Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

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

Date:
Monday, 12th March, 2012
Time:
10.00 a.m.
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 (Chair); Cllr Michael Clark, Cllr Evaline Cunningham, Cllr Phillip Dennis, Cllr Ken Dixon, , Cllr Miss Tina Large, Cllr Alan Lewis, Cllr Ray McCall, Cllr Mrs Kathryn Nelson, Cllr Maurice Perry, Cllr David Wilburn and Cllr Bill Woodhead.
Officers:
C Barnes, P Edwards (DNS); P K Bell, J Nertney (LD).
In Attendance:
For agenda item 4 - Private Hire Driver Licence - Mr W B and his representative Mr Wilson (AtoZ Licensing); For agenda item 6 - Private Hire Driver Mr M A M - Mr M A M.
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Eileen Johnson and Cllr Jean Kirby.
Item Description Decision
Public
L
59/11
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
There were no interests declared.
L
60/11
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
61/11
PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER - W.B.
  • Private Hire Driver - W.B.
RESOLVED that:-

1. Mr W B's Private Hire Driver's licence be revoked.

2. The revocation take immediate effect as public safety was an issue.
L
62/11
PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER - C.J.
  • Private Hire Driver - C.J.
RESOLVED that the item be deferred.
L
63/11
PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER - M.A.M.
  • Private Hire Driver - M.A.M.
RESOLVED that Mr M A M be issued with a severe written warning as to his future conduct.
10.00 am - 1.00 pm

Preamble

ItemPreamble
L
61/11
Consideration was given to a report on a private hire driver who had provided a positive drugs test sample to Licensing Officers and was suspended.

Mr W B became a licensed Private Hire Driver with the Authority on 10 March 2011 and his licence was due to expire on 31 March 2012.

On the 30 January 2012, an anonymous complaint was received, alleging that Mr W B was using drugs, in particular cannabis after work at the weekends.

On 8 February 2012, Mr W B was contacted by the licensing department and requested to attend 16 Church Road to discuss a complaint. Mr W B attended and was advised about the complaint that had been made against him and he was asked if he was willing to provide an oral fluid sample for a drug screening test that may either prove or disprove the complaint. Mr W B denied taking drugs and in particular using cannabis, he said he did not know why someone would say this, but agreed to provide an oral fluid sample.

An oral fluid sample was provided by Mr W B for the drugs test analysis and this test revealed that Mr W B had provided a positive oral fluid sample for cannabis, amphetamines and benzodiazepines. Mr W B signed for the initial test result and was given a copy print out for his information.

As Mr W B had provided a positive first sample he was requested to provide a further oral fluid sample which would be divided into two sealed samples and sent to the Cozart laboratory for analysis. Mr W B agreed and provided a further oral fluid sample under a full chain of custody process, which was sent to the Cozart laboratory.

During the second test Mr W B was again asked if he had used drugs in particular cannabis, again he denied this and said the last time he had smoked cannabis was about a year ago in Amsterdam, before he became a licensed driver with this Authority.

On the 20 February 2012 a certificate of analysis was received from Cozart which confirmed a negative result for amphetamines and benzodiazepines. However the certificate of analysis confirmed the positive result for cannabis. The Medical Review Officer verified the presence of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in the oral fluid sample as consistent with the use of cannabis prior to sample collection. A copy of the analysis certificate was attached to the report.

This positive result was considered to be ‘sufficient reasonable' cause under the provisions of section 61(1) (b) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 to suspend Mr W B's private hire drivers' licence with immediate effect. A copy of the notice was attached to the report.

On the 21 February 2012 at approximately 16:32, Licensing Officer Simon Mills was walking past the Customer Service Centre, Church Road, Stockton and observed a male walking across the road before getting into the rear of a Stockton Licensed Hackney Carriage Vehicle. The vehicle pulled along side Mr Mills and Mr A R a licensed driver with the authority advised him that his cousin had just been into the Centre to return his badges as he had failed a drugs test. Mr Mills asked Mr A R "What did he fail on?" Mr A R replied "Cannabis". Mr Mills then turned to the young male and asked "Have you been smoking cannabis?" the male confirmed that he had by nodding his head. M Mills then explained that a report would be put before committee.

Mr W B had no live points on his DVLA licence; he had received no complaints from members or had cause for Licensing Officers to speak to him prior to this incident.

