The Director of Culture and Communities submitted an exempt report in connection with a Review of a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 1/19, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.
The Chair introduced those present and outlined the procedure to be followed and confirmed that the any inaccuracies contained within the report should have been reported to the Licensing department prior to the meeting.
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 and understood its contents.
The Principal Licensing Officer summarised the report and advised the Committee that the driver previously appeared before Members on 9 July 2018 when Members had consideration of the driver's Application for a Private Hire Vehicle driver's licence. The Committee granted the application after considering the offences listed in the report:-
Offence 1) Indecent Assault on a female under 16 - 17 May 1990
Offence 2) Common Assault - 27 February 2013
The driver appeared before Members following an incident with a lone female passenger on 18 November 2018 when it was alleged the driver made inappropriate and threatening remarks towards the female. The details of the incident were provided in the report.
The driver was subsequently interviewed by a Licensing Enforcement Officer on the 21 November 2018 in which the driver did not accept all of the allegations made against him. Licensing Enforcement Officers decided to suspend the driver's Private Hire Vehicle driver's licence until further enquiries could be made and the Committee could consider the matter.
The Principal Licensing Officer drew the Committee's attention to section 61 of the Local Government Act 1976 and to sections 369 to 371 of the Council's Licensing Policy, regarding character and conduct.
The driver was invited to present his case and proceeded to address the Committee providing his version of events. He also 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 driver, along with officers of the Council, other than representatives of the Council's Legal and Democratic Services, withdrew whilst the Committee determined the review.
At this stage in the meeting the driver and the Principal Licensing Officer returned to the meeting.
ORDERED: Under Section 61 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 ("the Act") the Licensing Committee may revoke the licence of a driver of a private hire vehicle on the ground of any other reasonable cause. Under Section 61(2B) of the Act if the Committee considers it is in the interests of public safety it may require the revocation of the licence to have immediate effect.
The Licensing Committee considered the drivers review on its merits, it considered the report, information and representations made to the Committee. It considered the legislation and Middlesbrough Council Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing Policy 2018 ("the Policy").
The Licensing Committee decided to revoke the drivers Private Hire Vehicle drivers licence on the grounds of any other reasonable cause. The revocation was to have immediate effect in the interests of public safety.
The reasons for the decision were as follows:
1. The Committee noted the driver had been convicted of indecent assault on a girl under the age of 16 on the 17 May 1990. In view that there were no subsequent incidents the driver was given the opportunity to be a licensed Private Hire Vehicle driver on the 3 November 2003.
2. The driver was then convicted of Assault on the 27 February 2013 and his Private Hire Vehicle drivers licence was revoked on the 28 May 2013. The assault occurred when the driver was driving a mini bus and involved two women.
3. The driver was given a further opportunity to be a licensed driver on the 9 July 2018.
4. On the 18 November 2018 the Council received a complaint from a female passenger, travelling alone, that the driver made comments about kidnapping her and other threatening behaviours.
5. The Committee noted the driver's representations, in summary; that the driver did not indecently assault the girl in 1990 and he denied the assault in 2013. The driver admitted that he did make some of the comments, namely stating the price was £70, being a womaniser and kidnapping the passenger. The driver stated he did not know why he said anything about kidnapping the passenger, however he stated his comments were meant as a joke and to "wind the passenger up". The driver did not consider the passenger was upset and he went to the drop off address later and apologised to the passengers step father after being told to do so by his operator.
6. The Complainant stated during a journey at night time on the 18 November 2018 the driver:
- Used foul language about his operator "the little fucking bitch".
- Told the passenger he was a womaniser.
- Told the passenger the price of a local journey would be £70, then £300.
- Proceeded to ask whether anyone would pay ransom money if he kidnapped her.
- Further into the journey he told the passenger - taxis have tracking and if he turned the tracking off at that location no one would know where to find her.
7. The Complainant stated she was terrified and felt she would not get into a taxi again. The Complainant said she was too frightened to attend the Committee.
8. The Committee considered that the Complainants version was her honest overall view of the journey.
9. The driver continued to deny the conviction of indecent assault of a girl under the age of 16 on the 17 May 1990, but the Committee cannot and would not go behind this conviction. The driver accepted by pleading guilty that he indecently assaulted a minor.
10. The Committee noted the driver denied the assault in 2013 which involved two women whilst he was driving his mini bus. The court assessed all of the evidence and found the driver guilty. The Committee cannot and would not go behind that conviction.
11. The Committee was concerned the driver continued to fail to accept responsibility for his actions.
12. Despite being given a further chance of being a licensed driver on the 9 July 2018 within a short period of time the drivers wholly unacceptable actions left a passenger terrified. The driver had a history of assault on females.
13. The Committee considered the driver was wholly unsuitable and unsafe to be in such a position of trust as that of a licensed driver whose role was to transport lone females or vulnerable passengers.
14. The Policy stated that a person who had a conviction of an indecency offence should not be licensed as a Private Hire or Hackney Carriage Vehicle driver.
15. The Policy stated that the paramount consideration for the Committee was public safety.
16. The Committee considered that there was no good reason to depart from the policy.
17. The Committee considered that the driver was a risk to vulnerable passengers and in the interests of public safety the revocation of his licence would have immediate effect.
18. The driver was advised that if he was aggrieved by the Committees decision he had 21 days in which to appeal the decision to Teesside Magistrates Court. Should the driver decide to appeal the decision and the appeal was dismissed, the Council would look to the Court for an Order to recover its costs incurred in defending its decision from the driver.