Regulatory Minutes

Date:
Wednesday, 23rd July, 2014
Time:
6.30 pm
Place:
New Council Chamber, Town Hall, Reigate
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillors G. Crome (Chairman); A. Horwood, F. Kelly, A. Lynch, S. Rickman, P. Shillinglaw, B.A. Stead, C. Stevens, Ms. B. Thomson and B. Truscott.
Min NoDescriptionResolution
Part I
9. MINUTES
RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting held on 25 June 2014 be approved as a correct record and signed.
10 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE AND SUBSTITUTIONS
Councillor Mrs L. Brunt (sub: Councillor Ms B. Thomson),
Councillor R. Harper (sub: Councillor B.A. Stead) and
Councillor R.C. Newstead (sub: Councillor S. Rickman).
11 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
There were no declarations of interest.
12 ANY OTHER URGENT BUSINESS
There was no urgent business.
13 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)
14 TO DETERMINE WHETHER A PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER IS A FIT AND PROPER PERSON TO HOLD SUCH A LICENCE
  • Agenda item: 6
RESOLVED, that the licence be revoked.

Reasons for the decision

In reaching its decision the Committee took account of all the facts and had particular regard to:

• Section 45 Town Police Clauses Act 1847;
• Section 61 Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976
• Council's own Taxi and PHV Licensing Criminal Convictions Policy
• The individual merits of the case
• Equality Act 2010
• Human Rights legislation in particular article 8 and article 1 First Protocol; and
• The rules of natural justice
It thereby concluded:

1. The incident reported to this Licensing Authority by Mid Sussex District Council was not the first incident relating to plying for hire. This is relevant when put into the context of the driver file as a whole.
2. The licenceholder has shown a lack of genuine remorse; too much emphasis has been placed on the distance of the journey on 8th February being short and the fare being of a small amount.
3. There are clear inconsistencies in what the licenceholder has stated during the course of the hearing regarding allegations and complaints, including the instances of plying for hire.
4. The licenceholder's explanation of the circumstances of the complaint of plying for hire in February 2014, both in the letter of 18 March 2014 and submissions at this hearing has been found to be wholly unpersuasive.
5. The licenceholder's explanation of the motivation behind the complaint of plying for hire (18th November 2013) has been found to be wholly unpersuasive
6. The licenceholder has received several warnings concerning the consequences of plying for hire and complaints regarding this conduct. the licenceholder has failed to learn from those warnings, therefore continuing to jeopardise his licence.
7. There is an element of trust expected between a private hire driver and the Licensing Authority; on the assessment of the facts and the submissions, it is deemed that the relationship of trust has been severely undermined.
8. Overall the view has been reached that the licenceholder does not demonstrate the right behaviour or attitude for a private hire driver.
It was noted that the licence holder had a right to appeal to Magistrates Court within 21 days of receiving the written decision.


(The Committee adjourned to break between hearings at 7.55pm
and resumed at 8.05pm.)
15 TO DETERMINE WHETHER A PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER IS A FIT AND PROPER PERSON TO HOLD SUCH A LICENCE
  • Agenda item: 7
RESOLVED, that the licence be revoked.

Reasons for the decision

During the adjournment the Committee viewed this as a serious case and took much time to review the papers and to consider the submissions made by the licence holder/representative. There was a detailed debate that balanced all the relevant matters. The test was to consider whether the licence holder was a fit and proper person to continue to hold this licence.

In reaching its decision the Committee took account of all the facts and had particular regard to:

• oral submissions received from the licence holder/representative;
• the outcome of the Regulatory Committee on 28 November 2013 and the formal warning issued by that Committee;
• the licence holder's completion of a Driver Check 55 Assessment on 23rd January 2014;
• Section 51 and 61 Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976;
• Council's compliance and enforcement role;
• standards and conditions that apply to private hire drivers and vehicles;
• the individual merits of the case;
• Equality Act 2010 (public sector duty);
• Human Rights legislation in particular article 8 and article 1 First Protocol; and
• The rules of natural justice
It thereby concluded:

