Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

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

Date:
Monday, 25th June, 2012
Time:
10.00 a.m.
Place:
Council Chamber, Town Hall, High Street, Stockton on Tees
 
Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

Attendance Details

Present:
Cllr Mrs Kathryn Nelson (Chair); Cllr Michael Clark, Cllr Evaline Cunningham, Cllr Phillip Dennis, Cllr Eileen Johnson, Cllr Alan Lewis and Cllr Ray McCall.
Officers:
J Douglas, P K Bell (LD); C Barnes, L Maloney (DNS).
In Attendance:
Combined Hackney Carriage & Private Hire Driver Mr M J K, Mr R Allanson - Allansons Solicitors (Representing Mr M J K).
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Maurice Perry.
Item Description Decision
Public
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19/12
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
There were no interests declared.
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20/12
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 paragraph 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.
Confidential
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21/12
COMBINED HACKNEY CARRIAGE & PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER M J K

RESOLVED that Mr M J K be issued with a final written warning.
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22/12
COMBINED HACKNEY CARRIAGE & PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER - J N

RESOLVED that Mr J N be issued with a final written warning.
L
23/12
COMBINED HACKNEY CARRIAGE & PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER - M S

RESOLVED that the item be deferred.
10.00 a.m. - 4.00 p.m.

Preamble

ItemPreamble
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21/12
Members were reminded that this was a reconvened meeting from the meeting held on 2nd May 2012.

Mr M J K and his representative Mr Allanson - Allansons Solicitors were in attendance at the meeting.

Members continued to hear evidence from Mr M J K, Mr Barnes (Licensing Officer) and Miss Maloney (Licensing Officer).

Members were then given the opportunity to ask questions of Mr M J K, Mr Barnes (Licensing Officer) and Miss Maloney (Licensing Officer).

Mr M J K's representative Mr Allanson - Allansons Solicitors was then given the opportunity to make any closing statements.

Members had considered all of the evidence including the report, appendices and oral evidence that had been given. Members had to determine firstly whether the allegations of driver misconduct occurred and secondly if, on the balance of probabilities they did occur and what action should be taken against the driver.

It was clear to Members that the success of Yarm's night time economy had led to difficulties in using the taxi rank on Yarm High Street at busy times. The taxi trade was appreciated as a valuable element of the public transport system and in most cases; they operated to the benefit of the area and their customers to ensure a safe journey home. Any issues which the trade had must be dealt with through the appropriate channels, such as the Officers Traffic Group. If licensed drivers simply act as they see fit then chaos would ensue which was to the detriment of the whole of the trade.

It was the view of Members that officers had acted with great restraint in seeking to address the problems and issues that had arisen in Yarm. Officers could, if they so wished taken a hard line approach towards drivers who were clearly flouting the local byelaws. The byelaws were in place for the benefit of the wider taxi trade and to ensure fairness for all members of the trade. The lengthy history of the parking issues in Yarm was detailed in the reports but it was clear that Licensing Officers sought to resolve the issues in Yarm by exercising a light touch approach and seeking driver's co-operation. With that in mind drivers who were observed failing to use the authorised rank were reminded of the requirement to do so in a letter dated 4th October 2011. The vast majority of drivers co-operated with this request. However Mr M J K chose to ignore this simple and reasonable request.

After considering all the evidence Members concluded, on the balance of probabilities, that on 29th December 2011 and 28th January 2012 Mr M J K acted in breach of the byelaws by not proceeding to the next available rank when the Yarm High Street rank was full.

Members noted that Officers had allowed drivers a degree of flexibility when the Yarm High Street rank was full, by permitting drivers to queue outside of the rank on the Town Hall side of the High Street. Members felt that it was totally inappropriate for a licensed driver to seek to ignore officer's requests to join the queue for the rank and thereby Mr M J K had demonstrated a complete disregard for the byelaw. Further, Members found that Mr M J K's actions enabled him to obtain an advantage over his colleagues by parking in locations close to public houses where Mr M J K was likely to obtain fares from passengers leaving those public houses.

