Regulatory Minutes

Date:
Thursday, 4th April, 2013
Time:
7.30 pm
Place:
New Council Chamber, Town Hall, Reigate
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor G.P. Crome (Chairman); Councillors Mrs. L.J. Brunt, J. Durrant, S.N. Farrer, R. Harper, A. Lynch, D.J. Pay, P. Shillinglaw, Ms. B.J. Thomson and B. Truscott

Note: The Chairman adjourned the start of the meeting until 7.36 pm to allow the applicant time to confer with his legal representative. The Committee used this time to read the two statements submitted by the applicant which were tabled before the meeting began.
Min NoDescriptionResolution
Part I
28. MINUTES
RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting held on 29 November 2012 be approved as a correct record and signed.
29 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS
Councillor C.T.H. Whinney
30 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
None.
31 ANY OTHER URGENT BUSINESS
There was no other business.
32 EXEMPT BUSINESS
RESOLVED that members of the Press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 on the grounds that:

(i) they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act, and
(ii) the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
Part II(Confidential)
33 CONSIDERATION OF WHETHER A PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER IS A FIT AND PROPER PERSON TO HOLD A LICENCE
  • Agenda item: 6
RESOLVED that the private hire driver's licence, applicant ref. 04042013, be REVOKED.

Reasons for the decision

1. The Committee had read all the agenda papers and annexes, including the two statements provided by the licence holder and the information disclosed in the DBS Enhanced Certificate, all circulated at the meeting.

2. The Committee listened carefully to the oral submissions made by the applicant's legal representative and the applicant himself, and the responses to their questions.

3. The Committee had regard to the Council's conviction policy, in particular paragraphs 6.6 and 6.7, and to sections 46, 51 and 61 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, as well as the Human Rights Act with particular reference to Article 1 of the First Protocol.

4. The Committee considered the circumstances of the offence and the completion of the licence renewal application form, as explained by the applicant, his legal representative and the written witness statements.

5. The main test for the Committee in reaching its decision was to determine whether the applicant was a fit and proper person to hold a private hire driver licence.

6. The committee gave significant consideration to the following:

• The licence holder was convicted for assault occasioning ABH and Common Assault.
• The suspended custodial sentence imposed indicated the seriousness of the injuries
• Information from the police in the DBS certificate described the nature of the offences and that the victims were both under 16.

7. The licence holder did indicate that he was not involved in the offences and that he was advised to plead guilty by his criminal legal advisor due to the weight of the identification evidence.

8. The committee considered the duty to have regard to the information that the Police determined to be of such importance to disclose and the public interest outweighed the reasons given by the licence holder for his guilty pleas. The reason for any particular plea in a criminal case is not a matter for the committee to consider.


9. The committee took into account the view of the Licensing Officer, namely, that if the DBS certificate was available at the time of renewal, it was highly likely that the application would have been rejected.
9.43 pm

Minute

Min NoMinute
33The Committee heard an appeal by a private hire driver against suspension of his licence.

The background to the case was that, when the applicant (ref. 04042013) applied to renew his licence in November 2012, he did not disclose two criminal convictions dating from October 2011 on his application form.

Officers only became aware of this when the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate was received in January 2013 and thereupon took the decision to suspend the private hire driver licence.

The applicant subsequently appealed and asked for his case to be considered by the Regulatory Committee.

The report set out the background to the application, and brief details of the offences. The annexes to the report included correspondence with the applicant and his legal representatives, one reference and one letter from an acquaintance supporting his good character.

The DBS certificate tabled at the meeting amplified the details surrounding the offences. All copies of the DBS were collected for destruction immediately after the meeting.

The applicant was represented by a legal adviser who also assisted him with interpretation because English was not his first language.

At the beginning of the hearing the legal representative sought permission to introduce a number of witnesses to support the good character of his client and to corroborate his written statement and the facts related to the failure to disclose.

The Chairman ruled that this was inadmissible on the following grounds:

1. The meeting was being held in part 2 and the papers had not been circulated to the public or press. Allowing members of the public to attend, albeit at the request of the licence holder, would mean that the meeting would no longer be in closed session and other parties would thereby have been denied the opportunity to attend.
2. The Committee's procedure rules required any request to present witnesses and to introduce written material to be made at least five days before the hearing.
3. The Chairman had exercised his discretion in allowing the written statements made by the licence holder and one other person to be introduced at the start of the meeting. The introduction of the witnesses to reiterate their written statements would not add new information to the proceedings.

The licensing officer then presented the report, outlining the circumstances of the application and why the licence had been suspended.

The Chairman invited the applicant's representative to put questions to the licensing officer, at which point he reiterated his request for persons accompanying the applicant to make statements. It was his contention that it would be unreasonable not to allow this, as his case hinged upon proving that his client was of good character and the witnesses would corroborate this. They would also confirm that the reason for not filling out the form properly was due to language barrier and not to any attempt to hide the offences, which had been properly disclosed on the CRB form.

The Chairman sought advice from the Committee's legal advisor who stated her view that the committee had been more than generous in allowing the late submission of witness statements. She then repeated what was explained in detail to the licence holder's representative before the hearing; namely that the rules governing exempt business and the hearing procedure rules supported the Chairman's decision.

The representative then made his submissions and began by seeking clarification from the licensing officer on what the likely outcome would have been if the applicant had declared his conviction when completing the renewal application.

The licensing officer advised the representative that he had the authority to renew licences. If he had been aware of the convictions at the time of the renewal application the chances of the licence being renewed would have been minimal. He confirmed that it was not merely the failure to disclose that had resulted in the licence being suspended.

The legal representative intimated that he had been unaware of this in preparing his case and that this now put a different perspective upon the hearing.

The representative then proceeded to submit his case, during the course of which he expanded upon the help the applicant had been given by a relative to complete the form, and the misunderstanding by the two of them around the question related to declaring any previous convictions, as they had believed this to relate only to motoring offences.

The representative also gave weight to the impact that revocation of the licence would have upon his client's ability to support his family. It was his belief that revoking the licence would be tantamount to punishing the applicant twice for the same offence.

The Committee then put questions to the applicant through his representative, and the following points were noted:

• The convictions related to action taken by the licence holder to deal with anti social behaviour. The applicant had reported the problems to the police who had stated that they were unable to act or respond unless a crime had been committed.

• The offences occurred one week after the anti-social behaviour began. At the time the applicant's wife was expecting their second child and the applicant was working nights. He was one of four people involved in the incident. He had originally wished to defend the case, but his solicitor had advised him to plead guilty because several witness statements had identified him.

• The applicant had included details of his convictions on his CRB form which was presented at the same time as the application renewal form. There were minor differences in how the questions were worded on the two forms, and the licensing officer read out both questions in full to identify these.

• The only role of the licensing officer, in dealing with the CRB check, is to verify the person's identity before forwarding the application onto the police. The two forms are not cross-referenced.

• A private hire driver licence is valid for three years before needing renewal. Surrey Police have introduced the practice of notifying the licensing authority if a current licence holder receives a conviction, but this is not standard practice. The offences occurred outside the county and the failure to disclose only became apparent upon receipt of the DBS.

• Although the licence holder himself had not informed his employer of the convictions, his employer was aware of them through the other parties involved.

• The licence holder's understanding of English was perfectly adequate for his work needs. It was with more technical vocabulary and the written word that he lacked a clear grasp of the language.

The Committee adjourned to deliberate at 8.50 pm
and resumed at 9.41 pm