Licensing Committee Minutes

Licensing Committee Minutes

Date:
Monday 4 February 2019
Time:
1:00 p.m.
Place:
Mandela Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor J A Walker (Chair), Councillor T Higgins (Vice Chair), Councillor R Arundale, Councillor S Biswas, Councillor R Brady, Councillor S Dean, Councillor T Harvey, Councillor A Hellaoui, Councillor L Lewis and Councillor T Mawston.
Officers:
C Cunningham, J Dixon and S Wearing.
Apologies for absence:
Councillor J Goodchild, Councillor D Rooney
Declarations of interest:
Name of Member Type of Interest Item/Nature of Interest
Councillor Mawston Non-pecuniary Agenda Item 5 – sign language interpreter known to him.
Item Number Item/Resolution
PUBLIC
18/59 MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING OF THE LICENSING COMMITTEE HELD ON 14 JANUARY 2019.

The minutes of the previous meeting of the Licensing Committee held on 14 January 2019 were submitted and approved as a correct record, subject to the addition of Councillor Lewis in the Apologies for Absence.

18/60 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 and 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
Director of Culture and Communities
18/61 REVIEW OF PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE - REF NO: 3/19

The Director of Culture and Communities submitted an exempt report in connection with the review of Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 3/19, 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 accompanied by a sign language interpreter, verified his name and address and confirmed that he had received a copy of the report and understood its contents.

 

It was noted that the driver’s date of birth on the first page of the report was incorrect and that the year should state '1988'. Also, at the bottom of page two, the reference to Grange Street should read 'Grange Road'.

 

** DECLARATION OF INTEREST

 

Councillor Mawston advised that he the interpreter was known to him. The driver confirmed that he had no objection to Councillor Mawston taking part in the determination of his review.

 

The Principal Licensing Officer provided a summary of the report in relation to the driver’s history and made reference to the relevant sections of the Council’s Policy Guidance on Convictions, Cautions and Complaints.

The report highlighted that the driver was first licensed with Middlesbrough Council in April 2015. He first appeared before the Licensing Committee in February 2016 following a complaint made against him on 7 September 2015 by a member of the public, relating to an incident on 26 August 2015. Details of the complaint were detailed in the submitted report. On that occasion, the Committee permitted the driver to retain his licence but expressed extreme concern regarding the driver’s behaviour and required him to be issued with a warning regarding his future conduct. The driver was also informed that any similar concerns regarding his behaviour would be likely to result in his licence being reviewed again by the Committee.

 

The driver now appeared before Members following a further complaint, received by the Licensing Section on 6 January 2019, regarding an incident on 29 December 2018. Full details of the complaint were contained within the report. The complainant, a disabled badge holder, stated that on 29 December 2018 the driver had been parked in a private hire vehicle in a disabled parking bay on Grange Road. The complainant had asked the driver to move his vehicle so that she could park in the disabled bay and alleged that he became aggressive towards her and had sworn at her.  A copy of the complaint was attached at Appendix 1.

 

The driver was interviewed by a Licensing Enforcement Officer on 11 January 2019 when he admitted to losing his temper and swearing at the complainant. A copy of the interview record was attached at Appendix 2.

 

The driver was invited to attend a further interview with the Licensing Enforcement Officer on 21 January 2019 when he confirmed that the explanation of events in relation to his previous complaint (Complaint 1) was correct. In relation to Complaint 2, the driver confirmed the explanation provided during the interview on 11 January 2019 and apologised for his behaviour stating that he sometimes found it difficult to communicate with people due to being deaf.

 

The driver stated that he did not agree with parts of the report but would wait until he presented his case to address this.

 

The complainant, accompanied by a Licensing Enforcement Officer, joined the meeting at this point. The Chair made introductions and explained the procedure to be followed.

 

The complainant provided her version of events in relation to the incident on 29 December 2018 and responded to questions from the driver, Members of the Committee and the Council’s legal representative.

 

The complainant, and Licensing Enforcement Officer, withdrew from the meeting at this point.

 

The driver was invited to address the Committee in support of his case which he did via the sign language interpreter. The driver provided his version of events in relation to the complaint and responded to questions from Members and the Council’s legal representative.

 

It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the driver, his interpreter and officers of the Council, other than representatives of the Council’s Legal 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 Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 3/19, be suspended for a period of four weeks, for the following reasons:-