Members also found Mr M J K's actions and behaviour to be disrespectful and clearly not fit and proper behaviour for a licensed driver. When Officers had spoken to Mr M J K in relation to relevant matters Mr M J K's had been obstructive, unhelpful and had not treated officers with respect.

Members felt that in view of his role in the trade Mr M J K should have known better than to act in this manner. In the view of Members this made Mr M J K more culpable for his actions as he should have been setting a good example to other licensed drivers.

Members noted that Mr M J K had recently received 3 penalty points on his DVLA licence and had complied with the requirements of his licence and informed the licensing office of this offence.

Members agreed to give Mr M J K a final written warning. If there were any further instances of such behaviour Mr M J K would be brought back before the Licensing Committee.

Mr M J K was reminded he should exhibit high standards of conduct to demonstrate that you was a fit and proper person. It was totally unacceptable for Mr M J K to be obstructive to Officers or treat them in a disrespectful manner.
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Members were informed that Mr J N attended Licensing Committee on 21 February 2012 and Members agreed to defer the item at the request of the Mr J N and his representative Mr J K to enable them to seek legal advice and obtain a copy of the interview tapes.

Consideration was given to a report on a Combined Driver who had received two formal written warnings from the Licensing Department for plying for hire in a stationary position other than on a designated rank. The driver was then observed a third time carrying out this activity and refused to answer officer's questions. In addition since these incidents the driver had submitted three correspondences to the Licensning Department in a deliberately offensive and abusive tone in breach of his licence condition to behave in a civil and orderly manner at all times.

Mr J N was a licensed combined hackney carriage and private hire driver and had been since 13 June 2003. His licence was due to expire on 30 June 2012. Mr J N was the proprietor and driver of HCV 890, registration number KW07 OSW.

The problem of licensed vehicles parking on and around Yarm High Street had been an issue for sometime. It had been raised at the Officer Traffic Group and was included in the Stockton Borough Council's Consultation on parking on Yarm High Street. Recently the problems had escalated with up to forty vehicles participating in an unauthorised rank stretching from outside ‘The Keys' public house, along the High Street to the ‘Fish Ponds' area of Yarm. A map was attached to the report.

On the 24 September 2011, over 40 vehicles were observed by public space CCTV participating in an unauthorised rank outside ‘The Keys' on Yarm High Street. Warning letters were sent to all proprietors of these vehicles including the proprietor of HCV 860, Mr J N who was observed at approximately 01:14. A copy of this warning letter dated 4 October 2011 was attached to the report.

On the 26 October 2011, 9 vehicles were observed by public space CCTV participating in an unauthorised rank outside ‘The Keys' on Yarm High Street. Warning letters were sent to all proprietors of these vehicles including the proprietor of HCV 860, Mr J N who was observed at approximately 01:42. A copy of this second warning letter dated 2 November 2011 was attached to the report.

The issue detailed above of licensed vehicles parking on and around Yarm High Street came to a head during the Cannonball Student nights when both Cleveland Police and the manager of ‘The Keys' contacted the Licensing Department expressing concern at the behaviour of taxi drivers and outlining the problems of patrons waiting for booked private hire vehicles. A Copy of the correspondence received from the Manager of ‘The Keys' was attached to the report.

On the 29 December 2011, at approximately 01:25 whilst on out of hours enforcement duties, Officers observed HCV 860 parked off Yarm High Street approximately 20 metres from ‘The Keys' with the ‘For Hire' sign illuminated, after 5 minutes Officers began to approach the vehicle to ask Mr J N if he had a booked job, but passengers got into the vehicle and the vehicle pulled away. At 01:35am the same vehicle was parked in the same bay as detailed above, again stationary with the ‘For Hire' sign illuminated. Licensing Officer Polly Edwards approached the vehicle to question Mr J N, but he refused to answer her questions. The full conversation with Mr J N was detailed in Miss Edwards's statement that was attached to the report.

