2007. Despite attending the course a further review of the Driver’s Licence was carried out by Committee on 15 March 2010 because the driver had been convicted of a further 4 motoring offences. At this hearing the Committee suspended the Driver’s Licence until he completed a further Driver Improvement Course. The Course was completed on the 19 March 2010.


3. Despite attending 2 Driver Improvement courses and having his licence suspended albeit for a short period, since the last review in March 2010, the Driver has been convicted of 3 more motoring offences and, in addition, has been found driving unsafely on 3 occasions. Shortly after attending the second course in March 2010 on 2 separate occasions, in November 2010, the Driver was caught using his mobile phone whilst driving his taxi and was warned by a Licensing Officer and given advice. Despite this warning and advice, the Driver on the 4 September 2012 was convicted again of using a mobile phone whilst driving. The Driver advised that following the conviction in 2012 he purchased a hands free device and no longer uses his phone whilst driving. However, the Committee considered that to took 2 incidents where the Driver was caught using a mobile phone whilst driving, 3 convictions for using a mobile phone whilst driving, completion of 2 Driver Improvement Courses, a suspension and a warning and advice before the Driver thought to get a hands free device and not to use a mobile phone whilst driving, which the Committee considered shows a flagrant disregard for public safety.


4. In addition to using a mobile phone whilst driving, the Driver was convicted of 2 further speeding offences in December 2014 and April 2015 which the Committee considered shows the driver to be unsafe.


5. The Driver failed to report the convictions in 2012, 2014 and 2015 within seven days as clearly required by a condition on his licence. It is essential that the Council is informed of any motoring offences as soon as possible but not later than 7 days from the date of conviction to enable the Council to assess whether a driver is a safe driver in order to protect the public. The Committee considered the Driver failed to report the convictions in an attempt to hide them and was acting dishonestly in doing so. It is reasonable to assume that the Driver, with his history of driving offences, would have been aware of the convictions and the points on his licence and should have reported them.


6. The Committee saw CCTV footage of an incident of what it considered to be dangerous driving on the 4 September 2015 for which he received a warning from an officer because that officer was not aware of the previous unreported convictions. The Driver told the Committee that the vehicle in front of him did not indicate to turn right so he had no choice but to turn into Grange Road alongside the vehicle. The Committee considered this was untrue after watching footage, as the taxi was not alongside the other vehicle but behind it and that the taxi should have kept its distance. The Driver told the Committee that a bus was travelling towards him and therefore he was forced to accelerate past the other vehicle to avoid a collision. The Committee considered that this was wholly untrue. There was no bus on the CCTV footage. The Committee considered that the Driver’s manoeuvre was dangerous without excuse. The Committee considered that the Driver had mislead them and officers. The Committee was concerned at the Driver’s lack of ability to recognise unsafe or even dangerous driving despite all his previous convictions, receiving a suspension attending Driver Awareness Courses and receiving warnings and advice.


7. The Guidance states that a significant history of motoring offences showing a disregard for safety may result in a licence being revoked. The Committee considered that there is a pattern over the life of the licence of unsafe driving showing a total disregard for public safety. In addition the Committee considered that the Driver had been dishonest in failing to declare the convictions, he had attempted to mislead officers and the committee in the representations made and has disregard for the rules and standards required of drivers.


8. The Committee therefore decided after considering all the information that Driver is not of a suitable standard, nor fit and proper to drive hackney carriages and private hire vehicles in Middlesbrough.

 

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

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