Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

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

Date:
Tuesday, 29th October, 2013
Time:
10.00am
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 Eileen Johnson, Cllr Jean Kirby, 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:
J Jones, S Mills, L Maloney, P Edwards (DNS); A Pilgrim, P K Bell (LD).
In Attendance:
Private Hire Driver - Ref 000832 and Support, Private Hire Driver - Ref 131215, Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915.
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Ken Dixon.
Item Description Decision
Public
L
23/13
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
Councillor Dennis declared a personal and prejudicial interest in respect of agenda item 5 - Private Hire Driver - Ref 000832 as the driver was known to him. Councillor Dennis withdrew from the meeting and left the room during consideration of the item.
L
24/13
MINUTES
The minutes of the meetings held on 16th April 2013 and 21st May 2013 were confirmed and signed by the Chair as a correct record.
L
25/13
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
26/13
PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER - REF 000832
  • Private Hire Driver - Ref 000832
RESOLVED that Private Hire Driver 000832 be issued with a final written warning.

L
27/13
PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER - REF 131215
  • Private Hire Driver - Ref 131215
RESOLVED that the item be deferred.
L
28/13
PRIVATE HIRE & HACKNEY CARRIAGE DRIVER - REF 001025
  • Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 001025
RESOLVED that the report be noted.
L
29/13
PRIVATE HIRE & HACKNEY CARRIAGE DRIVER - REF 000915
  • Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915
RESOLVED that Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915 licence remain suspended and he be given opportunity to pass the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) Taxi Driver Test at his own expense. Should Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915 fail to pass the test then he will be required to appear before the Committee and they will determine what further action to take.
10.00 am - 1.00 pm

Preamble

ItemPreamble
L
26/13
Consideration was given to a report on the fitness of a private hire driver who had since the grant of the licence been convicted of Common Assault.

The report detailed:-

* Private Hire Driver 000832's background
* The details of the incident

Attached to the report were copies of:-

* A copy of the Police notification
* A summary of the interview with Licensing Officers and Private Hire Driver 000832
* A letter giving the final outcome of the investigation from Cleveland Police
* The policy guidelines relating to the Relevance of Convictions, Cautions, Reprimands, Warnings and Complaints and Character

Members 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.

Members were also advised of the revisions to Section 61 introduced under the Road Safety Act 2006.

Private Hire Driver 000832 and his support were in attendance at the meeting and were given the opportunity to make representation.

Members had full regard to the report presented, a copy of which Private Hire Driver 000832 had received prior to the meeting, and to the comments made by him in respect of the events which led to the conviction for common assault at Teesside Magistrates Court on 6 September 2013.

After giving due consideration to the facts of the matter Members agreed that Private Hire Driver 000832's conduct and subsequent conviction fell below the standards expected of a private hire driver. Members therefore considered the Council's Policy on, ‘Relevance of Convictions, Cautions Reprimands, Warnings, Complaints and Character' and noted there was sufficient grounds to revoke his private hire drivers licence based on the recommendations in paragraph (h), ‘Public Order Offences'.

However, Members noted that Private Hire Driver 000832 was remorseful for his actions, and also that he had been a licensed driver with the Authority for 15 years with no previous issues relating to violence. Members therefore agreed that on this occasion, there was sufficient evidence to warrant a departure from the guidelines and that they would allow Private Hire Driver 000832 to keep his private hire drivers licence, subject to a final written warning.

This was a warning as to Private Hire Driver 000832's future conduct and he was advised that he should behave in a civil an orderly manner at all times. This warning would remain on Private Hire Driver 000832's file and would be referred to should any incidents or complaints of a same or similar nature, or any other disciplinary matters come to the attention of the Licensing Unit.
L
27/13
Private Hire Driver - Ref 131215 was in attendance at the meeting. Private Hire Driver - Ref 131215 reported to Members that he was having difficultly understanding the report and the proceedings that were taking place. The legal adviser to the committee felt that the item should be deferred to enable Private Hire Driver - Ref 131215 to get some help to understand the report and the proceedings of the Committee.
L
28/13
Consideration was given to a report on Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 001025's appeal to the Magistrates Court after his licence was revoked by the Licensing Committee at the meeting on 14 May 2013. A copy of the minute from that meeting was attached to the report.

The report detailed Private Hire Driver and Hackney Carriage Driver 001025's background.