  1. The Committee carefully considered: the review on its own merits; the report and appendices; the representations by the driver; the representations made by the complainant; the Council’s Policy on the relevance of Convictions, Cautions, Reprimands, Warnings, Complaints and Character ("the Policy") and Section 61 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 ("the Act") - the Licensing Committee may suspend or revoke the licence of a driver of a private hire vehicle on the grounds of any other reasonable cause.
  2. The Committee decided to suspend the private hire vehicle driver’s licence for a period of four weeks on the grounds of any other reasonable cause. 
  3. The driver was advised that he would receive the full decision, considerations and reasons within five working days.
  4. The reasons for the decision were as follows:-
  5. The Committee noted that the driver was granted a licence to drive private hire vehicles on 28 April 2015.
  6. The Committee noted that a member of the public complained that the driver left his private hire vehicle and urinated against a neighbour’s garden on 26 August 2015. At first the driver misled licensing officers that it was his passenger who had urinated, however, after further enquiries with his operator, he admitted he had been untruthful and that he had urinated outside of his vehicle. 
  7. On 15 February 2016, after hearing representations regarding the above, the Licensing Committee decided to permit the driver to continue to be licensed but issued a warning regarding his future conduct. The Committee noted that the driver was informed that if further complaints were received, his licence may be referred to Committee for a further review.
  8. The Committee noted a second complaint had been received alleging that, on 29 December 2018, the driver unlawfully parked in a disabled parking bay and when requested to move his vehicle by a disabled driver he was aggressive and used foul language a number of times. The complainant stated it appeared the driver had purposely reversed his vehicle towards her and then drove into the middle of the road, which was a one way system, and waited there for a long period of time for his passengers. As a result of the driver’s behaviour, the complainant informed the Committee that she felt too frightened to leave her vehicle in case it would be damaged as a reprisal.
  9. The Committee noted the driver’s comments that he had parked in the bay to drop off his customers and moved after the complainant requested. He stated he had reversed but only in order to move out of the bay onto the road. He accepted that he had sworn at the complainant because he misunderstood the situation. The Committee also noted that the driver said to the complainant that he had a disability in that he was hard of hearing, but later he accepted he should not park in disabled bays which were reserved for blue badge holders.
  10. The Committee found the complainant to be credible and that she had explained the incident in detail. The Committee did not consider that the driver had misunderstood the complainant. The driver had argued that he could park in the bay because of his hearing impairment. The Committee considered that the driver had used foul language and acted aggressively because he had lost his temper. This was in breach of the driver’s code of conduct in that he was required, as a licensed private hire vehicle driver, to behave in a civil and orderly manner at all times. 
  11. The Committee noted the driver stated he would never purposely damage another vehicle, however, as a result of his previous aggressive behaviour, the complainant felt she could not leave the vehicle because of fear of damage.
  12. The Committee also considered that the driver had lied to licensing officers in the past and tried to play down the foul language he had used. The Committee considered he did not fully comprehend how inappropriate his behaviour was.
  13. The Committee considered the driver was unlawfully parked which prevented legitimate blue badge holders, with need of using the disabled parking bay, from accessing it. The Committee considered it was inappropriate that the driver had waited for a further 30 minutes in the middle of the road on a one way system. It considered he could have easily made alternative arrangements with his passengers.
  14. The Committee must be satisfied that its licensed drivers were safe and suitable to hold such a position of trust. Despite previously receiving a warning for unacceptable behaviour, the driver had again acted in a wholly unacceptable manner. The Committee, therefore, decided to suspend the driver’s private hire vehicle driver’s licence for a period of four weeks. 
  15. The Committee decided that four weeks was an appropriate period because of the serious nature of the complaint. It considered the suspension would be a deterrent to ensure the driver acted appropriately in the future and to comprehend the standards required of a licensed driver in Middlesbrough.
  16. The driver was advised that if he was aggrieved by the Committee’s 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 applicant.
     
18/62 APPLICATION FOR A COMBINED HACKNEY CARRIAGE AND PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE - REF NO: 4/19

The Director of Culture and Communities submitted an exempt report in connection with an application for a Combined Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 4/19, 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 and understood its contents.

 

Prior to the applicant joining the meeting, the Committee had discussed the content of the report and considered there to be several areas where it required further information in order to make a fair assessment and determination of the application. The issues were relayed to the applicant who confirmed that he would be agreeable to consideration of his application being deferred in order to obtain, where possible, further information. The applicant also accepted that he may be required to attend a further interview with Licensing Officers.

 

ORDERED that consideration of the application for a Combined Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle driver licence, Ref 4/19, be deferred in order for further information, as identified by the Committee, to be obtained, where possible.  The decision to defer the matter was made for the following reasons:-

  1. The Licensing Committee considered the applicant’s application for a Combined Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle driver licence, the report, information and representations made to the Committee. 
  2. The Committee’s role was to assess whether the applicant was a fit and proper person to be granted a licence. The Committee must consider all of the information afresh in order to make the assessment. The Committee’s paramount consideration was the protection of the public and it must apply the current Middlesbrough Council Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing Policy 2018 unless there were very good reasons to depart from it.
  3. The Committee, therefore, decided it needed to consider the spent convictions between 1977 and 1987 as, although there were no records, the applicant stated he had previous licences for some of this period. It was unclear whether any action was taken following those convictions. It was unclear what those licences were or what was taken into consideration.
  4. It was also unclear when, or if, the applicant was actually granted a licence to drive private hire vehicles and operate private hire vehicles from 1999, or what was considered. It appeared from the information, that the applicant would still have been on licence for the drugs offences and would have just completed the sentence for the violent offences. It was unclear when, and for how long, those licences were in force and for how long the applicant was out of the country.
  5. The Committee, therefore, requested that the Licensing Section further interviewed the applicant in relation to these matters to obtain further information generally and, if possible, obtain some form of proof or reference to the applicant’s previous licences.
  6. The Committee decided to defer consideration of this matter until further information had been obtained.
     
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