Licensing Officers tried to contact Mr W B to arrange an interview to discuss the positive result obtained by the Cozart laboratory, however Mr W B failed to make contact with as requested. Members were advised that Mr W B still was still suspended.

Member were reminded that under the provisions of Section 61 (1)(a) 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:-

(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

(b) any other reasonable cause.

and Section 61(2)

(A) 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 notice is given to the driver under subsection (2)(a) of this section,

(B) If it appears in 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 W B and his representative Mr Wilson from AtoZ Licensing were in attendance at the meeting and were given the opportunity to make representation.

Members had regard to the fact that Mr W B had tested positive for use of cannabis. When addressing Members Mr W B stated that he had started to use cannabis approximately a year ago following a visit to Amsterdam. Mr W B also advised Members that he had not failed to co-operate with the Licensing Officer as he had not received the messages she had left on his mobile phones voicemail. Mr W B stated that he did not know he could access voicemail messages on a mobile phone. In relation to the positive test Mr W B stated that he had not smoked cannabis while driving his licensed vehicle but that it remained in his system from a couple of days prior to the test. Mr W B explanation for lying to the licensing officer was that he hoped the test would not show he had smoked cannabis.

Members noted that from Mr W B's own admission he had started using cannabis before he was licensed by the Council. On its own the failure of a drugs test and the admission that Mr W B used illegal drugs would, in the opinion of Members, be sufficient reasonable cause to revoke his licence. Mr W B's behaviour was aggravated by the fact that Mr W B had lied to a licensing officer who was carrying out her duties. Not only had Mr W B admitted to using illegal drugs but he was also wilfully dishonest to a licensing officer.

Members were in no doubt that Mr W B was not a fit and proper person to be licensed and that his positive drugs test and lies were sufficient reasonable cause to revoke his licence. As illegal drugs were a factor in their decision the Committee agreed that public safety was an issue and Mr W B's licence should be revoked with immediate effect.
L
62/11
Members were informed that Mr C J had been invited to attend the meeting but was not in attendance.

Members felt that the item should be deferred.

L
63/11
Consideration was given to a report on an incident and a licensed private hire driver.

Mr M A M was a licensed private hire driver with the authority and had been since April 2011.

Information was received from Cleveland Police regarding the incident on 10 January 2012. They confirmed they were in receipt of information from CCTV / Security Centre about an incident. Police Officers viewed the footage.

The report detailed the incident. A copy of the footage was available at the meeting for Members to view.

Mr M A M was interviewed at the Licensing Office on 18 January 2012 and a transcript of the interview was attached to the report.

Mr M A M went on to describe his difficult circumstances.

Since the grant of his licence Mr M A M had not received any customer complaints. However, there was one complaint made by a member of the public and Mr M A M was spoken to about the complaint and issued a written warning as to his future conduct. A copy of this warning was attached to the report.

Mr M A M agreed to undertake a drugs test in the office following his interview. The initial screening produced a positive test result for Benzodiazepines; however lab tests results confirmed this was a negative.

Mr M A M was very apologetic for his behaviour and realised the seriousness of his actions on his livelihood and family. He was desperate not to lose his private hire drivers licence as this will have huge consequences for him and his family.

Member were reminded that under the provisions of Section 61 (1)(a) 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:-

(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

(b) any other reasonable cause.

and Section 61(2)

(A) 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 notice is given to the driver under subsection (2)(a) of this section

(B) If it appears in 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.

A copy of the council guidelines on the Relevance of Convictions was attached to the report.

Mr M A M was in attendance at the meeting and was given the opportunity to make representation.

Members had regard to the report and the attached appendices, copies of which had been given to Mr M A M prior to the meeting. Members also listened carefully to what Mr M A M had to say with regard to the matters disclosed. Members noted the fact that Mr M A M was apologetic with regard to what happened and his behaviour. Mr M A M assured the Members that this was the first and only time he had done this and that he had learnt his lesson and such actions would not be repeated.

Members deliberated as to whether they were satisfied at this time that Mr M A M was a fit and proper person to hold a licence. Members felt that this was a borderline decision as to whether Mr M A M's licence should be revoked. After considering all of the facts and Mr M A M's particular personal circumstances Members decided not to revoke his licence. Members indicated that they were putting their faith in Mr M A M's assurance that he had learnt his lesson and assured them that he would not appear before them again.

Members agreed on this occasion, to issue Mr M A M with this severe warning and to remind him as to his future conduct as such behaviour would not be tolerated by the Council.

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