Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

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

Date:
Tuesday, 19th February, 2013
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 (Chairman), Cllr Michael Clark, Cllr Evaline Cunningham, Cllr Phillip Dennis, Cllr Ken Dixon, Cllr Eileen Johnson, Cllr Miss Tina Large, Cllr Alan Lewis, Cllr Mrs Kathryn Nelson, Cllr Maurice Perry, Cllr David Wilburn, Cllr Bill Woodhead
Officers:
C Barnes, S Mills (DNS); Jonathan Nertney, Tanya Harrison (LD)
In Attendance:
Drivers and Solicitor
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Jean Kirby, Cllr Ray McCall
Item Description Decision
Public
L
79/12
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
 
L
80/12
EXCLUSION OF THE PUBLIC
 
Confidential
L
81/12
PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER - 000904
  • Private Hire Driver - 000904
RESOLVED that the contents of the report be noted and that the driver had surrendered his licence prior to the meeting.
L
82/12
PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER - 088907
  • Private Hire Driver - 088907
RESOLVED that under Section 61(1)(a) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous) Provisions Act 1976 the driver's license will be revoked and the drivers conviction for drink driving and disqualification from driving was a matter of public safety and it was deemed to be relevant and sufficient that the revocation of the drivers licence had immediate effect pursuant to Section 61 2(B) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
L
83/12
APPLICATION FOR A PRIVATE HIRE & HACKNEY CARRIAGE DRIVER LICENCE - 000987
  • Application For A Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver Licence - 000987
RESOLVED that the application for a Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Drivers' Licence be refused as the applicant was not considered to be a fit and proper person.
L
84/12
APPLICATION FOR A PRIVATE HIRE DRIVERS LICENCE - 132081
  • Application For A Private Hire Drivers Licence - 132081
RESOLVED that the application for a Private Hire Driver's Licence be refused as the applicant had a caution for a fraud act offence and was deemed not to be a fit and proper person to hold a private hire drivers licence.
L
85/12
APPLICATION FOR A PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER LICENCE 102063
  • Application For A Private Hire Driver Licence 102063
RESOLVED that the application for a Private Hire Driver's Licence be refused as the applicant was deemed not to be a fit and proper person to hold a private hire licence.
10.00am - 12.00pm

Preamble

ItemPreamble
L
79/12
There were no declarations of interest.
L
81/12
Members considered a report to determine the action to be taken in respect to the behaviour of a licensed private hire driver following a complaint.

The driver, of Stockton-on-Tees, had been a licensed private hire driver since January 1987. His current licence expired in February 2014.

In October 2012, a complaint was received from the daughter-in-law of an elderly lady. The lady had booked a taxi on 2 October 2012 to take her to University Hospital North Tees from her home address in Billingham.

The driver was sent the job via his data system in his vehicle. He accepted the job which had a ‘job note' on the system which clearly said, "Come to the front door to help her" and this was displayed on the driver's data screen in the vehicle.

The driver arrived at the address and went to the front door to assist the customer. When he got there he found the lady collapsed on the floor. The lady's son, provided a statement saying his mother told him that the driver had arrived and seen her on the floor and said, ‘I haven't got time to hang around I have another job booked in'. The driver then left the house and drove away, leaving the lady on the floor and the front door open.

The lady eventually managed to crawl into her lounge from the hallway and telephone her son for assistance who worked in Stockton. Her son had closed his business and made his way to Billingham to assist his mother. Upon his arrival he found his mother in a very distressed state, propped up against the chair in the living room.

The driver was interviewed and initially denied having any problems with or incidents with customers. When prompted further he recalled the job and said that when he got there the lady was already on the floor with the door open. He states he did try to assist but the lady was too big for him to pick up. The driver advised that he helped prop the lady up in the hallway and then told her that he had to leave and go to another job. He advised officers that he radioed the office and told them to send another car to help the lady and he then drove off.

Enquiries were made with the office and it was confirmed that the driver did make contact with them and explained what had happened. The telephone operator informed him they did not have any other cars to send and that he would have to sort it out himself, it was impossible for him to do anything as he was in an office in Stockton.

During the drivers interview he stated that he had done the best job he could and that he had panicked. When questioned further the only response he could give was an apology and to add that it was "Shoddy workmanship, that's what it boils down to".

In the interview the driver was asked if he had any problems or issues that could explain his behaviour. He advised the officers that he had been recently diagnosed with a common form of male cancer related to his prostate. He confirmed this was not causing him any issues regarding his driving ability.

The driver had been spoken to on two other occasions regarding his behaviour, on both occasions he was issued with verbal advice. Once regarding smoking in his vehicle, the other regarding his attitude with a young female passenger and an issue regarding the way in which change was given.

