Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

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

Date:
Tuesday, 29th May, 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 Phillip Dennis, Cllr Ken Dixon, Cllr Eileen Johnson, Cllr Ray McCall, Cllr Andrew Sherris (Vice Cllr Maurice Perry), Cllr David Wilburn and Cllr Bill Woodhead.
Officers:
J Nertney, P K Bell (LD); L Maloney, S Mills (DNS).
In Attendance:
For agenda item 5 - Hackney Carriage Driver Mr B L - Mr B L (Hackney Carriage Driver), Mrs P and Mr D (Witnesses); For agenda item 6 - Application for Combined Licence - Mr I H; For agenda item 8 - Application for Private Hire Drivers Licence - Mr A D.
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Evaline Cunningham, Cllr Jean Kirby, Cllr Tina Large, Cllr Alan Lewis, Cllr Mrs Kathryn Nelson and Cllr Maurice Perry.
Item Description Decision
Public
L
12/12
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
There were no interests declared.
L
13/12
MINUTES
The minutes of the meetings held on 21st February 2012, 8th March 2012 and 12th March 2012 were confirmed and sign by the Chair as a correct record.
L
14/12
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 paragraphs 1 and 2 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.
Confidential
L
15/12
HACKNEY CARRIAGE DRIVER - B.L.
  • Hackney Carriage Driver - B.L.
RESOLVED that:-

1. Mr B L be issued with a severe written warning as to his future conduct.

2. Mr B L attend a disability awareness training course at his own expense.

3. Mr B L write a letter of apology to Miss R P.
L
16/12
APPLICATION FOR PRIVATE HIRE & HACKNEY CARRIAGE DRIVER LICENCE - I.H.
  • Application For Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver Licence - I.H.
RESOLVED that the grant of Mr I H's licence be delegated to the Chair and Vice Chair of the Licensing Committee.
L
17/12
PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER - N.A.
  • Private Hire Driver - N.A.
RESOLVED that the item be deferred.
L
18/12
PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER LICENCE - A.D.
  • Private Hire Driver Licence - A.D.
RESOLVED that:-

1. Mr A D's licence be granted.

2. Mr A D undertake a medical before he is granted a licence.
10.00am - 1.00pm

Preamble

ItemPreamble
L
15/12
Consideration was given to a report on the continued fitness of a Hackney Carriage Driver who had allegedly refused to take a female customer because she had an assistance dog.

Mr B L was a Hackney Carriage Driver with the Authority and had been since 1992 and his licence was due to expire on the 28th February 2014.

On the 9th November 2012, at approximately 13:42 hours a complaint was received from a hackney carriage driver regarding the actions of Mr B L. The complainant alleged that Mr B L was the first vehicle on the main taxi rank in Billingham, and he had witnessed him refuse a female customer because she had an assistance dog.

At approximately 13:51 hours on the same day a Licensing Officer, contacted Mr B L on the telephone and explained that he had received a complaint that he had refused a female with an assistance dog. The Licensing officer asked if he was working on the rank in Billingham as the complainant had reported. Mr B L confirmed he was working from the rank. Mr B L then explained that he knew where the report had came from and he gave the name of Mr G D. Mr B L then admitted to refusing the dog. The details of the conversation was included in the report and a copy of The Licensing Officer's pocket note book was attached to the report.

On the 5th January 2012, a witness statement was obtained from the complainant. A copy of the complainant's statement was attached to the report.

Enquiries were made to ascertain the contact details of the female with the assistance dog and a witness statement was obtained from her on the 28th February 2012. A copy of the witness statement and 2 photographs of the assistance dog were attached to the report.

On the 9th March 2012, Mr B L was interviewed under caution by two Licensing Officers. It was explained to Mr B L that the reason for the interview was it was alleged he may have committed an offence under the Equality Act 2010 by refusing to take a customer with an assistance dog and also an offence under the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, by refusing to drive when standing on a rank.

During interview Mr B L initially denied making the comments to the Licensing Officer on the telephone on the 9th November 2011. He also denied refusing the assistance dog as he had a customer in the vehicle namely, Miss N K. Mr B L also confirmed that Miss N K was his friend and they had become friendly as she was a frequent user of taxis and would often sit in his car to have a chat.

Mr B L's explanation for his comments to the Licensing Officer on the 9th November 2012 were, he was thinking of the time when a dog urinated in his car that's why he said what he did.

In the latter part of the interview Mr B L confirmed that he did refuse the assistance dog and agreed that he may have said the comments on the telephone to the Licensing Officer.

Mr B L again changed his story and stated he did not refuse the fare as he had a customer in the vehicle, namely Miss N K. A summary of the interview was attached to the report.

Contact was made with Miss N K and a statement was taken from her on 13th April 2012. A copy of Miss N K's statement was attached to the report.

On the 16th May 2012, a worksheet dated 9th November 2011 was received from Mr B L, a copy of the worksheet was attached to the report.

Attached to the report was a copy of adopted guidelines relating to the Relevance of convictions for Member's information.

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 B L, Mr G D and Mrs R P were in attendance at the meeting and were given the opportunity to make representation.

