Licensing Committee Minutes

Licensing Committee Minutes

Date:
Monday 25 February 2019
Time:
1:00 p.m.
Place:
Mandela Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor J A Walker (Chair), Councillor S Biswas, Councillor R Brady, Councillor S Dean, Councillor J Goodchild, Councillor T Harvey, Councillor A Hellaoui, Councillor L Lewis, Councillor J Thompson (Substitute for Councillor Higgins).
Officers:
C Cunningham, J Dixon and S Wearing.
Apologies for absence:
Councillor R Arundale, Councillor T Higgins, Councillor T Mawston, Councillor D Rooney
Declarations of interest:
Name of Member Type of Interest Item/Nature of Interest
Councillor Hellaoui Non-pecuniary Agenda Item 6 - Applicant know to her
Item Number Item/Resolution
PUBLIC
18/63 MINUTES - LICENSING COMMITTEE - 4 FEBRUARY 2019

The minutes of the previous meeting of the Licensing Committee held on 4 February 2019 were submitted and approved as a correct record.

18/64 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
18/65 APPLICATION FOR A COMBINED HACKNEY CARRIAGE & PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE REF: 4/19

The Director of Culture and Communities submitted an exempt report in connection 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 accompanied by a friend, verified his name and address and confirmed that he had received a copy of the report and understood its contents.

 

The Committee was reminded that the matter had been scheduled for consideration at the previous meeting, on 4 February 2019, however Members required further information and decided to defer consideration until further information was obtained. A copy of the Committee’s decision was attached at Appendix 1, for information.

 

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

 

The report outlined that the applicant was previously licensed as a driver with Middlesbrough Council, however, the Council no longer held any records for him. As requested by Members at the previous meeting, the report now contained full details of the applicant’s previous convictions, listed at 1) to 11) in the report.

 

The applicant was initially interviewed by a Licensing Officer on 15 January 2019 when he recalled holding a licence with the Council from approximately 1982 to 1995 and stated that he had also held two Hackney Carriage Vehicle licences during that period. During the interview the applicant provided explanations in relation to the convictions at 1) to 11) in the submitted report and confirmed that there were no outstanding matters of which the Council was unaware.

 

The applicant stated that he was released from prison in early 1999 and was granted a driver licence by the Licensing Committee in August or September of 1999. He added that he held that licence for approximately 10 years.

 

The applicant was again interviewed by a Licensing Officer on 8 February 2019, following deferral of his application on 4 February. He provided further information in relation to his previous licences held between 1982 and 1995; the licences held from 1999; his Private Hire Operator licence; the time spent out of the country; the drugs offences; and confirmed that he had never held any other licences with another authority.

 

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

 

The applicant addressed the Committee and responded to questions from Members, the Principal Licensing Officer and the Council’s legal representative.

 

It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the applicant, his friend and officers of the Council, other than representatives of the Council’s Legal and Democratic Services, withdrew whilst the Committee determined the application.

 

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

 

ORDERED that the application for a Combined Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 4/19, be refused as the Committee did not consider the applicant to be a fit and proper person to hold such a licence, for the following reasons:-

