Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

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Licensing Committee (ceased to operate 10/04/2017) Minutes

Date:
Wednesday, 27th November, 2013
Time:
10.00am
Place:
Council Chamber, Town Hall, High Street, Stockton on Tees
 
Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

Attendance Details

Present:
Cllr Paul Kirton(Chairman), Cllr Mrs Kathryn Nelson(Vice-Chairman), Cllr Michael Clark, Cllr Evaline Cunningham, Cllr Phillip Dennis, Cllr Eileen Johnson, Cllr Jean Kirby, Cllr Alan Lewis, Cllr Ray McCall, Cllr Maurice Perry, Cllr David Wilburn,
Officers:
S Mills, L Wilford(DNS), J Nertney, A Pilgrim, S Whaley(LD)
In Attendance:
Hackney Driver 001413 and his representative J Khazir, Hackney Driver 000908 and his representative J Khazir, Joan Smith Barrister (representing Licensing Officers)
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Ken Dixon, Cllr Bill Woodhead
Item Description Decision
Public
L
30/13
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
 
L
31/13
MINUTES - 4TH JULY 2013 AND 1ST AUGUST 2013
RESOLVED that the minutes be approved and signed as a correct record.
L
32/13
EXCLUSION OF THE PUBLIC
RESOLVED that under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involved the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.
Confidential
L
33/13
COMBINED HACKNEY CARRIAGE AND PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER - REF 001481
  • Combined Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Driver - Ref 001481
RESOLVED that the item be deferred.
L
34/13
HACKNEY CARRIAGE DRIVER - REF 001413
  • Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 001413
RESOLVED that:-

1. Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 undertake the hackney carriage knowledge test at his own expense, on the next available date after receiving the decision letter of the Commmittee.

2. Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 to be issued a final written warning.
L
35/13
HACKNEY CARRIAGE DRIVER - REF 000908
  • Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000908
RESOLVED that:-

1. Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 undertake the hackney carriage knowledge test at his own expense, on the next available date after receiving the decision letter of the Commmittee.

2. Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 to be issued a final written warning.
10:00

Preamble

ItemPreamble
L
30/13
There were no interests declared.
L
31/13
Consideration was given to the minutes from the meetings which were held on the 4th July 2013 and the 1st August 2013.
L
33/13
Members were made aware that Combined Hackney Carriage and-Private Hire Driver 001481 was not in attendance and had requested that the matter be considered at a future Licensing Committee meeting.
L
34/13
Consideration was given to a report on Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 001413 who had been found standing for hire on Yarm High Street in breach of the Councils Hackney Carriage byelaws.

Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 and his represenatative were in attendance at the meeting and were given the opportunity to make represenatation.

The report detailed:-

- Hackney Carriage Driver 001413's background.
- On going issues in Yarm town centre with taxis in relation to standing in breach of the Councils Hackney Carriage byelaws.
- Complaints received from other drivers
- Details of an enforcement exercise arranged to ascertain if complaints received were justified.

Members considered all of the evidence including the report, appendices and oral evidence that was given. Members had to determine firstly whether the allegations of driver misconduct occurred and secondly if, on the balance of probabilities they did occur, what action should be taken against the driver.

Members were reminded of their powers under the provisions of Section 61(1)(a) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and of the power to suspend or revoke a licence with immediate effect if the interests of public safety so require.

The issue which was before Members was an allegation that Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 001413 acted in a manner contrary to the Councils byelaws relating to Hackney carriages. The Council had received complaints regarding the activities of a number of licensed drivers and the manner in which they were operating in Yarm. Members were reminded that the byelaws were in place for the benefit of the wider taxi trade and to ensure fairness for all members of the trade. Licensing Officers sought to resolve the issues in Yarm by exercising a light touch approach and seeking driver's co-operation. The Councils view on how hackney carriage drivers should operate had been communicated in both the Trade Times and in warning letters. The vast majority of drivers co-operated with these requests. However a number of drivers failed to follow the advice and requests given by Officers. Members were mindful that they had already dealt with a number of similar matters concerning several different drivers. Despite this Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 was caught in a test purchase operation by Trading Standards officers and Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 001413 had acted in breach of the byelaw by failing to proceed to the next available rank when the rank in Yarm was full.