Members had regard to the report and attached appendices, copies of which had been given to Mr B L prior to the meeting. Members also listened carefully to what Mr B L had to say with regard to the matters disclosed. Members noted and had regard to a letter from Mr B L's solicitor which had been approved by Mr B L and which provided an explanation for the incident, apologised and provided Mr B L's assurance that it would not happen again.

Members also heard evidence from Mr G D, a licensed driver who had witnessed the alleged incident and Miss R P the female customer with the assistance dog.

Members deliberated over their decision as to whether they were satisfied at this time whether Mr B L was still a fit and proper person to hold a licence. Members considered all evidence and found Mr B L's evidence to be untruthful and misleading. It was noted that rather than providing the apology as detailed in his solicitors letter Mr B L had given evidence to Members which was contradictory and found by Members to be untruthful. Members found the evidence of Mr G D and Miss R P to be persuasive and on the balance of probabilities Mr B L's evidence was not a true or accurate account of the incident.

In finding that Mr B L had lied to Members they gave serious consideration to revoking his licence as honesty and integrity were important qualities for determining a licence holder's fitness. Mr B L's long history as a licensed driver and the fact that he did not have a disciplinary record were factors which persuaded Members not to revoke his licence at this time. Members noted that Mr B L's behaviour was not only illegal but also brought other drivers and the taxi trade in general into disrepute. Members agreed on this occasion to issue Mr B L with this severe written warning as to his future conduct.

Members also agreed that as Mr B L had indicated he was not fully aware of the legal requirements to transport assistance dogs Mr B L was required to attend a disability awareness training course at his own expense.

Mr B L was also required to write a letter of apology to Miss R P which should be sent direct the Licensing Department where it's content would be checked and then forwarded on to Miss R P.

Members also informed Mr B L that Mr G D had acted quite rightly and honourably in reporting the incident to the Licensing Department. It appeared that Mr B L may bear some animosity toward Mr G D but the fault for Mr B L appearing before Members rested solely on Mr B L's shoulders for his refusal to transport Miss R P and her assistance dog. Mr B L was warned by Members that they did not expect to hear of any repercussion from him or any associate or friend of his towards Mr G D.

If Mr B L failed to adhere to any of the requirements of the Committee then Mr B L would be brought back before the Members where they may consider revoking his licence.
L
16/12
Consideration was given to a report on the fitness of an applicant for a combined licence to drive hackney carriage and private hire vehicles who had relevant convictions for a major traffic offence and further motoring offences.

Mr I H had submitted an application for a combined licence to drive hackney carriage and private hire vehicles with the Authority. A copy of his application was attached to the report.

Mr I H first made an application for a combined drivers licence in June 2010 and was interviewed on 17th August 2010 regarding his CRB disclosure. A summary of the transcript of the interview was attached to the report.

This issue was brought before the Licensing Committee on 4th November 2010. Mr I H did not attend the hearing, but Members resolved to refuse the application in his absence, minute reference 91/10 which refers and a copy of the committee decision letter were attached to the report.

Mr I H was spoken to again on 18th April 2012. When asked why he didn't attend Licensing Committee in November 2010, Mr I H said he had already had his application refused by Middlesbrough Council Licensing Committee, so thought there was little point in attending.

During interview Mr I H claimed he had received no further convictions. This was confirmed by Mr I H's CRB disclosure.

Mr I H's DVLA driving licence a copy of which was included with his application, showed eight live DVLA penalty points which were due to expire from the ‘totting up procedure' in August 2012. Mr I H had been working since submitting his last application and was employed part time in a sandwich shop.

A copy of the Council's guidelines on the Relevance of Convictions was attached to the report for Member's information.

Members were respectfully reminded that under the provisions of Section 51(1) (a) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, District Councils are instructed not to grant a licence to drive private hire vehicles unless they are satisfied that the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold such a licence. Section 59 (1) (a) provides the same instruction in respect of applicants for hackney carriage drivers.

Members were advised that if Mr I H had passed his DSA driving test and if he was considered to be a fit and proper person based on his convictions, his application would proceed and his licence would be granted upon completion of his knowledge test, medical assessment and payment of fees.

Mr I H was in attendance at the meeting and was given the opportunity to make representation.

Members considered the report and attached appendices, copies of which had been given to Mr I H prior to the meeting. Members also listened carefully to what Mr I H had to say with regard to the matters disclosed.

Members were not persuaded by the information presented by Mr I H to depart from the Policy Guidelines, when determining his fitness. Members found that owing to Mr I H's history of driving convictions he was not a fit and proper person to hold a drivers licence at this time. Members decided to defer consideration of Mr I H's application until August.

Members were of the view that when Mr I H's 8 points on his DVLA licence expire in August this year then Members would be minded to grant his application. Members therefore decided to defer their decision on Mr I H's application for the grant of a Hackney Carriage and Private Hire drivers licence until August 2012.

Members indicated that should the points expire and Mr I H receive no further points between now and August 2012 or have no pending prosecutions or other relevant issues then the grant of your licence be delegated to the Chair and Vice Chair of the Committee.

