Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

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

Date:
Tuesday, 8th September, 2015
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 Derrick Brown, Cllr Chris Clough, Cllr Evaline Cunningham, Cllr Philip Dennis, Cllr Mrs Jean O'Donnell, Cllr Maurice Perry, Cllr Julia Whitehill, Cllr David Wilburn, Cllr Norma Wilburn, Cllr Bill Woodhead
Officers:
Craig Barnes, Polly Edwards, Simon Mills(PH), A Pilgrim, S Whaley(LD)
In Attendance:
Witness for Agenda item 5, Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456, Applicant - Ref 140489 and his representative Mr M Vaines.
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Eileen Johnson, Cllr Stephen Parry,
Item Description Decision
Public
L
20/15
EVACUATION PROCEDURE
 
L
21/15
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
 
L
22/15
MINUTES FROM THE MEETING WHICH WAS HELD ON THE 23RD JUNE 2015
RESOLVED that the minutes be approved and signed as a correct record.
Confidential
L
23/15
PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER - REF 000884
  • Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884
RESOLVED that Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884's Licence be revoked.
L
24/15
PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER - REF 001456
  • Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456
RESOLVED that Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456 undertake the Driver Improvement Course at the next available opportunity. Failure to do so would result in a referral back to the Licensing Committee for further consideration.
L
25/15
APPLICATION FOR A PRIVATE HIRE DRIVERS LICENCE - REF 140489
  • Application for a Private Hire Drivers Licence - Ref 140489
RESOLVED that Applicant Ref - 140489's application for a Private Hire Drivers Licence be refused.
10:00

Preamble

ItemPreamble
L
20/15
The Evacuation Procedure was noted.
L
21/15
There were no declarations of interest.
L
22/15
Consideration was given to the Minutes of the meeting which was held on the 23rd June 2015 for approval and signature.
L
23/15
Consideration was given to a report for Members to determine what action to take regarding two unconnected complaints regarding a driver's conduct/behaviour towards two female customers on two separate unconnected journeys.

Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 was not in attendance at the meeting however had been notified of the meeting and been provided with a copy of the Committee report prior to the meeting.

The report detailed:

- Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884's background and details of the allegations made against him.

Attached to the report were copies of:

- Witness statements dated 11th June 2015.

- A letter to Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 informing him of allegations made against him.

- Information which was passed to the Local Authority designated Officer (LADO) in relation to the allegations made against Private Hire Driver - Ref 0000884.

- A tape recorded interview with Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884.

The Committee acknowledged that Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 was not in attendance at the meeting and had made no contact with officers to explain his non-attendance. The Committee were satisfied that Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 was aware of the meeting and resolved to proceed in his absence. The Committee also acknowledged that a witness was in attendance who had requested that she still make representation and gave direct evidence regarding her complaint.

The Committee considered the report, appendices, and oral evidence given by the witness.

The first complaint related to Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884's behaviour on 10 June 2015 towards a lone female aged 17 years old who had booked a taxi to take her from Billingham to her place of work in Middlesbrough.

The Committee were told how Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 had engaged in conversation with a young lady and questioned her about her personal activities. On discovering that she was a student at Cleveland College of Art and Design, Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 indicated that he had undertaken a Fine Art Short Course at the same college and took his mobile phone from his sun visor and proceeded to show the complainant photographs, whilst he was driving. Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 then asked the complainant if she wanted some books he was going to throw out, and said he would drop the books off at her house. The complainant was unsettled by this and made the excuse that she would be at work. In response, Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 offered to pick the complainant up at the end of her shift and told her the journey would be free of charge. The complainant was very concerned about the nature of the conversation and the fact that Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 had offered to pick her up. To compound the complainant's concerns about Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884's behaviour towards her, just before her shift was due to finish, Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 parked his taxi outside the complainant's place of work. She then received a text message from a mobile number believed to be Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884's mobile number stating "Hi it's the taxi driver, don't forget I'm picking you up. I've got those books with me". Members were then informed that the complainant received another text at 5.58pm stating, "I'm parked over the road from KFC". The complainant was so concerned about this that she rang the same taxi firm who sent another driver, and it was this driver who reported the incident to his manager.