  1. The Committee carefully considered: the application on its own merits; the report and appendix; the information and representations made by the applicant; the Council’s Policy on the relevance of Convictions, Cautions, Complaints and Driver Conduct ("the Policy").
  2. Under Section 51 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 ("the Act"), the Licensing Committee shall not grant a licence to drive a hackney carriage or private hire vehicle unless it is satisfied the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold a licence.
  3. The Committee decided to refuse to grant the licence to drive hackney carriage and private hire vehicles under Section 51 of the Act because it was not satisfied that the applicant was a fit and proper person to hold such a licence.
  4. The applicant was advised that he would receive the full decision, considerations and reasons within five working days.
  5. The Committee decided to refuse to grant the applicant a licence to drive private hire and hackney carriage vehicles under Section 51 of the Act because it was not satisfied the applicant was a fit and proper person to hold such a licence.
  6. The reasons for the decision were as follows:-
  7. The Committee noted the applicant claimed he previously held private hire and hackney carriage driving licences between 1982 and 1995 and then from 1999 for a number of years. However, there is no formal record of such licences being granted. The Committee noted the applicant’s explanations in relation to his previous convictions.
  8. The Committee noted the applicant requested it to consider departing from the Policy as the applicant had previously been licensed by the Council as a driver, proprietor and operator even though he had previous convictions and that he could have renewed those licences should he have chosen to do so. 
  9. However, after considering the information on the whole, the Committee could not be satisfied the applicant was a suitable person to be licensed in Middlesbrough.
  10. The Policy came into force on the 1 March 2018. It was approved by Middlesbrough Council following a review and consultation process. The Policy sets the standards Middlesbrough expects of its licensed drivers who are in a position of trust. 
  11. For convictions involving dishonesty the Policy stated that a licence would normally be refused if an applicant had been convicted of more than one dishonesty offence. It stated that applicants who were found to have intentionally misled the Council or lied as part of the application process would not be issued with a licence.
  12. For convictions involving violence, the Policy stated that a licence would normally be refused if an applicant had more than one conviction in the last ten years for an offence of a violent nature. For one conviction of wounding or possession of a weapon, a ten year incident-free period was expected.
  13. For convictions involving drugs, the Policy stated if the conviction, caution, reprimand or final warning related to the supply of controlled drugs, possession with intention to supply drugs or the production or importing of drugs, the application would be refused. It stated that an applicant would normally be refused if they had more than one conviction for a drugs offence.
  14. The Committee noted the applicant claimed he held licences since 1982, however, it was seriously concerned that, at that time, the applicant had a history of dishonesty. The applicant was convicted of one dishonesty offence in 1977, one in 1980 and two dishonesty offences in 1981. 
  15. The Committee was seriously concerned that the applicant’s criminal behaviour did not cease during the period he was allegedly licensed (1982 to 1995).
  16. On 24 July 1984 the applicant was convicted of two offences for handling stolen goods and was sentenced to 90 days imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.
  17. On 9 July 1986, the applicant was convicted of possessing an offensive weapon and wounding. The applicant was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months.
  18. On 8 October 1987 the applicant was convicted of a violent offence of affray whilst he was serving his previous suspended sentence. The applicant was sentenced to 9 months imprisonment.
  19. The Committee considered it inconceivable that no action was taken against the applicant’s alleged licences if the Council was made aware of his criminal behaviour. Even if the applicant continued to be licensed during this period the Committee was seriously concerned of the disregard for the privilege of holding a licence that the applicant had shown by continuing his criminal behaviour of dishonesty and violence.
  20. On 12 December 1995 the applicant was convicted of failing to surrender to bail. The applicant stated that this was following an arrest for two counts of wounding in 1995.
  21. On 9 January 1996 the applicant was convicted of a further violent offence of using threatening, abusive, insulting words or behaviour for which he received a probation order for six months.
  22. The applicant continued his criminal activity and was convicted of six drugs offences which involved an attempt to smuggle heroin from France into England on 9 April 1997. The applicant received a four year prison sentence to be served in France and was banned from returning to France until 2007. 
  23. On 3 August 1998 (after the applicant claimed he was released early from prison in France) he was convicted for two offences of wounding (which he claimed occurred in 1995). The applicant was sentenced to imprisonment for a period of 12 months.
  24. In total, the applicant had been convicted of six dishonesty offences including theft and handling stolen goods; six violent offences including possession of an offensive weapon, wounding involving a stabbing, affray and using threatening words and behaviour; and six drugs offences involving heroin. The applicant had received five prison sentences (not counting concurrent sentences).
  25. Despite this long list of very serious offences, directly relevant to the suitability of an applicant, the applicant claimed he was granted licences to drive taxis and operate private hire vehicles in Middlesbrough in 1999, more or less as soon as he was released from prison for the wounding offences and still on licence for the drugs offences. The Committee found it hard to believe a decision could be reached that the applicant was fit and proper if all of the information had been available to the Committee at that time. As Licensing Officers recollected such licences were granted at some point, the Committee accepted that such licences were granted but it could not be clear as to the dates or what was considered. Unfortunately there was no record of such licences, minutes of decisions could not be located and there was no record of the reasons for any decisions made or what was considered. 
  26. The Committee carefully considered the applicant’s submissions that the Council previously granted licences even though he had a criminal history. It also carefully considered the age of the offences and that the applicant’s last sentence was completed in 2001 for the drugs convictions.
  27. However, the Committee considered its role was to look at all of the information afresh and on the whole, to make a determination whether the applicant was safe and suitable to now be licensed in Middlesbrough. At its meeting, the Committee had the opportunity to consider the applicant’s criminal history and his explanations in detail.
  28. The Committee considered the applicant’s submissions regarding his previous licences did not in any way outweigh the seriousness of the applicant’s criminal history.
  29. The Committee considered the applicant continually refused to take any responsibility for his wrongdoing. It considered the applicant’s explanations did not correspond with the sentences he received. The Committee considered it was very hard to believe that the applicant could recall details of more minor offences and not of those for which he received a prison sentence, suspended or otherwise or unpaid work requirements.
  30. For the offence at 2) in the report - theft - the applicant informed Licensing Officers he had not returned videos he had rented. The Compensation ordered was £660, which did not match the items the applicant had failed to return. It was only when questioned at Committee the applicant stated it was two video recorder machines and some videos of films. Although the applicant pleaded guilty he did not accept his wrongdoing as he informed the Committee he kept the items because the victim owed him money.
  31. For the offences at 5) in the report - two counts of handling stolen goods - The applicant informed the Committee he had bought four tyres from a friend and did not know they were stolen. However, the applicant pleaded guilty at court and received a prison sentence of 90 days suspended for 12 months. The applicant’s guilty plea and the seriousness of the sentence did not reflect the applicant’s explanation.
  32. The Committee could not accept the applicant’s submissions that he was not guilty of six drugs convictions in 1996 or that they should be minimised to one or two offences. The Committee would not and could not go behind the convictions. The incident was so serious that the applicant was sentenced to four years imprisonment in France and banned from entering France for a further 10 years until 2007. Again the explanations from the applicant did not correspond with the convictions and sentence imposed and were hard to believe, namely, that there was only a very small amount of heroin that was put in his bag without his knowledge by people he did not know with whom he shared an apartment in Paris.
  33. The Committee was seriously concerned that the applicant was asking the Committee to go behind the two convictions for wounding in 1998. In summary, the applicant informed the Committee his wife’s family had a vendetta against him and that he was set upon by his brothers in law and in self-defence retaliated. Yet the applicant pleaded guilty at court and the other alleged parties were not charged. The applicant admitted his guilt in a criminal court of wounding the victim which involved the use of a knife. The applicant did not claim self-defence or provocation. After hearing mitigation, the court considered the matter serious enough to warrant a prison sentence of 12 months. The Committee could and would not go behind the conviction.
  34. There has been a gap in the applicant’s criminal behaviour, however, he has been out of the Country for a considerable period.
  35. The drugs incident involved an attempt to smuggle heroin into England and there were six drugs convictions. No matter how long has lapsed since the completion of the sentence, in this case 2001, the Committee considered a licence should not be granted in accordance with the Policy. A hackney carriage or private hire vehicle was an ideal tool to traffic or supply drugs and an applicant with such criminal history is wholly unacceptable to be licensed in Middlesbrough.
  36. The applicant had too many serious violent offences involving offensive weapons to be considered suitable.
  37. The applicant had numerous dishonesty offences and was considered not to have been wholly truthful to the Committee about the circumstances of his criminal history or discussions with licensing officers and should not be licensed under the Policy.
  38. The Committee, therefore, considered there were no good reasons to depart from the Policy after considering all of the information.
  39. The Committee did not consider the applicant suitable to be licensed by Middlesbrough Council under its Policy and was not a fit and proper person to be granted a licence.
  40. The applicant 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 applicant 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.