The driver surrendered his license to the Licensing Department prior to the meeting.
L
82/12
Members considered a report on what action to take in respect of a licensed private hire driver who during the term of his licence was suspended with immediate effect and was still suspended by this Authority on medical grounds after he allegedly blacked out at the wheel of a private hire vehicle and collided with street furniture. Since this date the Licensing Department had received two Police Notifications advising that he had been arrested. The first arrest related to the accident mentioned above when he was arrested for driving whilst unfit through drink or drugs and also possession of a controlled drug, namely cocaine. This had resulted in him being convicted of drink driving and he had been disqualified from driving for 22 months. No further action was taken in relation to the possession of cocaine. The second arrest related to conspiracy to supply a controlled drug, namely heroin and the driver was still on police bail.

The driver of Middlesbrough was a licensed private hire driver with this Authority and he had been since March 2011 and his current licence expires in March 2013.

On the 18th September 2012, the Licensing department received a notification of accident damage to a private hire vehicle from Royal Cars. The form detailed that the driver was the driver at the time of the accident and that he had blacked out. A copy of the accident damage form and photographs of the vehicle at the scene of the accident were provided to Members.

Mr Mills made contact with the driver and he confirmed that he had blacked out at the wheel of a private hire vehicle causing an accident.

On the 20th September 2012, the drivers licence was suspended with immediate effect on medical grounds.

On the 26th September 2012, the Licensing Department received notification from Cleveland Police that the driver had been arrested for driving a mechanically propelled vehicle whilst unfit through drink and drugs and also for possessing a Class A Controlled Drug, namely Cocaine.

On the 12th November 2012, the Licensing Department received a further notification from Cleveland Police that the driver had been arrested for conspiracy to supply a Class A controlled drug, namely Heroin.

The driver contacted the Licensing Department advising that he wished to surrender his private hire driver's licence. He was advised to put his request in writing and confirmation was received from the driver on the 23rd November 2012.

On the 12th December 2012, Licensing Department received notification from Cleveland Police that the driver had been convicted of driving a motor vehicle with excess alcohol (72 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath) and was disqualified from driving for 22 months.

Members had regard to the report and appendices.

Members noted that the drivers licence had been suspended on medical grounds and that the driver had declared to officers that he had passed out at the wheel of his private hire vehicle which resulted in an accident. Members noted that the driver had returned his drivers badges and indicated in a letter dated 19 November 2012 that he wished to surrender his licence. Members were not minded to accept the surrender of his licence and they considered whether he continued to be a fit and proper person to hold a licence and whether on the basis of the information before them there was reasonable cause to revoke his licence.

Members had regard to the driver's conviction for drink driving and also that he had been disqualified from driving for 22 months as a result of his conviction.

Members also noted that at the time of the driver's accident he was found to be in possession of a Class A controlled drug namely Cocaine. It was noted that the Police took no further action in relation to that issue.

Members also noted that the driver had been arrested for conspiracy to supply a Class A controlled drug, namely Heroin and the Police investigation was still on-going.

Members found that the on-going Police investigation into conspiracy to supply a Class A controlled drug relevant factors. Members also found the drivers conviction for drink driving and disqualification from driving a matter of public safety and it was deemed to be relevant and sufficient that the revocation of the drivers licence had immediate effect pursuant to Section 61 2(B) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
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83/12
Members were provided with a report to determine a new application from a person who was previously licensed by this Authority as a Combined Driver, but had his licence revoked by this Committee in November 2010 after he was convicted for an offence of battery.

The driver of Stockton-on-Tees has applied to become a Combined Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Driver with this Authority.

The driver was licensed with this Authority from 2000 until November 2010 when his licence was revoked by this Committee after he was convicted of an offence of Battery in 2009.

An important part of the vetting process was to undertake a Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) check. This was done and returned to the applicant with a copy being sent to the Local Authority. The record disclosed no further convictions but a substantial amount of additional information. This was disclosed at the discretion of the Chief Constable of Cleveland Police and the final paragraph stated, ‘After careful consideration Cleveland Police believe that the information ought to be disclosed because children and adults could be put at risk of violence if he were to be in a position of trust. In this case the applicant's right to privacy was outweighed by the need to disclose to protect the interests of the vulnerable.

The driver was written to and advised that his licence was revoked on the grounds of public safety and was asked if he would like to submit any comments in advance of the hearing explaining to the Members why he felt he was a fit and proper person to hold such a licence and what had changed since his licence was revoked in November 2010.

In November 2012, the driver attended the Customer Contact Centre to check on the progress of his application. At this time he advised the customer services advisor he did not wish to make any comments and that he did not receive the above mentioned letter. He did receive a copy of Mr Mills letter at this time.

