|Prior to the meeting Mr M J K and his representative Mr Allanson - Allansons Solicitors viewed CCTV footage of some of the incidents that were referred to in the report.|
Consideration was then given to a report on a Hackney Carriage Driver who had received two formal written warnings from the Licensing Department for plying for hire in a stationary position other than on a designated rank. The driver also refused to answer Officer's questions, and was then observed a third time plying for hire in a stationary position other than on a designated rank, in direct contravention of the instructions of an officer who was present at the time.
Mr M J K had been a licensed driver since 1 May 1997. His licence was due to expire on 31 August 2012. Mr M J K was the proprietor of three HCVs licensed with the Council. Mr M J K was also a licensed driver with Middlesbrough Council.
The problem of licensed vehicles parking on and around Yarm High Street had been an issue for sometime. It had been raised at the Officer Traffic Group and was included in the Stockton Borough Council's Consultation on parking on Yarm High Street. Recently the problems had escalated with up to forty vehicles participating in an unauthorised rank stretching from outside The Keys' public house, along the High Street to the Fish Ponds' area of Yarm. A map was attached to the report.
On the 24 September 2011, over 40 vehicles were observed by public space CCTV participating in an unauthorised rank outside The Keys' on Yarm High Street. Warning letters were sent to all proprietors of these vehicles including Mr M J K, who was observed at approximately 01:36. A copy of this warning letter dated 4 October 2011 was attached to the report.
A response was received from Mr M J K on 24 October 2011, with regard to the above letter, which resulted in email correspondence between Mr M J K and Licensing Officer Leanne Maloney. Copies of the correspondence were attached to the report.
The issue detailed above of licensed vehicles parking on and around Yarm High Street came to a head during the Cannonball' Student nights when both Cleveland Police and the Manager of The Keys' contacted the Licensing Department expressing concern at the behaviour of taxi drivers and outlining the problems of patrons waiting for booked private hire vehicles. A copy of the correspondence received from the Manager of The Keys' was attached to the report.
On the 29 December 2011, at approximately 01:58 whilst undertaking out of hours enforcement duties, Officers observed HCV 918 parked in the bus stop, on the Town Hall side of Yarm High Street. The vehicle was parked facing oncoming traffic with the For Hire' sign illuminated. After 5 minutes Licensing Officer Leanne Maloney approached the vehicle to question the driver, Mr M J K. Mr M J K confirmed he was not waiting for a booked job, but after a short conversation he then refused to answer further questions saying "I am not going to answer anymore of your silly questions". A few seconds later a couple approached Mr M J K's vehicle and asked "Can we get in?" Mr M J K nodded and left the location with the passengers. An account of the full conversation with Mr M J K was detailed in a second warning letter which was sent to Mr M J K on 11 January 2012. A copy of this letter was attached to the report.
On the 29 December 2011, a letter was received by email from another driver licensed with this authority Mr J N. The letter was addressed to Licensing Officer Polly Edwards in response to licensing enforcement work earlier that day, it was stated in the letter that a section had been "ran by" Mr M J K and went on to ask questions of Officers on Mr M J K's behalf. A copy of the letter was attached to the report.
On the 19 January 2012, a response in relation to the second warning letter dated 11 January 2012 was received from Mr M J K, a copy of the email and the Officer's response was attached to the report.
On the 28 January 2012, whilst undertaking out of hours enforcement duties Licensing Officer Craig Barnes had further cause to speak to Mr M J K after he was again observed parked in the cobbled area outside The Key's on Yarm High Street, in HCV 918 with the For Hire' sign illuminated. Mr M J K confirmed to Mr Barnes he was not waiting for a booked job, when Mr Barnes started to explain the Byelaws in Respect of Hackney Carriages to Mr M J K, Mr M J K replied "You don't have to tell me anything about the byelaws, I know what it says, I know everything about the byelaws". A customer then approached the vehicle and Mr M J K nodded his head in a gesture for the customer to get in the vehicle. Mr Barnes advised Mr M J K "You have just committed an offence against the byelaws and that he would be invited to the office and questioned about it" Mr M J K simply shrugged his shoulders and drove from the location with the customer. A full account of the conversation was detailed in a Mr Barnes statement which was attached to the report.
Mr M J K was subsequently interviewed under caution about the matters detailed above. Mr M J K refused to answer certain questions, and after approximately 45 minutes Mr M J K terminated the interview. A summary of the transcript of the interview was attached to the report.
During interview Mr M J K informed Officers he was not the driver of HCV 640 on the 24 September 2011, but felt that as the proprietor of the vehicle he had a right to respond to the warning letter. When asked why he had not informed the Licensing Department he was not the driver at the time, as the warning letter requested, Mr M J K advised that Officers were aware he had a number of vehicles and should have contacted him direct to ascertain if he was the driver at the time, Officers responded by adding that over 40 warning letters were sent to drivers at that time and it would not have been viable to contact them all.
When questioned regarding the incident on 29 December 2011, Mr M J K advised there was no space on the designated rank, so he was parked in the bus stop waiting for a space to become available. Mr M J K went on to confirm that he took two passengers from this stationary position after informing Officers he was not waiting for a booked job.