Mr I H was required to contact the Licensing Officer at the beginning of August in order to attend the Licensing Office to complete a DVLA mandate form and pay the 5 administration charge. On receipt of the DVLA mandate the Chair and Vice Chair would then determine whether to grant Mr I H's licence.
L
17/12
An email from Mr N A requesting that his item be deferred was circulated to Members.

Members agreed with the request.
L
18/12
Consideration was given to a report on a renewal application of a Licensed Private Hire Driver, who had previously appeared before the Licensing Committee in July 2010 and was suspended for lying to officers during investigations into possible Housing Benefit Fraud.

At the request of Mr A D the case was reheard by the Licensing Committee in August 2011 but Mr A D failed to attend the meeting and remained suspended and the matter was deferred pending the outcome of a fraud investigation.

Mr A D was a licensed Private Hire Driver with the Authority and had been since 1997 and his licence expired on 31st August 2010, but Mr A D had applied to renew his licence. Mr A D had mentioned health problems to a Licensing Officer during ongoing enquiries and Mr A D was over 45 therefore evidence of medical fitness was required. Copies of his renewal application were attached to the report.

Mr A D appeared before the Licensing Committee on the 28th July 2010. A copy of the meeting minute which referred was attached to the report.

At that time Members decided to defer further consideration of the matter as requested by Mr A D's solicitor, pending further information being obtained from the DWP. A copy of this letter was attached to the report.

On the 23rd February 2011 an appointment was made for Mr A D to attend the Licensing Office on Tuesday 1st March 2011 to speak to a Fraud Investigation Officer. On the 25th February 2011 Mr A D emailed the Fraud Investigation Officer to postpone the interview as he was unable to get an appointment to see his solicitor before the scheduled meeting.

A further appointment was arranged for Mr A D to attend 16 Church Road. Mr A D did attend this appointment but the meeting did not really achieve anything as Mr A D was unable to provide details of past living arrangements to Fraud Investigation Officer.

During the meeting Mr A D confirmed that he did not have access to a car and wanted his badge back so that he could have access to a car. He explained that a taxis company had previously given him a car to use for his own personal use.

During the interview Mr A D agreed to sign a data access request form, this was done with a copy of the same being given to Mr A D.

At the end of the interview Mr A D was observed by a Licensing Officer leaving Stockton in a black Renault Clio, registration mark NX10 YHP despite him saying in interview that he did not have access to a vehicle. The Licensing Officer also took a photograph of the vehicle as it pulled away, a copy of this photograph was attached to the report.

On the 17th March 2011 a Licensing Officer and a Fraud Investigation Officer visited a taxis company for a meeting to discuss Mr A D.

During the meeting it was confirmed that all of their drivers were self employed and a signed form from Mr A D's file which confirmed he understood that he was self employed and what his obligations were as a self employed driver. A copy of this document was attached to the report.

Booking records were then produced from their computer system relating to when Mr A D last worked. From their computers he was able to produce set of booking records consisting of 14 pages from the 12th March 2010 until 4th May 2010 relating to car 97. A copy of the records was attached to the report.

Driver details sheet was produced; this confirmed that Mr A D started work with the taxis company on the 8th July 2008. A copy of this record was attached to the report.

A vehicle detail sheet was also produced which showed the vehicle registration mark AE06 UDD was call sign 97 and was a red Skoda Octavia which was the vehicle Mr A D was using on the 21st April 2010 when he first spoken to by a Licensing Officer and a Fraud Investigation Officer. A copy of this was attached to the report.

At the request of Mr A D this case was reheard by the Committee in August 2011 but Mr A D failed to attend the meeting and remained suspended and the matter was deferred pending the conclusion of the Council's Housing Benefits Department and the Department for Work and Pensions investigation (DWP).

A copy of the meeting minute 25/11 which referred and a copy of the decision letter were attached to the report.

The Fraud Investigation Officer had confirmed that despite numerous requests the DWP were not carrying out any investigation in relation to Mr A D. He also confirmed that the Councils Benefits Department had found insufficient evidence to proceed with an investigation which was closed. The Fraud Investigation Officer had provided an overview in relation to the matters outlined above; a copy of this report was attached to the report.

Attached to the report was a copy of adopted guidelines relating to the Relevance of convictions for Member's information.

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

Members had regard for the report and attached appendices, copies of which had been given to Mr A D prior to the meeting. Members also listened carefully to what Mr A D had to say with regard to the matters disclosed.

Members deliberated over their decision as to whether they were satisfied at this time whether Mr A D was still a fit and proper person to hold a licence. It was noted that the DWP and Council Benefits investigators had indicated that following investigation no criminal proceedings would be brought against Mr A D. Members had some concerns that during the course of the investigation Mr A D had been found to have lied to Officers. However, Members agreed to grant Mr A D's licence. If there were any further issues concerning Mr A D's honesty he would be brought back before the Licensing Committee where his continued fitness to hold a licence would be considered. Members advised that Mr A D must ensure when he does work he must comply with all requirements relating to any benefit claims. Mr A D must ensure that he did not claim any benefits that he was not entitled to. Members also advised that Mr A D must undertake a medical before he was granted a licence.

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