Members noted that the driver was not in attendance, but had contacted the Licensing Department and requested an adjournment as the driver was on holiday. Members granted the drivers previous adjournment request and adjourned the consideration of his application to 19 February 2013. The driver was informed of this date and invited to attend the meeting but he failed to attend. As the driver had been invited to the meeting the Committee decided to proceed with the hearing in his absence.

Members had regard to the report.

As the driver was not in attendance the Members considered the application on the basis of the documentary evidence that was before them which included the drivers CRB check. Members noted that the driver had two convictions for violence offences, the most recent of which was a conviction for battery of which he was convicted in June 2009. Members were concerned that the violence conviction when the driver was younger was not an isolated incident and in 2009 the driver received a further conviction for violence. Members noted that the driver's conviction from June 2009 was received while he held a licence to drive hackney carriage and private hire vehicles and this was deemed to be a relevant and aggravating factor when considering the drivers fitness. Members also noted under their policy on the relevance of convictions for violent offences, the driver would normally have to show a period of three years from the date of conviction before being deemed suitable to hold a licence and noted that the driver's last conviction for violence was June 2009. Although this meant that consideration would be given to granting his licence in 2012 Members were mindful that the violence offences were not isolated incidents.

Members were also extremely concerned about the large amount of additional information disclosed by the Police on the drivers CRB check and it was also noted that the majority of the information related to violence. Members took into consideration that the driver had not been convicted of any of the offences of which he had previously been charged. However Members were concerned that this information appeared on his CRB check and were of the opinion that this could be taken into consideration when considering the drivers fitness. Members noted the additional views expressed by Cleveland Police and the Committee did attach some weight to this when considering the drivers fitness.

Members were of the view that the drivers previous history of violence offences and the additional information disclosed by Cleveland Police on his CRB check persuaded them to depart from their guidelines on the relevance of convictions and the driver was not considered to be a fit and proper person to hold a combined hackney carriage and private hire drivers licence with this Authority.
L
84/12
Members considered a report to determine an application for the grant of a Private Hire drivers licence from an applicant who had a relevant Police Caution. The offence detailed were Making false representation to make gain for self or another or cause loss to other/expose other to risk. Fraud Act 2006 s.1(2)(a) & S.2'.

The driver of Stockton-on-Tees had made an application to become a Licensed Private Hire Vehicle driver.

As part of the application process a Criminal Record Bureau check was carried out and this revealed a Police Caution dated the 25th November 2011. This was recorded as ‘Make false representation to make gain for self or another or cause loss to other/expose other to risk. Fraud Act 2006 s.1(2)(a) & S.2' this was for an offence committed on 3 September 2011.

Following this the driver was invited to the office for an interview in relation to the information which the Licensing Department had received.

The circumstances surrounding the caution were that the driver had arranged to do a sponsored walk for the Help for Heroes Charity. He undertook the walk from Scarborough to Middlesbrough, raising in the region of 280.

Due to his financial situation at the time, he had entered into an Individual Voluntary Agreement, for which he had to pay an upfront fee. He was struggling to make ends meet and used the money from the sponsored walk for day to day living.

He was reported to the Police and he was dealt with by the Caution. He had since paid all the monies back to the charity. Due to his actions he lost his job as a Security Guard and his Security Industry Licence was taken from him.

The driver had applied for the position of a Private Hire Driver through the Job Centre and all his fees were being paid by a third party. When asked about the offence and the guidelines in relation to the Relevance of Convictions, Cautions, Reprimands, Warnings, Complaints and Character, he advised the officer he had not seen the document. When shown the document and asked would anything have been different, he replied, "I would not have applied".

The driver told the Officer he deeply regretted what he had done and believed he should be given a second chance. He has no other previous convictions or cautions and had a clean driving licence with no penalty points. He went on to say he was under severe financial pressure when he did what he did and could see no other option.

The relevance of Convictions, Cautions, Reprimands, Warnings, Complaints and Character guidelines stated in relation to dishonesty, "Applicants with a conviction, caution, reprimand or final warning for an offence involving dishonesty would normally be refused a licence. An application could be considered where the applicant could show at least 3 years free of such conviction, caution, reprimand or final warning from either the date of the conviction, caution, reprimand or final warning or 3 years from completion of any custodial sentence imposed, which ever was the later". The driver's caution had been given approximately 15 months prior to the application.

Members were reminded that under the provisions of Section 51 of the Local Government Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1976, District Councils were 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. In addition the District Council could attach such conditions to the grant of the licence as they consider reasonably necessary.

The driver attended the Committee meeting.

Members had full regard for the report and attached appendices, copies of which had been given to the driver prior to the meeting; the Committee also listened carefully to what the driver had to say with regard to the matter disclosed.