1. It is extremely rare for a Committee to issue a strongly worded formal warning, and for that same driver to then come back before it;
2. There is evidence of a pattern of behaviour that is of serious concern, including how the licence holder reacts to incidents that involve the public, which is of paramount importance;
3. The Committee understands what this decision means in terms of the licence holder's livelihood, however when balanced against the protection of the public, the loss of the licence holder's livelihood in itself was not sufficient to warrant any other course of action;
4. The Committee views this to be a disappointing and sad outcome;
5. The submissions made by the licenceholders representative, who spoke highly in support of the licence holder (indicating that he worked hard and that he was proud to work with him) were duly considered;
6. The licence holder was aware that one private hire badge must be displayed in the windscreen of the private hire vehicle and the other must be worn by the driver so that they are clearly visible to members of the public. The licenceholder has admitted that on this occasion he was not wearing the badge;
7. One repeated explanation (put forward by both the licenceholder and his representative) for the source of this and previous complaints, was that the licenceholder is excitable and loud with an extrovert personality. This was not accepted as the cause for the complaints;
8. One of the licence holder's submissions focussed on the high level of mileage undertaken in any given year, being considerably more than the average driver and the effect this may have. The Committee did not view the mileage as the relevant consideration in this regard; rather it considered that a professional driver should maintain minimum standards at all times with both customers and members of the public;
9. The Committee considered that the licence holder lacked the appropriate skills to deal with situations that occur in the course of being a private hire driver. An example of this drawn was where members of the public are concerned or agitated by a private hire driver's behaviour or driving or when a private hire driver perceives that others are driving or behaving badly. In essence, the manner in which this licence holder dealt with stressful situations when driving was a serious concern;
10. The licence holder's submissions in this hearing indicated to the committee that he viewed this latest incident and previous incidents to be the fault of somebody else;
11. The reference by the licenceholder's representative to his own 30 years' experience (as a licensed operator and as a private hire driver) without ever receiving a complaint about his driving, conduct or behaviour, adds to this concern;
12. Overall a view has been reached that the licence holder did not demonstrate the right behaviour or attitude to continue as a private hire driver;
13. There is evidence of aggressive conduct/language and bad driving, heightened in stressful situations, these are relevant considerations; and
14. Ultimately it is the duty of the committee to protect the public as a whole, not just the customers of the driver.

It was noted that the licence holder had a right to appeal to Magistrates Court within 21 days of receiving this written decision.
10.04 pm

Minute

Min NoMinute
1414. REVIEW OF PRIVATE HIRE LICENCE HOLDER: TO DETERMINE WHETHER THE DRIVER IS A FIT AND PROPER PERSON TO HOLD SUCH A LICENCE
The report set out details of a private hire licence holder who was alleged to have been illegally plying for hire in a neighbouring borough as identified as part of a joint operation between Sussex Police and Mid Sussex District Council.

The driver received a written warning from the District Council in this instance, but he had already received two previous warnings from Reigate and Banstead Borough Council following allegations of illegally plying for trade.

In these circumstances, the Committee was requested to determine whether the driver remained a fit and proper person to hold a private hire driver's licence.

The licence holder attended the meeting, referred to the extenuating circumstances that led to the allegations of plying for trade that had resulted in the matter coming before the Committee; and responded to questions from the Committee, during the course of which the following points were noted:

• the type of vehicle that was being used for private hire purposes;
• an explanation for why the licence holder was in East Grinstead on the evening of the alleged plying for trade;
• specific details in relation to the alleged plying for trade incident
• code of conduct requirements for taxi drivers; and
• previous spent criminal convictions not declared.

The Committee adjourned to deliberate at 6.55pm and resumed at 7.51pm

During the adjournment the Committee had a lengthy deliberation and much consideration of the papers and what the licence holder had said and
15At its meeting on 28 November 2013 the Committee interviewed a private hire licence holder and reviewed his suitability to hold a licence in view of a number of complaints which had been made about him.

At that time, the Committee issued a formal warning and recommended that the driver should go on an driver's awareness course, advising the licence holder that it had given serious consideration to the option of revoking his licence.

The report set out the details of a further incident involving the driver which had resulted in several complaints being received.

The Committee was therefore requested to review whether any further action should be taken.

The licence holder attended the meeting, with his representative, and referred to the long history of reliable taxi driving which had included working with school children. The licence holder provided an explanation of the events that occurred on the day of the alleged further incident and responded to questions from the Committee, during the course of which the following points were noted:

• whether there had been any danger to school children from the alleged incident;
• the type of vehicle that was being used for private hire purposes;
• the arrangements for the safe drop off of children at the school (currently and before December 2013);
• the conversations with parents during the alleged incident and the level of customer services skills held;
• previous incidents that had been brought to the Committee's attention;
• the requirement to wear a private hire badge; and
• vehicular and pedestrian access arrangements to the school.

The Committee adjourned to deliberate at 9.06pm and resumed at 10.02pm.