Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

Licensing Committee Minutes

Date:
Tuesday, 24th January, 2017
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 Eileen Johnson, Cllr Mrs Jean O'Donnell, Cllr Stephen Parry, Cllr Maurice Perry, Cllr Julia Whitehill, Cllr David Wilburn, Cllr Norma Wilburn, Cllr Bill Woodhead MBE
Officers:
Jonathan Nertney(DHR&LC), Polly Edwards, Leanne Maloney, Simon Mills, Margaret Waggott, Sarah Whaley (DCE)
In Attendance:
Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546, Combined Driver - Ref 074122, Combined Driver - Ref 103792, Combined Driver - Ref 103792's representative Chris Woodrow.
Apologies for absence:
None
Item Description Decision
Public
L
36/16
EVACUATION PROCEDURE
The Evacuation Procedure was noted.
L
37/16
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
 
L
38/16
MINUTES FROM THE LICENSING SUB COMMITTEE FROM THE 15TH DECEMBER 2016
RESOLVED that the minutes were approved and signed as a correct record by the Chairman
L
39/16
PRIVATE HIRE AND HACKNEY CARRIAGE WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE VEHICLES
RESOLVED that Members accept the proposed amendments to the current policy on wheelchair accessible vehicles(WAVS) as detailed within the report.
L
40/16
GUIDELINES ON THE RELEVANCE OF CONVICTIONS, CAUTIONS, REPRIMANDS, WARNINGS, COMPLAINTS AND CHARACTER
 
L
41/16
EXCLUSION OF THE PUBLIC
 
Confidential
L
42/16
PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER - REF 130546
  • Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546
RESOLVED that Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546's Private Hire Drivers Licence be revoked for the reasons as detailed above.
L
43/16
COMBINED DRIVER - REF 074122
  • Combined Driver - Ref 074122
RERSOLVED that Combined Driver - Ref 074122 receive a written warning as to his future conduct.
L
44/16
COMBINED DRIVER - REF 103792
  • Combined Driver - Ref 103792
RESOLVED that no further action be taken as detailed above.
10:00 - 3.00pm

Preamble

ItemPreamble
L
37/16
Councillor Stephen Parry declared a personal non prejudicial interest in relation to item 10, Combined Driver - Ref 103792 as the driver was known to him. Councillor Parry left the room during consideration and voting on the item.
L
38/16
Consideration was given to the minutes from the Licensing Sub Committee Meeting which was held on the 15th December 2016.
L
39/16
The Licensing Team Leader presented Members with an update report with regards to the current Policy on wheelchair accessible vehicles(WAVS) and sought Members views on a proposed amendment to the current Policy as detailed within the report.

Members were given the opportunity to ask questions/make comments. As detailed below:

- Discussion took place around the current number of WAVs available within the Stockton taxi fleet, the current policy and how the proposed amendment to the policy would impact on drivers/operators.

- Members discussed the amount of data / research available to help identify a more accurate number of required WAV's.

- Issues were highlighted surrounding the difficulties some Members had experienced when trying to book WAV's as it appeared it was often not possible to book a suitable vehicle at short notice.

- Officers explained that there was over 3000 wheelchair users within Stockton and that WAV's should be continued to be encouraged onto the fleet. Although the authority could adopt a policy in relation to numbers of hackney carriages which were licensed WAV's they could not stipulate when drivers with WAV's operated.

- Officers confirmed that the proposed amendment to the current policy would be that all new applications for hackney carriage vehicle licences shall be required to comply with the specification for wheelchair accessible vehicles(WAV's) as set out at Appendix A of the Transport Policy. WAV's that were currently licensed may only be replaced with a like for like vehicle e.g. another WAV that complied with current policy'. It was hoped that this change would have a positive impact in increasing the number of WAV's going forward.

- Members were informed that there was currently an operator within the Stockton fleet with 2 WAV's at present that focused purely on wheelchair users and offered a bespoke service.
L
40/16
The Guidelines On The Relevance Of Convictions, Cautions, Reprimands, Warnings, Complaints And Character were attached for reference.
L
41/16
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.
L
42/16
Members were asked to consider a report and determine what action to take in relation to the continued fitness of Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 who had been suspended from driving since 10 February 2015, following an allegation he sexually assaulted a female on the 8 February 2015. This was a previously deferred item from 15 November 2016.

Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 was in attendance at the meeting with his representative Ms Louise Edwards. Papers had been provided with a copy of the committee report prior to the meeting and Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 was given the opportunity to make representation.

The report detailed the following:

- Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546's background and details of the convictions against him.

- A copy of the suspension letter issued to Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 dated 10 February 2016.

- A copy of an e mail from Cleveland Police to Licensing Officers informing them of the cancellation of Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546's bail.

- A copy of a witness statement.

- A copy of a warning letter to Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 dated 8 September 2014.

- A copy of letters to Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 dated 14th and 15th June, 20th July 2016.

- A copy of a letter from Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 to Licensing Services dated 22nd August 2016.

The role of the Committee was to determine whether Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 was a fit and proper person to hold a Private Hire Drivers Licence in accordance with The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

Members were aware that Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546's licence was suspended due to his arrest by Cleveland Police for the offence of ‘Sexual Assault', following the allegation that on the 8 February 2015 Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 intentionally touched a female.

The report presented to Members explained the allegation that had been made against Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546.

Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 was asked his version of events and about the relationship he had with the complainant. Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 explained in detail how he had met the complainant and how he had developed a friendship through his job as a taxi driver. Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 described the relationship; like that of a father and daughter.

Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 went on to confirm that on the 8 February 2015 he had shown the complainant pornographic material of himself and his girlfriend having sexual intercourse, however Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 denied that he made any suggestion to carry out this behaviour with the complainant and neither did he attempt to touch or kiss her. Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 told the Committee that he showed the female pornographic material as she had informed him that she was now a Lesbian, following the breakup of a relationship with her boyfriend. Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 explained that he wanted to show her the benefits of being Heterosexual.

The Committee listened to Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546's submission and went on to consider whether he remained a fit and proper person and/or whether there was sufficient reasonable cause to take action under Section 61 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

The Committee concluded that Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 did make friends with the complainant through his job as a taxi driver and noted that Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 did not always charge the complainant for some journeys in his taxi. It was also noted that Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 admitted giving the complainant money on occasion. The Committee found this behaviour concerning and concluded that this could be perceived to include an element of grooming of the complainant.

- Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 admitted showing the complainant pornographic material while she was at his home on the date she claimed she was sexually assaulted by Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546. Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 also admitted that he was the person in the video involved in sexual activity with another female.

The Committee noted that Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546's licence had been suspended since 10 February 2015. The Committee lifted the suspension and went on to consider Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546's continued fitness based on the full details contained within the report and the submissions Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 had made to the Committee. It was noted that Licensing officers had made a number of appointments with Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 in order to discuss the allegations which had been made by the female complainant, however Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 did not attend the arranged interviews and the report was therefore prepared to be considered by the Licensing Committee. The evidence Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 gave to the Committee was the first time he had provided an explanation in relation to his behaviour and the allegations which had been made against him.

In light of the findings detailed above the Committee deemed there to be sufficient reasonable cause to revoke Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546's licence.

Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546's licence was revoked pursuant to sections 61(1) (b) of The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

Given the particular circumstances of the conduct carried out by Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 with a young female who he had met through his work, the Committee found that public safety was an issue and Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546's licence was revoked with immediate effect under Section 61 (2B) of The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
L
43/16
Members were asked to consider a report and determine what action to take in relation to the continued fitness of Combined Driver - Ref 074122 who was arrested for sexual assault on the 11 February 2014, but failed to declare to Police at the time of arrest, or again when answering bail on the 7 April 2014 that he was a licensed taxi driver.

Combined Hire Driver - Ref 074122 was in attendance at the meeting and had been provided with committee papers prior to the meeting. Combined Driver - Ref 074122 was given the opportunity to make representation.

The report detailed the following:

- Combined Driver - Ref 074122's background and details of the allegations made against him.

- A copy of a letter and various e mail communications from Cleveland Police and Licensing Services.

- A copy of witness statements.

- A copy of a recorded interview with Combined Driver - Ref 074122 and Cleveland Police.

- A copy of Combined Driver - Ref 074122's defence statement.

- A copy of Combined Driver - Ref 074122's annual private hire/hackney carriage declaration.

- A copy of a witness statement.

- A copy of as recorded interview.

- Copies of travel details for Combined Driver - Ref 074122.

- A copy of a letter to Combined Driver - Ref 074122 in relation to a separate complaint made against him.

- A copy of Combined Driver - Ref 074122's certificate of naturalisation.