** COUNCILLOR M THOMPSON

 

Following the conclusion of the above matter, at approximately 2.15pm, Councillor M Thompson entered the meeting room briefly to convey a personal message to Councillor J Thompson. Councillor M Thompson withdrew from the room prior to the commencement of the next agenda item.
 

18/66 APPLICATION FOR A PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE REF: 5/19

The Director of Culture and Communities submitted an exempt report in connection an application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 5/19, 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.


** DECLARATION OF INTEREST

 

At this point in the meeting Councillor Hellaoui declared a non-pecuniary interest and advised that she had been a customer in the premises where the applicant currently worked but did not know him personally. The applicant confirmed that he had no objection to Councillor Hellaoui remaining in the room.

 

The Principal Licensing Officer provided a summary of the report in relation to the applicant’s convictions detailed at 1) to 3) in the submitted report and made reference to the relevant sections of the Council’s Policy Guidance on Convictions, Cautions and Complaints.

 

The report highlighted that the applicant was interviewed by a Licensing Officer on 24 January 2019 when he confirmed that there were no outstanding matters of which the Council was unaware and provided explanations for the offences at 1) to 3).

 

It was highlighted that the applicant had failed to declare his convictions at 1) and 2) for which he apologised and stated that he had not expected the convictions to appear on his criminal record as he had thought them to be spent.

 

The applicant gave authority to the Council to obtain further information relating to his convictions from Cleveland Police, if required. Subsequently, Officers contacted the Police regarding the circumstances leading to the applicant’s convictions and a copy of a document received from Cleveland Police in response to enquiries was attached at Appendix 1.