On the 29 December 2011 at approximately 01:58 Mr J N was again observed parked in the same location as detailed above. After a short conversation with one male he was observed taking three males from the location.

On the 29 December 2011 a letter was received by email from Mr J N, addressed to Polly Edwards in response to Licensing Enforcement earlier that day. A copy of this letter was attached to the report.

On the 7 January 2012 the Licensing Department was copied in to various email correspondence between a number of licensed drivers with the authority. Copies of those emails written by Mr J N were attached to the report.

On the 9 January 2012 Mr Batty (Head of Community Protection) sent a reply to Mr J N in response to the correspondence received. A copy of the letter was attached to the report.

Mr J N was interviewed on the 24 January 2012 regarding the issues detailed above. A summary of the transcript of the interview was attached to the report.

Mr J N confirmed receiving both warning letters sent by the Licensing Department and admitted to participating in an unauthorised rank. When asked why he refused to answer officer's questions, Mr J N denied saying it was "none of licensing's business" as detailed in Miss Edwards's statement and implied he did not appreciate being approached and questioned at "one o'clock in the bloody morning". When asked if he thought it was reasonable to refuse to answer questions and would he do that again? Mr J N said it "Depends what questions. I don't know what I'm obliged to do"

When questioned as to what his intentions were by parking next to ‘The Keys' on the evening of 29 December 2011 Mr J N claimed he was picking up his daughter and some of her associates. However observations by Officers and CCTV show Mr J N taking away passengers and returning to the same location a number of times, that evening. The last instance being 01:58 when after a short conversation with one male his vehicle left the location with three males, and not his daughter as he described in interview.

Mr J N was questioned regarding the nature of the correspondence sent to the Licensing Department. The correspondence described licensing staff as "semi-imbecile" "corrupt" and "bullies" and made offensive personal attacks on Licensing Officers and Mr David Kitching. During interview Mr J N admitted writing these correspondences but could not substantiate or provide evidence relating to the claims made. Mr J N did not want to discuss the correspondence in detail, he did apologise for some of the comments made but he justified them as he was "harassed constantly". Mr J N went on to say he feels "oppressed and bullied" but could not give an example of this and instead went on to detail an administrative process.

Mr J N was contacted again on 3 February 2012, and asked if he had contacted his daughter to ascertain contact details for his customers on 29 December 2011, as he agreed to do in interview. Mr J N advised he had not contacted his daughter, and was informed if he could not provide the details the report would be produced without this information.

Members were advised that information offences under section 73 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 relate to hackney carriage and private hire vehicle proprietors, drivers and operators who:-

• (1)(a) willfully obstructs an authorised Officer or constable acting in pursuance of this Part of this Act or the Act of 1847; or
• (1)(b) without reasonable excuse fails to comply with any requirement properly made to him by such Officer or constable under this Part of this Act; or
• (1)(c) without reasonable cause fails to give such an Officer or constable so acting any other assistance or information which he may reasonably require of such person for the purpose of the performance of his functions under this Part of this Act or the Act of 1847.

Members were also informed that a hackney carriage stand is the only situation a hackney carriage vehicle can stand stationary and ply for hire. The Byelaws With Respect to Hackney Carriages state the driver of a hackney carriage shall, when plying for hire in any street and not actually hired,

• Proceed with reasonable speed to one of the stands appointed by the council under provisions of Section 63 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
• If a stand, at the time of arrival, is occupied by the full number of carriages authorised to occupy it, proceed to another stand.

Members were also reminded that under the provisions of Section 61 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:-

(1)(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

(1)(b) any other reasonable cause.

Members were also advised of the revisions to Section 61 introduced under the Road Safety Act 2006 as follows:-

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

(2B) If it appears that 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 J N and his representative Mr Allanson - Allansons Solicitors were in attendance at the meeting.