The role of the Committee was to determine whether Combined Driver - Ref 074122 was a fit and proper person to hold a Combined Drivers Licence in accordance with The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

Members were informed that Combined Driver - Ref 074122 was arrested for the offence of sexual assault on 11 February 2014. It was confirmed Combined Driver - Ref 074122 pleaded not guilty when he appeared at Teesside Crown Court on the 16 September 2014, and Combined Driver - Ref 074122 was found not guilty of all charges.

The Committee noted that the Licensing Department had not been made aware of Combined Driver - Ref 074122's arrest via the Notifiable Occupation Scheme as Combined Driver - Ref 074122 did not declare to the Police at the time of his arrest that he was a licensed driver. At the time of arrest Combined Driver - Ref 074122 gave his occupation as a shop manager and when Combined Driver - Ref 074122 answered bail on the 7 April 2014 he declared his occupation as unemployed.

Members were made aware of additional information received from an anonymous source questioning Combined Driver - Ref 074122's identity, and he advised the committee this information was untrue.

The Committee found that Combined Driver - Ref 074122 did by his own admission during a police interview, have an inappropriate conversation with a 19 year old female member of his staff during February 2014.

Combined Driver - Ref 074122 did accept he had squeezed past the female and put his hands on her waist to move her as there was little room to pass without contact.

Combined Driver - Ref 074122 did hold a licence with this Authority at the time of his arrest, when answering bail and when he appeared in court, however Combined Driver - Ref 074122 failed to declare this.

The Committee expressed concern that Combined Driver - Ref 074122 had failed to inform the Police he was a licensed taxi driver. This information was important so that consideration could be given at the time of arrest as to whether action needed to be taken to protect the public.

The Committee advised Combined Driver - Ref 074122 that should he ever be in a situation where he was arrested Combined Driver - Ref 074122 must inform the Police at that time. The Committee also advised Combined Driver - Ref 074122 to make the licensing team aware if he was arrested in the future.

The Committee reminded Combined Driver - Ref 074122 that the issuing and holding of a licence was a privilege and not a right and the overriding consideration was the safety of the public.

The Committee resolved to issue Combined Driver - Ref 074122 with a written warning as to his future conduct and advised Combined Driver - Ref 074122 to strongly heed this warning and in particular not to engage in any conversations with passengers which may be deemed inappropriate. Combined Driver - Ref 074122 was also reminded to comply with his driver licence conditions which required him to behave in a civil and orderly manner at all times.

If any further disciplinary matters arose and Combined Driver - Ref 074122 should appear before the Committee again then further action could be taken including suspension or revocation of his combined driver's licence.
L
44/16
Members were asked to consider a report and determine what action to take in relation to the continued fitness of Combined Driver - Ref 103792 who accompanied his brother, who was also a licensed driver at the time, to a formal interview with Licensing Officers to discuss an allegation of a sexual assault. During the interview Combined Driver - Ref 103792 spoke in Punjabi with his brother. A transcript of the interview and translation from Punjabi into
English revealed that Combined Driver - Ref 103792 was advising his brother what to say to Officers questions in relation to the allegation.

Combined Driver - Ref 103792 was in attendance at the meeting alongside his representative Mr Chris Woodrow from A-Z Licensing Ltd. Papers had been provided with a copy of the committee report prior to the meeting and Private Hire Driver - Ref 130546 was given the opportunity to make representation.

The report detailed the following:

- Combined Driver - Ref 103792's background and details of the allegations made against him.

- A copy of a transcript dated 23rd February 2016

- A copy of a letter to Combined Driver - Ref 103792 dated 21st April 2016 and 2nd September 2016.

- A copy of email correspondence between Licensing Services and a2z licensing.

- A copy of a letter from a2z licensing to Licensing Services dated 20th September 2016.

- A copy of a witness statement dated 2nd September 2016.

- A copy of Licensing Committee minutes dated the 23rd August 2011.

- A copy of a letter from Combined Driver - Ref 103792 to Licensing Services dated 27th April 2016.

The Committee considered all of the evidence including the report, appendices and oral evidence given by Combined Driver - Ref 103792 and the submissions made by his representative. After considering all of the information the Committee decided to take no further action with regards to the matter. The details of the Committee report and the decision would remain on Combined Driver - Ref 103792's file.

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