The Council were represented at the appeal hearing by a barrister. The day prior to the appeal hearing a witness had contacted a licensing officer advising that he was unwell and would unfortunately be unable to make the appeal hearing. The witness who was unwell and unable to attend was the only witness who could give evidence in relation to the allegation of theft that the Council had received and which resulted in findings made by the Licensing Committee at their meeting on 14 May 2013 and which were included in the licensing committee minute and decision letter. Advice was taken from the Council's barrister and officers had to take a view as to whether to request an adjournment of the appeal hearing which would have potential costs implications or to agree to settle the appeal on an agreed basis. If the appeal proceeded and the Council were unable to call evidence from the witness then it would not have been possible to substantiate the finding of theft. Following consideration of the barrister's advice it was agreed between the parties that Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 001025's appeal would be allowed on the basis of a signed undertaking given by him to the Court. It was also agreed that the revocation of his licence would be set aside and replaced with a final written warning as to his future conduct. Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 001025 was not awarded any costs associated with the Committee decision or his appeal. A copy of the signed undertaking was attached to the report. Members noted in the signed undertaking that Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 001025 accepted the following:-

• That there is a lawful byelaw with respect to Hackney Carriages.
• That he will listen to and act on all reasonable directions, requests and advice given by licensing officers and will abide by the Hackney Carriage byelaws.
• That he accepts that the decision of the Licensing Committee was one which they were lawfully entitled to make save for the allegation of theft which would no longer be relied upon in future and will be removed from his personal record.
• That the appeal was allowed but on the basis of him receiving a final written warning which will be issued and placed upon his record.

A final written warning was subsequently issued to Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 001025 on 8 October 2013, a copy of which was attached to the report, along with a copy of the redacted decision letter dated 17 May 2013, a copy of which was also attached to the report.
L
29/13
Consideration was given to a report on a driver who since the grant of his licence had received a complaint regarding his manner of driving and as an alternative to appearing before the Committee he attended the driver improvement course. After completing the driver improvement course a report was returned to the Licensing Department which identified that Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915 had ‘many driving weaknesses and areas of high risk'. As a result of this information his Combined Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Drivers Licence was suspended with immediate effect.

The report detailed:-

* Private Hire Driver 000915's background
* The details of the previous incident

Attached to the report were copies of:-

* A copy of the the CCTV footage was referred to as an appendix and was avaiable to view
* A summary of the interview with Licensing Officers and Private Hire Driver 000915
* A letter from Private Hire Driver 000915 advising he would like to attend the driver improvement course
* A copy of the instructor's assessment
* A copy of the suspension letter

Members 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.

Members were also advised of the revisions to Section 61 introduced under the Road Safety Act 2006.

Private Hire Driver 000915 was in attendance at the meeting and was given the opportunity to make representation.

Members considered the report and all the supporting evidence before them, including the Driver Assessment, DVD footage, appendices and oral evidence. A copy of the report, including the appendices, had been provided to Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915 on 16 October 2013.

Members were satisfied that Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915's standard of driving had fallen below the standards expected of a combined hackney carriage and private hire driver. In arriving at this decision, Members expressed serious concerns regarding the standard of driving displayed on the footage from the CCTV cameras on 4 April 2013, which was viewed during the hearing. This clearly showed Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915 double parked in Stockton High Street before making a dangerous manoeuvre and nearly causing an accident with a cyclist. Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915 did not dispute the evidence on the CCTV footage and accepted that he should have not have been double parked. However, Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915 considered himself to be a good driver, having held a combined hackney carriage and private hire licence for many years.

Members noted that, following the incident on 04 April 2013, Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915 was given the opportunity to undertake a Driving Assessment as an alternative to appearing before the Committee. This took place on 2 September 2013. The handwritten comments made by the Driving Trainer who carried out the assessment, highlighted a number of driving weaknesses which required improvement. These related to basic driving skills, which clearly identified areas of high risk including concentration, reaction to hazards and anticipation of other road users.

By way of explanation, Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915 informed Members that, prior to sitting the assessment, he had been driving all night, and he had not slept. This had impacted on his performance during the assessment. Unfortunately, this explanation compounded Members concerns about Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915 driving skills, and as such, Members agreed that the standard of driving displayed during the incident and the outcome of the Driver Assessment Course called into question Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915's fitness to remain a licensed driver with the Authority.

However, Members were mindful that Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915 had been a licensed driver with the Authority in excess of 23 years and, due to this, decided to give Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915 the opportunity improve his driving standards. Members therefore agreed that given their findings they were not persuaded to set aside the decision to suspend Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915's licence as detailed in the Council's letter dated 16 September 2013. Members were of the view that public safety was a relevant consideration in this matter pursuant to section 61(2B) of The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976. Therefore, Members agreed that Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915 licence remain suspended and he be given opportunity to pass the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) Taxi Driver Test at his own expense. Should Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915 fail to pass the test then he will be required to appear before the Committee and they will determine what further action to take.

In the circumstances, it was suggested that Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915 seek at least one driving lesson from an Advance Driving Instructor who would be able to ascertain Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver - Ref 000915's driving standard before he undertakes the DSA taxi driver test.

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