After considering all the evidence Members concluded that despite the warnings and advice that had been communicated by the Trade Times and in a letter dated 04 October 2011 Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 001413 acted in breach of the byelaws by not proceeding to the next available rank when the Yarm High Street rank was full. Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 accepted that the rank was full and provided an explanation that he had parked 75 metres away and that he would have proceeded to the rank when it had cleared. Members were of the view that Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 could not have had sight of the rank from his location and certainly would have been unable to see the back of the rank. From the location where Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 was parked there were at least eight rows of parked vehicles along with street furniture and given that this was a Friday evening in July, Yarm would have been very busy with members of the public crossing the road and going from pub to pub. Members were satisfied that his explanation was not plausible and was given only to deflect from the fact that he was operating in a manner which failed to comply with the Council byelaw. Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 was informed that the Council had received complaints from other members of the licensed hackney carriage trade who did manage to operate in a manner which did not breach the Council byelaw.

Members noted that Officers had allowed drivers a degree of flexibility when the Yarm High Street rank was full and that action had not been taken against drivers who attempted to join the rank by queuing on the Town Hall side of the High Street. Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 was well aware that the Council had responded to complaints and had taken action against drivers who wilfully chose not to use the rank and who parked up outside busy licensed premises or the fast food takeaway with the clear intention of obtaining a fare without using the rank.

For the avoidance of doubt Members noted that it would be entirely legal for a hackney carriage driver to be flagged down in the street or for the driver to attend the location to collect a pre booked fare. The hackney carriage byelaw which applies in Stockton on Tees was based on the Department for Transport model byelaw and came into force in 1981. All hackney carriage drivers should be well aware of the byelaws which apply in the Borough. Members were of the opinion that Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 actions and behaviour on 26 July 2013 demonstrated a complete disregard for the byelaw. Members found that Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 001413 actions enabled him to obtain an advantage over his colleagues by parking in locations close to public houses where he was likely to obtain fares from passengers leaving those public houses or the fast food takeaway and that this was to the detriment of those licensed drivers who used the rank in the correct manner. The Council had taken action to deal with the drivers who were acting in this manner following the receipt of complaints from members of the trade. It should have been quite clear to Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 that if a large number of drivers acted in such a way then the rank would take longer and longer to clear and ultimately members of the public would not use the rank at all if they could simply walk out of any pub and get straight into a hackney carriage which they had not pre booked or flagged down.

Members were of the view that given it had been a number of years since Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 had been licensed there appeared to be a need for Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 to have some retraining as to his legal responsibilities and Members resolved that Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 should, on the next available date, undertake the hackney carriage knowledge test at his own expense. If Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 did not undertake the test on the next available date or should Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 fail it then he would be referred back to the Committee.

Members also agreed to give Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 a final written warning. If Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 appeared before the Committee in similar circumstances then they would consider revoking his licence. Hackney Carriage Driver 001413 was reminded that he should exhibit high standards of conduct to demonstrate that he was a fit and proper person.
L
35/13
Consideration was given to a report on Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000908 who had been found standing for hire on Yarm High Street in breach of the Councils Hackney Carriage byelaws.

Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 and his represenatative were in attendance at the meeting and were given the opportunity to make represenatation.

The report detailed:-

- Hackney Carriage Driver 000908's background.
- On going issues in Yarm town centre with taxis in relation to standing for hire in breach of the Councils Hackney Carriage byelaws.
- Complaints received from other drivers.
- Details of an enforcement exercise arranged to ascertain if complaints received were justified.

Members considered all of the evidence including the report, appendices and oral evidence that was given. Members had to determine firstly whether the allegations of driver misconduct occurred and secondly if, on the balance of probabilities they did occur, what action should be taken against the driver.

Members were reminded of their powers under the provisions of Section 61(1)(a) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and of the power to suspend or revoke a licence with immediate effect if the interests of public safety so require.