Members were not persuaded to depart from the current policy in relation to the relevance of the drivers Police caution for the fraud offence. Members had concerns regarding the driver's honesty and felt he was not a ‘fit & proper' person to hold the licence for which the driver had applied.

A private hire driver must show exemplary degrees of honesty whilst employed due the highest level of integrity that was required, in order to instil confidence in the relationship between the driver and the customer. It was felt that the nature of the fraud against a well-supported national Charity ‘Help for Heroes' made the offence more unpalatable.
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85/12
Members considered a report to determine the suitability of an applicant who had applied for a private hire drivers licence, the applicant had relevant convictions and had previously had a licence refused by this Committee.

An application for a private hire driver's licence had been received from applicant of Stockton-On-Tees.

The applicant had previously had a licence application refused, by Officers, in October 2000.

The applicant applied again in March 2010 and was refused by this Committee in November 2010. A copy of the refusal letter was attached to the report. The applicant exercised his right of appeal and the matter was heard by Teesside magistrates in March 2011 when the decision of the Council's Licensing Committee was upheld.

An important part of the vetting process was to undertake a Criminal Record Bureau check. The applicant's CRB Disclosure, received November 2012, revealed that he had relevant convictions. The applicant was not interviewed again by Officers as no additional information was disclosed from his previous CRB which he was interviewed regarding the content, on 11 August 2010.

The applicant was written to on 7th and 20th December 2012, asking for any additional comments he wished to make, to be submitted in writing to add to the report. No response was received from the applicant.

In 1998, the applicant received a conviction for:-
• ‘Driving Other Than In Accordance With A Licence',
• ‘Resist Or Obstruct A Constable',
• ‘Using Vehicle While Uninsured'.

The applicant advised he was young; he had not had a full DVLA driving licence. He had got in his father's car and was pulled over, by Police, down the road from his home.

In January 2005, the applicant was convicted of:-
• ‘Possessing Controlled Drug With Intent To Supply - Class A - Heroin',
• ‘Possessing Controlled Drug - Class A - Cocaine',
• ‘Possessing Controlled Drug - Class A - Heroin'.

The applicant was given a custodial sentence of 42 months and two 6 months to run concurrent. The applicant advised he served half of the sentence and was then released with a tag for 4 months.

The applicant stated he had never taken drugs. He informed Officers that he was young and got involved with the wrong people. He wanted a lavish lifestyle and ended up embroiled with drug dealers; he was a courier for the main dealers. The applicant was also drug tested on 11 August 2010 and the results were negative at that time.

The applicant had one fixed penalty conviction on his DVLA licence. This was an IN10 (using a vehicle uninsured against third party risks), which he received 6 points. The offence was on 31 January 2010. The applicant stated in interview this occurred because he went to buy a car, it was a private sale, he was under the impression his insurance would cover him for a test drive and it didn't.

A copy of the guidance on the ‘Relevance of convictions, cautions, reprimands, warnings and complaints and character' was provided to Members as part of the report.

The applicant and his solicitor attended the meeting.

After considering all of the evidence, Members decided to refuse the application for the grant of a Private Hire drivers licence on the grounds that the applicant was not considered to be a fit and proper person at this time because of his convictions. In particular Members noted that the applicant's convictions for drug offences related to both possession and supply of Class A drugs, which were deemed to be extremely serious matters. Members were mindful of the guidelines which the Council had adopted in their Transport Licensing Policy which stated that for possession of drugs with intent to supply "it is unlikely that even after this period the application will be granted". The period referred to was the period of 5 years which would normally apply to convictions for possession of drugs. This stated that for a possession offence a person would normally be expected to show five years from the completion of any custodial sentence imposed. The applicant was sentenced to 42 months imprisonment and although he was released early on licence his custodial sentence was for 42 months, which gave a release date of July 2008, thus five years after that date would take the applicant to July 2013.

Members noted that in relation to the applicants conviction for driving while uninsured in January 2010, the applicant's legal advisor informed Members that the applicant may have had valid insurance at the time and a copy of the applicants' certificate of insurance was produced, however Members were of the view that they could not go behind the offence and had to consider this conviction in accordance with the Council's Licensing Policy Guidelines on the relevance of convictions. Under the policy guidelines this was classed as a major motoring offence and the Committee would normally refuse a licence until a period of 4 years had elapsed, which would give a date of January 2014.

Members had regard to the references the applicant had provided. Members noted that they were considering the application in accordance with the guidelines on the relevance of convictions and were considering whether to depart from the guidelines in the applicant's case. After hearing the applicant's submissions the Members were not persuaded by the information presented to depart from the Policy Guidelines, when determining the applicant's fitness. Members found that owing to the applicant's history of relevant convictions the applicant was not a fit and proper person to hold a drivers licence.

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