When asked why he was parked in the bus stop facing on coming traffic, Mr M J K informed Officers he was parked in that location to covertly record Licensing Officers during enforcement duties. When questioned why, he replied he would not answer at this time but then went on to confirm that drivers had been covertly filming and recording Licensing Officers since an incident which occurred November 2011.
Member's were informed that, on the 16 November 2011, whilst undertaking out of hour's enforcement duties on Yarm High Street, Officer's Leanne Maloney and Polly Edwards were surround by approximately 20 males, most of whom were drivers licensed by this Authority, including Mr M J K. One male was using a hand held video camera to film Officers carrying out enforcement duties on a vehicle which was using magnetic door decals. Miss Maloney asked Mr M J K who the cameraman was and if he was a licensed driver, Mr M J K replied "No luckily he is not a licensed driver and his livelihood isn't at threat from Council employees". During interview Mr M J K confirmed the camera man was a family member, and in addition members of the Stockton Hackney Carriage Association had been covertly taking down notes, recording conversations and video taping, Licensing Officer's threatening behaviour.
When questioned regarding his conversation with Mr Barnes on 28 January 2012, Mr M J K claimed to have a passenger in his vehicle as Officers approached. He then claimed Mr Barnes became agitated and shouted at him "this is not a rank" in front of the passenger. Mr Barnes refuted the allegation claiming he did not shout at him and he did not have a passenger until towards the end of the conversation, Mr M J K claimed this was absolutely out of the question the passenger was already in the vehicle. CCTV available showed HCV 918 parked on the cobbled area near to The Keys' at 01:00 there are no passengers in the vehicle and the For Hire' sign was illuminated. Officers approached the vehicle at 01:03:38, again no passengers were visible and the For Hire' sign was still on, Mr Barnes did not appear agitated, but could be seen having a conversation with Mr M J K. After a short break when CCTV was viewing an incident on the High Street, the camera went back to the location and shows Officers were still talking to Mr M J K, a passenger got into the front passenger seat of the vehicle at 01:07:36, Mr M J K turned the For Hire' sign off and the vehicle left the location.
Following interview enquires were made into the "evidence" from Superintendent Darren Best which Mr M J K referred to. The letter in question did not make it "clear that he doesn't have an objection to it" as claimed by Mr M J K during interview. A copy of the letter was attached to the report.
Historically, Mr M J K received a warning letter for plying for hire' outside particular public houses on Yarm High Street on 16 December 2008. A copy of this warning letter was attached to the report.
Mr M J K had previously attended Licensing Committee on 8 March 2005, following a Court appearance and prosecution for possession of an offensive weapon, namely when a wheel brace was found next to the driver door compartment of his vehicle. A copy of the Committee minute 975 which referred and the subsequent suspension notice were attached to the report.
Members were informed that offences under section 73 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 related to hackney carriage and private hire vehicle proprietors, drivers and operators who:-
(1)(a) willfully obstructs an authorised Officer or constable acting in pursuance of this Part of this Act or the Act of 1847; or
(1)(b) without reasonable excuse fails to comply with any requirement properly made to him by such Officer or constable under this Part of this Act; or
(1)(c) without reasonable cause fails to give such an Officer or constable so acting any other assistance or information which he may reasonably require of such person for the purpose of the performance of his functions under this Part of this Act or the Act of 1847.
Members were also informed that a hackney carriage stand was the only situation a hackney carriage vehicle could stand stationary and ply for hire. The Byelaws With Respect to Hackney Carriages stated the driver of a hackney carriage shall, when plying for hire in any street and not actually hired,
Proceed with reasonable speed to one of the stands appointed by the council under provisions of Section 63 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
If a stand, at the time of arrival, is occupied by the full number of carriages authorised to occupy it, proceed to another stand.
Members were also reminded that under the provisions of Section 61 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 the Council may suspend or revoke or refuse to renew the licence of a hackney carriage and/or private hire driver on any of the following grounds:-
(1)(a) that he has since the grant of the Licence:-
(i) been convicted of an offence involving dishonesty, indecency or Violence; or
(ii) been convicted of an offence under or fails to comply the provisions of the
Act of 1847 or of this part of this Act; or
(1)(b) any other reasonable cause.
Members were also advised of the revisions to Section 61 introduced under the Road Safety Act 2006 as follows:-
(2A) Subject to subsection (2B) of this section, a suspension or revocation of the licence of a driver under this section takes effect at the end of the period of 21 days beginning with the day on which the notice is given to the driver under subsection (2)(a) of this section
(2B) If it appears that the interests of public safety require the suspension or revocation of the licence to have immediate effect, and the notice given to the driver under subsection (2)(a) of this section includes a statement that that is so and an explanation why, the suspension or revocation takes effect when the notice is given to the driver.
Mr M J K and his representative Mr Allanson - Allansons Solicitors were in attendance at the meeting.
Mr Allanson requested Members make a decision on whether Mr M J K had committed any offence under the byelaw act and if he should have received a caution before Licensing Officers spoke to him.
Members agreed to hear all the evidence before they came to any conclusions.
Mr Allanson was then given the opportunity to ask questions of Miss Maloney's report.
As some of the Members of the Committee had to leave to go to another meeting of the Council it was agreed that the meeting be adjourned.