The issue which was before Members was an allegation that Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000908 acted in a manner contrary to the Councils byelaws relating to Hackney carriages. The Council had received complaints regarding the activities of a number of licensed drivers and the manner in which they were operating in Yarm. Members were reminded that the byelaws were in place for the benefit of the wider taxi trade and to ensure fairness for all members of the trade. Licensing Officers sought to resolve the issues in Yarm by exercising a light touch approach and seeking driver's co-operation. The Councils view on how hackney carriage drivers should operate had been communicated in both the Trade Times and in warning letters. The vast majority of drivers co-operated with these requests. However a number of drivers failed to follow the advice and requests given by Officers. Members were mindful that they had already dealt with a number of similar matters concerning several different drivers. Despite this Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 was caught in a test purchase operation by Trading Standards officers and Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000908 had acted in breach of the byelaw by failing to proceed to the next available rank when the rank in Yarm was full.

After considering all the evidence Members concluded that despite the warnings and advice that had been communicated by the Trade Times and in a letter dated 22 July 2013 Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 acted in breach of the byelaws by not proceeding to the next available rank when the Yarm High Street rank was full. Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 was informed that the Council had received complaints from other members of the licensed hackney carriage trade who did manage to operate in a manner whcih did not breach the Council byelaw.

Members noted that Officers had allowed drivers a degree of flexibility when the Yarm High Street rank was full and that action had not been taken against drivers who attempted to join the rank by queuing on the Town Hall side of the High Street. Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 was well aware that the Council had responded to complaints and had taken action against drivers who wilfully chose not to use the rank and who parked up outside busy licensed premises or the fast food takeaway with the clear intention of obtaining a fare without using the rank. Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 knowledge of this was quite clear from the comments he made to the officers who were involved in the test purchase operation. When the officers got into Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 vehicle another taxi arrived and Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 stated "I hope you've got a booked fare". This was despite the fact Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 did not have a booked fare as he was talking to the officers involved in the test purchase exercise. Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 then informed them by referring to the taxi trade that "five of them had been complained about for not picking up from the official rank and had received letters from the Council". Despite Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 knowledge of the issue which the Council was seeking to address Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 still wilfully acted in a manner which was in breach of paragraph 7 of the Councils hackney carriage byelaws.

For the avoidance of doubt Members noted that it would be entirely legal for a hackney carriage driver to be flagged down in the street or for the driver to attend the location to collect a pre booked fare. The hackney carriage byelaw which applies in Stockton on Tees was based on the Department for Transport model byelaw and came into force in 1981. All hackney carriage drivers should be well aware of the byelaws which apply in the Borough. Members were of the opinion that Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 actions and behaviour on 26 July 2013 demonstrated a complete disregard for the byelaw. Members found that Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 actions enabled him to obtain an advantage over his colleagues by parking in locations close to public houses where he was likely to obtain fares from passengers leaving those public houses or the fast food takeaway and that this was to the detriment of those licensed drivers who used the rank in the correct manner. The Council had taken action to deal with the drivers who are acting in this manner following the receipt of complaints from members of the trade. It should be quite clear to Hackney Carriage Driver 000908, that if a large number of drivers acted in such a way then the rank would take longer and longer to clear and ultimately members of the public would not use the rank at all if they could simply walk out of any pub and get straight into a hackney carriage which they had not pre booked or flagged down.

Members also had regard to the comment Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 had made to the officers during the test purchase. Members noted that when interviewed Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 had declined to answer questions about that matter. Members were of the view that the comment was clearly not fit and proper behaviour for a licensed driver. It was totally inappropriate for Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 to enter into such a conversation with passengers of his vehicle. Members gave strong consideration to revoking Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 licence but stepped back from that decision only on the basis of the fact that he had been licensed for many years and this was the first time Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 had appeared before the Committee for a disciplinary matter.

Members were of the view that given it had been a number of years since Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 had been licensed there appeared to be a need for Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 to have some retraining as to his legal responsibilities and Members agreed that Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 should, on the next available date, undertake the hackney carriage knowledge test at his own expense. If Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 did not undertake the test on the next available date, or should Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 fail it then he will be referred back to the Committee.

Members also agreed to give Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 a final written warning. If Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 appeared before the Committee in similar circumstances then they would consider revoking his licence. Hackney Carriage Driver 000908 was reminded that he should exhibit high standards of conduct to demonstrate that he was a fit and proper person.

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