The second complaint was made on 11 June 2015 and this related to Private Hire Driver - ref 000884's behaviour towards another lone female, also aged 17 years, who had booked a journey from Carlton to her workplace in Billingham. It was alleged that, on arriving for the female, Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 proceeded to open the front passenger door and stated, "best you get in the front". Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 then made a comment about her being very pretty and very slim, which unsettled the passenger. As the journey continued, Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 also made comments about her make-up and stated she had a ‘nice jaw line' and that he would like to draw her. Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 also said that he would like to take her to Haworth, where he took holidays, as it was nice and quiet there. The Committee were also advised that this passenger had been in the taxi with Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 a few weeks before and he had shown her photos on his phone of naked sketches he had done. The Committee was also advised that, as the young female arrived at her workplace, Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 came round to open the door and stood on the inside of the door as she got out. The young female was very concerned about the lack of personal space afforded to her, as Private hire Driver - Ref 000884 stood uncomfortably close at four to five inches from her face.

Approximately two hours later, the passenger received a text, believed to have been sent by Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884, stating, "Hello, I have your number from the data system". A short while later, a further text stating "Guess who?" was sent from Private Hire Driver - ref 000884. The passenger informed her colleague who was so concerned that she telephoned the taxi company and made a complaint on behalf of the young female.

The Committee were also informed that, following Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884's suspension, licensing staff forwarded the information to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO). In response, the LADO emailed information regarding a previous incident which took place on 24 February 2012 involving Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884.

The Committee noted that Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 was interviewed by licensing staff on 18 June 2015. In his absence, the Committee had regard to the content of the interview particularly Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884's responses to the questions posed. The Committee noted that, although Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 disagreed with, or could not recall certain comments and conduct with regard to the two complaints', with hindsight, he did acknowledge that he had acted inappropriately.

The Committee carefully considered their decision as to whether they were satisfied, at this time, that Private Hire Driver - Ref 00884 was a fit and proper person to continue holding a Private Hire Driver's licence with this authority. The Committee gave weight to the fact that two complaints related to Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884's alleged conduct towards two lone, young females and could not be connected in any way. The Committee found the nature of the allegations alarming, especially in light of the age of the females and the fact that, as lone passengers, they were vulnerable. The Committee could find no evidence of any malice on the part of the complainants' towards Private Hire Driver - ref 000884, and therefore, no evidence to suggest that they had fabricated the allegations.

In Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884's absence, the Committee noted his responses during interview were evasive at times and at best, very weak. The Committee were also concerned that Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 did not deny accessing the data records held by his employer to obtain the mobile numbers of the two females in question, and that he had clearly misused his position as a taxi driver to obtain these for his own purposes in breach of Data Protection. It was also noted that, with hindsight, Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 did admit acting inappropriately. Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884's non-attendance also concerned the Committee in light of the seriousness of the allegations against him and the opportunity he had been given to explain himself to the Committee.

The Committee were of the view that Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884 was not a fit and proper person to hold a licence with this Authority. Therefore, the Committee resolved to revoke Private Hire Driver - Ref 000884's Private Hire Driver's licence with immediate effect on grounds of public safety pursuant to section 61(1)(b) and section 61(2B) of The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976. The Committee were of the view that the overriding consideration was the safety of the public and to ensure that those licensed to drive Private Hire (and Hackney Carriage) vehicles were suitable persons to do so.
L
24/15
Consideration was given to a report for Members to determine what action to take in respect of Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456 who, during the term of licence had totted up 9 penalty points on his DVLA driving licence and had requested to appear before the Committee as an alternative to undertaking the driver improvement course.

Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456 was in attendance at the meeting and had been provided with a copy of the Committee report prior to the meeting and given the opportunity to make representation.

The report detailed:

- Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456's background and an account of the reason he had acquired so many points on his licence.

Attached to the report were copies of:

- Private Hire Drivers - Ref 001456' Private Hire Drivers Licence.

- Notifications detailing motoring convictions.

- A letter to Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456 from trading Standards and Licensing.

Members were asked to consider Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456's continued fitness to be a licensed Private Hire driver after receiving 9 penalty points on his DVLA driving licence for three separate speeding offences.

The Committee considered the report, appendices and oral evidence given by Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456. The Committee also considered the letter Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456 presented to the Members which was read out by the legal advisor to the Committee.