Members heard evidence from Mr J N, Mr Barnes (Licensing Officer) and Miss Maloney (Licensing Officer). Mr Allanson was given the opportunity to ask questions of Mr Barnes (Licensing Officer) and Miss Maloney (Licensing Officer).

Members were then given the opportunity to ask questions of Mr J N, Mr Barnes (Licensing Officer) and Miss Maloney (Licensing Officer).

Mr Allanson was then given the opportunity to make any closing statements.

Members considered all of the evidence including the report, appendices and oral evidence that had been given. Members had to determine firstly whether the allegations of driver misconduct occurred and secondly if, on the balance of probabilities they did occur, what action should be taken against the driver.

It was clear to Members that the success of Yarm's night time economy had led to difficulties in using the taxi rank on Yarm High Street at busy times. The taxi trade was appreciated as a valuable element of the public transport system and in most cases they operated to the benefit of the area and their customers to ensure a safe journey home. Any issues which the trade had must be dealt with through the appropriate channels, such as the Officers Traffic Group. If licensed drivers simply act as they see fit then chaos would ensue which was to the detriment of the whole of the trade.

It is the view of the Members that the Licensing Officers had acted with great restraint in seeking to address the problems and issues that had arisen in Yarm. Officers could have taken a hard line approach towards drivers who were clearly flouting the local byelaws. The byelaws were in place for the benefit of the wider taxi trade and to ensure fairness for all members of the trade. The lengthy history of the parking issues in Yarm was detailed in the reports but it was clear that Licensing Officers sought to resolve the issues in Yarm by exercising a light touch approach and seeking driver's co-operation. With that in mind drivers who were observed failing to use the authorised rank, including Mr J N, were reminded of the requirement to do so in a letter dated 4th October 2011 and 2nd November 2011. The vast majority of drivers co-operated with these requests. However Mr J N chose to ignore these simple and reasonable requests.

After considering all the evidence Members concluded that despite the warning letters, on 29th December 2011 Mr J N acted in breach of the byelaws by not proceeding to the next available rank when the Yarm High Street rank was full.

Members noted that Officers had allowed drivers a degree of flexibility when the Yarm High Street rank was full, by permitting drivers to queue outside of the rank on the Town Hall side of the High Street. Members felt that it was totally inappropriate for a licensed driver to seek to ignore officer's requests to join the queue for the rank and thereby Mr J N demonstrated a complete disregard for the byelaw. Further, Members found that Mr J N's actions enabled him to obtain an advantage over his colleagues by parking in locations close to public houses where Mr J N was likely to obtain fares from passengers leaving those public houses.

Members also found Mr J N's actions and behaviour to be disrespectful and clearly not fit and proper behaviour for a licensed driver. When Officers had spoken to Mr J N in relation to relevant matters Mr J N had been obstructive, unhelpful and had not treated officers with respect.

Members felt that the language used by Mr J N in his email correspondence with Officers was absolutely disgraceful and Mr J N should be ashamed of himself in using such language. Mr J N's correspondence was targeted at more than one Officer. Members expect Mr J N to provide a written apology to those officers. This must be done immediately and if Mr J N failed to do so he would be brought back before the Licensing Committee. Mr J N was reminded that this was a direction of the Committee and if Mr J N failed to comply then Mr J N would be deemed not to have treated the Committee with respect.

Members agreed to give Mr J N with a final written warning. Mr J N should be in no doubt that if there were any further instances of such behaviour Mr J N would be brought back before the Committee.

Mr J N was reminded that he should exhibit high standards of conduct to demonstrate that he was a fit and proper person. It was totally unacceptable for Mr J N to be obstructive to Officers or treat them in a disrespectful manner.
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23/12
Members were informed that a letter had been received from Mr Allanson - Allansons Solicitors on behalf of Mr M S requesting the item be deferred as they had further evidence that they wanted to produce.

Members agreed with this request.

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