Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

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

Date:
Thursday, 31st July, 2014
Time:
10:00 am
Place:
Council Chamber, Town Hall, High Street, Stockton on Tees, TS18 1AJ
 
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 Eileen Johnson, Cllr Miss Tina Large, Cllr Maurice Perry, Cllr David Wilburn, Cllr Bill Woodhead
Officers:
J. Jones (DNS) M.Jones, J. Nertney (LD)
In Attendance:
J. Smith (Barrister)
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Phillip Dennis,Cllr Ken Dixon,Cllr Jean Kirby,Cllr Alan Lewis, Cllr Ray McCall,
Item Description Decision
Public
L
37/14
EVACUATION PROCEDURE
 
L
38/14
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
 
L
39/14
LICENSING SUB COMMITTEE MINUTES WHICH WAS HELD ON THE 20TH MAY 2014.
RESOLVED that the minutes be approved and signed as a correct record.
L
40/14
MINUTES FROM THE MEETING WHICH WAS HELD ON THE 17TH APRIL 2014
RESOLVED that the minutes be approved and signed as a correct record.
L
41/14
MINUTES FROM THE MEETING WHICH WAS HELD ON THE 10TH JUNE 2014
RESOLVED that the minutes be approved and signed as a correct record.
L
42/14
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
43/14
COMBINED HACKNEY CARRIAGE/PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER - REF 001025
  • Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025
RESOLVED that Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025's licence be revoked.
10.00am/10.25am

Preamble

ItemPreamble
L
37/14
The evacuation procedure was noted.
L
38/14
There were no declarations of interest.
L
39/14
Consideration was given to the minutes from the meeting which was held on 20th May 2014.
L
40/14
Consideration was given to the minutes from the meeting which was held on 17 April 2014.

It was noted that Cllr Woodhead and Cllr Perry's apologies were submitted at the reconvened Licensing Committee meeting on 27 May 2014.
L
41/14
Consideration was given to the minutes from the meeting which was held on 10th June 2014.
L
43/14
Consideration was given to a report on Combined Hackney Carriage / Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 who it was alleged, through his actions on Yarm High Street, had breached paragraph 7 of the Byelaws with Respect to Hackney Carriages by failing, when plying for hire and not actually hired, to proceed to the next available designated rank. The driver in question appeared before the Licensing Committee on 14 May 2013 with regard to similar breaches and had his licence revoked. The driver's subsequent appeal to the Magistrates Court against this revocation, heard on 30 September 2013, was allowed on the basis of a signed Undertaking given to the Court that he would abide by the Byelaws and a final written warning as to his future conduct.

The report detailed: -

- Hackney carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025's background.

- Information relating to the reasons why Hackney carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 was before the Committee.

- The minutes of the previous meeting of the Licensing Committee that related to Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025.

- A copy of the Committee decision letter dated 17 May 2013 which related to Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025.

- A copy of the signed Undertaking given to the Court by Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025, which had been redacted to remove information not relevant to the Committee.

- A copy of letters to Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 from Stockton Borough Council.

- A copy of witness statements relating to test purchases which had taken place on the evening of Friday 11th October 2013.

- A copy of written submission from Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025's legal representative.

- A copy of the County of Cleveland (High Street, Yarm) Order 1978 which prohibits waiting at the bus stop and photographic evidence to show the bus stop is governed by double yellow lines.

- Email from Stockton Hackney Carriage Drivers Association outlining concerns at actions of drivers in Yarm.

- A copy of witness statements relating to events on 14th December 2013 and 10th May 2014

- Letters of complaints from other licensed drivers regarding the actions of Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025.

- A copy of Article 17, Schedule 7 and the Plan to the Traffic Regulation Order.

- A detailed plan of Yarm High Street.

- A copy of the Byelaws from Hackney Carriages.

Oral evidence was heard from J Jones.

The Committee were informed that 11 July 2014 Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 legal representative, Mr Allanson, wrote to Mr Jones in the Councils Trading Standards and Licensing Section indicating that his client wished to surrender his combined hackney carriage and private hire vehicle drivers' licence. The letter enclosed the driver's paper licence, drivers badge and plate. The letter stated "as our Client is no longer a licence holder and is therefore not subject to regulation by your Authority, you will no doubt remove from the agenda the item relating to him for the Committee meeting set for the 31st July 2014". It was noted that the Committee meeting had been arranged since 16 June 2014, at Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 convenience, when all parties had been advised of the meeting arrangements. The Committee noted that efforts had been made to arrange the meeting for some months but the driver had been in and out of the country and had also requested that Ramadan be avoided, therefore it had not been possible to arrange the meeting. Members further noted that the meeting had been arranged for almost four weeks before he had indicated he wished to surrender his licence.