 

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

 

The applicant 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 applicant and officers of the Council, other than representatives of the Council’s Legal and Democratic Services, withdrew whilst the Committee determined the application.

 

** DECLARATION OF INTEREST

 

At this point in the meeting Councillor Hellaoui stated that she did not feel comfortable in determining the application and withdrew from the meeting and did not return.

 

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

 

ORDERED that the application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 5/19, be refused as the Committee did not consider the applicant to be a fit and proper person to hold such a licence, for the following reasons:-

  1. The Committee carefully considered: the application on its own merits; the report and appendix: the information and representations made by the applicant; the Council’s Policy on the relevance of Convictions, Cautions, Complaints and Driver Conduct ("the Policy").
  2. Under Section 51 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 ("the Act"), the Licensing Committee shall not grant a licence to drive a private hire vehicle unless it is satisfied the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold a licence.
  3. The Committee decided to refuse to grant the applicant a licence to drive private hire vehicles under Section 51 of the Act because it was not satisfied that the applicant was a fit and proper person to hold such a licence.
  4. The applicant was advised that he would receive the full decision, considerations and reasons within five working days.
  5. The reasons for the decision were as follows:-
  6. The Committee noted the applicant’s explanations in relation to his previous convictions and that the Committee was requested to depart from the Policy.
  7. However, after considering the information on the whole, the Committee could not be satisfied that the applicant was a suitable person to be licensed in Middlesbrough.
  8. The Policy came into force on the 1 March 2018. It was approved by Middlesbrough Council following a review and consultation process. The Policy sets the standards Middlesbrough expects of its licensed drivers who are in a position of trust. 
  9. For convictions involving alcohol related offences, the Policy stated that an applicant who had been disqualified from driving as a result of an isolated drink driving offence should show at least four years free of convictions after the restoration of their driving licence. The applicant was convicted of drink driving on 17 May 2002 and was disqualified from driving. The disqualification was reduced from twelve to nine months until 17 February 2003 as a result of the applicant attending a course. 
  10. However, the applicant continued to commit further criminal offences.
  11. On 25 June 2007, the applicant was convicted of a violent offence of common assault and received a conditional discharge for a period of 36 months. The applicant was ordered to pay costs and compensation to the victim. The conditional discharge period continued until 24 June 2010. Although the applicant explained he was provoked through constant graffiti by youths, the Committee considered the applicant acted very aggressively without consideration of the risks when he threw a noxious substance, turpentine, over a child. It therefore considered this offence to be serious.
  12. On 27 February 2009, during the period of the conditional discharge, the applicant was convicted of a very serious offence of arson. The applicant was sentenced to four years imprisonment. The 193 days the applicant had spent on remand counted towards the sentence, therefore, the sentence was completed in February 2013.
  13. The Policy stated that an applicant convicted of such an offence of arson should not be licensed until a period of at least ten years had elapsed free of conviction since the completion of the sentence. 
  14. The offence was very serious and led to a vast amount of damage to the applicant’s premises and neighbouring premises. The applicant was convicted of arson and was reckless as to endangering life. The applicant set fire to the premises in order to defraud insurance.
  15. The Committee, therefore, considered this to be a very serious dishonesty offence. The Policy stated that a licence would normally be refused if an applicant had been convicted of a serious offence involving dishonesty. The Policy also stated that applicants found to have intentionally misled the Council or lied as part of the application process, would not be issued with a licence. 
  16. The applicant failed to declare on his application his convictions for drink driving in 2002 and assault in 2007. The applicant originally told officers he had not included the convictions because they were spent and did not think they would be revealed on his DBS check. However, at the meeting the applicant changed his story and told the Committee he did not declare the convictions because they would be declared on his DBS check. The Committee considered the application form to be clear - that all convictions, cautions, etc must be stated. The Committee considered the applicant, therefore, made a false declaration on his application form in an attempt to hide his previous convictions.
  17. The Committee must look at the criminal history as a whole, not offences in isolation, in order to assess an applicant’s suitability. 
  18. The applicant committed three serious offences and failed to fully declare his convictions on his application. The Committee considered the applicant to be wholly unsuitable to be granted a licence in Middlesbrough, which was in accordance with the Policy.
  19. The Committee, therefore, considered there were no good reasons to depart from the Policy. The Committee did not consider the applicant suitable to be granted a licence and to hold such a position of trust in Middlesbrough.
  20. The applicant 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 applicant 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.
     
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