The Committee noted and had concerns regarding Private Hire Driver - Ref 001445's standard of driving after he was caught speeding on three separate occasions in the space of three years. Members also noted that Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456 had requested to attend the Licensing Committee as an alternative to undertaking the Driver Improvement Course as he could not afford to undertake the course.

The Committee deliberated over their decision as to whether they were satisfied at this time that Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456 was a fit and proper person to hold a licence. The Committee noted that Private Hire Driver - Ref 0014456 had declined to undertake the Driver Improvement Course as an alternative to appearing before the Committee, and wished the Committee to make a decision on his continued fitness. Members were extremely concerned regarding Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456's standard of driving and his reluctance to sit the Driver Improvement Course albeit he stated that, although he could not really afford it, Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456 would sit the course if he had to. As a result, the Committee decided that Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456 should undertake the Driver Improvement Course at the next available opportunity in light of the concerns around his standard of driving. If Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456 failed to follow the Committee's direction then he would be referred back to the Council's Licensing Committee where the Committee would re-consider Private Hire Driver - Ref 001456's continued fitness to remain a licensed driver which could result in the revocation of his licence.
L
25/15
Consideration was given to a report for Members to determine what action to take in relation to an application for a private hire driver's licence from an applicant who had seven convictions ranging from using a vehicle uninsured, driving whilst disqualified, failing to surrender to bail, failing to surrender to custody, public order, breaching a community service order and fraudulent use of a vehicle excise licence.

Applicant Ref - 140489 and his representative Mr M Vaines were in attendance at the meeting and had been provided with a copy of the Committee report prior to the meeting and given the opportunity to make representation.

The report detailed:

- Applicant Ref - 140489's background and details of his convictions.

Attached to the report were copies of:

- A copy of Applicant - Ref 140489's application for a Private Hire Drivers Licence including a copy of his driving licence.

- A copy of a tape recorded interview dated 18th May 2015.

- A copy of a letter from Royal Cars.

Members were respectfully reminded that under the provisions of section 51(1)(a) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provision) Act 1976, District Councils were instructed not to grant a licence to drive private hire vehicles, unless they were satisfied that the applicant was a fit and proper person to hold such a licence.

The Committee considered the report, appendices and oral evidence given by Applicant Ref - 140489 and his representative Mr Vaines. The Committee listened carefully to what Applicant Ref - 140489 and his representative, Mr Vaines, had to say with regard to Applicant Ref - 140489's previous convictions and also to his explanation for why he failed to declare all of his convictions.

The Committee deliberated over their decision as to whether they were satisfied at this time that Applicant Ref - 140489 was a fit and proper person to hold a licence. The Committee noted that whilst Applicant Ref - 140489 had been free from convictions for 11 years, his Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check disclosed ten offences which resulted in seven convictions. Of most concern to the Committee was the fact that the majority of the offences related to incidents which occurred in Applicant Ref - 140489's employment in the taxi trade. The Committee were also mindful that the offences were not isolated incidents and Applicant Ref - 140489 had been sentenced to three months custody.

The Committee considered the Council's Policy on Relevance of Convictions, Cautions, Reprimands, Warnings and Complaints and Character, which stated: "multiple offences or a series of offences over a period of time are likely to give greater cause for concern and may demonstrate a pattern of inappropriate behaviour, which will be taken into account ……Where an applicant has served a custodial sentence, the Council will consider the number of years since their release and the period for which they have been free of convictions when determining their fitness to be licensed".

The Committee were very concerned regarding the series of offences between December 1995 and March 2004 particularly the context in which they were committed i.e. in Applicant Ref - 140489's employment in the taxi trade rather than his personal life. Whilst eleven years had passed since Applicant Ref - 140489's last conviction, and in that period, he had been granted a Private Hire Drivers Licence with Middlesbrough Council on the same facts, the context in which the offences were committed still weighed heavily on the minds of the Committee. The Committee gave greater weight to context of the offences than the period free of conviction and were not persuaded to depart from their guidelines on this occasion. The Committee resolved that Applicant Ref - 140489 was not considered to be a fit and proper person to hold a private hire drivers licence with this Authority. Applicant Ref - 140489's application was refused under the above mentioned legislation.

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