Members were informed that Mr Jones responded to Mr Allanson on 16 July 2014 to inform him that the Committee item would not be removed from the agenda and the Committee would be advised of the correspondence that had been received and that the driver had indicated he wished to surrender his licence. Mr Jones advised that Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 remained subject to disciplinary proceedings in relation to his licence and that the Committee would determine how to proceed. Mr Allanson and the driver were reminded that they were invited to attend the Committee meeting.

Further exchanges of e-mails took place, with each party reiterating their view on the legal position of the licence. The Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 was advised that his licence remained in force under the legislation until suspended or revoked or it expired through the passage of time i.e. until its expiry date which in relation to his licence was 28 February 2015. The driver indicated that he no longer recognised the authority of the Licensing Committee. On 30 July 2014 Hackney carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 e-mailed Mr Jones and stated that "neither I or my Solicitor is attending and nor are we required to attend". He expressed the view that he believed the Committee meeting was a waste of public funds and resources. The driver requested that a refund be actioned from 12 July 2014

The Committee were mindful that they were required to determine a preliminary matter, namely whether they had the lawful authority to accept the surrender of Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 licence, and, if they did, whether they were minded to do so.

The Committee considered all of the correspondence and e-mails that had been exchanged on this issue. The Committee also had regard to advice from Mr Nertney, the legal advisor to the Committee, and Barrister Smith. The Committee were of the view that the legislation which governed Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025's licence had no statutory provision permitting the surrender of a licence and therefore there was no lawful authority for him to surrender his licence. In essence all the driver had done was return his licence to the Council but the licence itself remained in existence until suspended, revoked or on its expiry on 28 February 2015. The Committee noted that there may be circumstances when a driver may wish to surrender their licence such as if a driver was to retire through ill health or would no longer utilise their licence if they died. However this was not the case here as Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 was subject to disciplinary proceedings which had been investigated and were being put before the Committee for them to determine what action to take in relation to his licence. In the view of the Committee there were clear public policy considerations in considering the report and deciding what action, if any to take. In the view of the Committee it would not. In most circumstances, be appropriate for drivers who were subject to investigation or disciplinary proceedings to attempt to circumvent that process by surrendering their licence. As in all matters that were considered by the Committee, each case had to be considered on its individual merits.

As the Committee reached the view that they had no statutory authority to accept the surrender of Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 licence they then proceeded to consider the report. The Committee noted that Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 and his legal representative had been invited to attend the meeting but they had indicated that neither of them would be attending. The Committee resolved to consider the report in the absence of Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025.

The Committee 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.

The Committee noted that Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 had already been issued previous warning regarding his behaviour and that he had his licence revoked by the Committee in 2013. The driver had appealed that revocation to Teesside Magistrates Court and the matter was heard before District Judge Harrison on 30 September 2013. He signed a written undertaking before the Court and the appeal was upheld and replaced with a final written warning. The final written warning was issued under cover of letter dated 08 October 2013. Despite this the Council continued to receive complaints from other licensed drivers relating to Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025's manner of operating in Yarm which was alleged to continue to be in breach of the Councils Byelaws. The Council also undertook test purchase operations in Yarm on the evening of Friday 11 October 2013 into the early morning of Saturday 12 October 2013. The Committee were informed that on two occasions Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 had parked up in and around Yarm High Street in breach of the Council Byelaws. He had not used the rank on Yarm High Street nor had he proceeded to the next nearest rank. The driver had then, on two occasions, collected undercover licensing officers and undertaken a journey.

Despite being well aware of the Hackney Carriage Byelaws and the Councils view in relation to his manner of operation on Yarm High Street Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 was caught in a test purchase operation by Trading Standards Officers. The Committee found that on the balance of probabilities he had acted in breach of the byelaw by failing to proceed to the next available rank when the rank in Yarm High Street was full.

After considering all the evidence the Committee concluded that despite the warnings and advice that had been communicated by the Trade Times and the Undertaking he had given to the Magistrates Court Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 continued to act in a manner in breach of the Councils Byelaws by not proceeding to the next available rank when the Yarm High Street rank was full. The Committee noted Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025 previous history and the fact that despite having his licence returned following the appeal hearing he had continued to act in a manner contrary to the Councils Byelaws and that this was deliberate behaviour on his part. The Committee found there to be no mitigating circumstances on the driver's behalf which would excuse his behaviour and actions. The Licensing Committee resolved that Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025's continued deliberate refusal to comply with Council Byelaws was relevant to their fitness as a licensed driver. The Committee also found that he had breached the Undertaking made before Teesside Magistrates Court which also called into question Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver - Ref 001025's continued fitness to hold a licence.

The Committee resolved that given their findings and under the provisions of Section 61(1)(b) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous) Provisions Act 1976 there was considered to be sufficient reasonable cause to revoke his licence.

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