Report ENV730 from the Licensing Officer this report was adjourned from meeting held on 1 November 2019.
To revoke the driver’s hackney carriage driver’s licence on the grounds that the applicant is not a fit and proper person to hold such a licence under section 61 (1) (b) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
The Legal Advisor introduced those present and confirmed the name of the applicant and that an interpreter was in attendance.
The Licensing Officer presented exempt report ENV730 which concerned whether a hackney carriage driver remained a fit and proper person to be licensed. The driver had been a hackney carriage driver with the authority since July 2015. During this time he had two hackney carriage vehicles licensed with the authority.
The first vehicle was licensed as a hackney carriage with the authority from October 2015 until October 2018 when it was transferred to the second vehicle. When the first vehicle was taken for its compliance test at one of the appointed garages it failed on paintwork, dents and was dirty inside and out. There was no fire extinguisher or roof sign. South Kesteven District Council’s Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy required that prior to submitting a vehicle for examination, proprietors should ensure that the vehicle was in good condition. This included having a mechanically sound vehicle, satisfactory bodywork, there should be no untreated or unrepaired bodywork defects and the vehicle should be kept in a clean and tidy condition with no burns, rips or tears in the upholstery. A fire extinguisher should be in the vehicle and all hackney carriages should carry a roof sign. Hackney Carriage vehicles are required to be tested every six months.
The mid-term test in March 2016 had an advisory that the offside front tyre was worn. Mileage on the vehicle was 109,750. At the compliance test undertaken in September 2016 a further advisory message was given about the offside rear tyre being worn. Mileage recorded was 121,558. When the vehicle went for its mid-term test in March 2017 the vehicle failed on various issues including the offside rear tyre below 1.6 mm. There was also advice that the front and rear brake pads were worn close to the limit. The vehicle had a recorded mileage of 138,793. As a result of the failures the driver was awarded eight South Kesteven penalty points, four for failing to maintain a vehicle in a satisfactory condition and four for using a vehicle with a bald tyre.
Since that date and until the licence was transferred to the second vehicle in March 2019 the vehicle passed all its renewal and mid-term tests with no advisory messages. The last compliance test for the first vehicle had a recorded mileage of 187,543. During the two and half years that the vehicle was used as a hackney carriage the mileage was 94,444.
The second vehicle passed its initial compliance test in March 2019 with no advisory comments and a recorded mileage of 126,719. When the vehicle was tested at its mid-term test in September 2019 the vehicle failed on five counts one of which was a tyre in a dangerous condition which caused the testing station to immediately suspend the vehicle. Advisory comments were also made including staining to the seats. Recorded mileage was 142,690. A penalty points notice for eight South Kesteven penalty points was issued. The driver was contacted to discuss the issue but no response was received. A further e-mail was sent advising the driver that he would be referred to the Licensing Committee for them to decide if he remained a fit and proper person to remain a hackney carriage driver. It was noted that both vehicles had high mileage at first testing and significant mileage undertaken between tests. The upkeep of a hackney carriage or private hire vehicle was paramount to ensure that vehicles were safe for the travelling public. The driver had failed to maintain his vehicle satisfactory on two separate occasions and the most recent defect had caused the vehicle to be suspended from use. It was for the Committee to decide whether the driver remained a fit and proper person to hold a hackney carriage drivers licence with South Kesteven District Council.
The applicant was then given the opportunity to present his case and he referred to tyres on the vehicle as well as small scratches on the vehicle. Members then questioned the driver about the results of the tests and whether or not he understood his responsibilities as a hackney carriage driver and keeping his vehicle in a satisfactory condition. The driver was asked how he could reassure the Committee about his responsibilities in relation to safety measures. The applicant responded by stating that he did check the vehicle every second week and he apologised and said it would not happen again. Further questions were asked about checking the vehicle to which the applicant responded.
The Licensing Officer then gave his closing statement. Members were asked to consider the report and appendices before them and any further information made during the course of the meeting and decide whether to:
- Suspend the driver for a defined period of time.
- Revoke the hackney carriage driver’s licence on the grounds that the applicant is not a fit and proper person to hold such a licence under section 61 (1)(b) of the Local government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
- Issue a warning.
- Take no action.
The applicant declined to add anything.
(10:34am the Licensing Officers, applicant and interpreter left the meeting)
The Committee considered the application before them having regard to the contents of the report, the information provided during the meeting and all relevant guidance and policies. Members were very concerned that the driver did not appear to be checking his vehicle regularly. There appeared to be a catalogue of errors which in some cases made the vehicle illegal to be on the road. He appeared to ignore the advisories given at the tests until they became warnings and did not have enough regard for public safety and other road users. Members did look at having a stepped approach but felt that suspension was not valid as the incidents had happened over a sustained period of time and the penalty points issued had not been a strong enough deterrent to stop the incidents reoccurring. A warning was again not of sufficient strength as a deterrent and Members felt that some action was necessary. The only recourse open to Members was to revoke the licence as Members felt that the driver was not a fit and proper person to hold such a licence under section 61(1)(b) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976. On being put to the vote this was unanimously agreed.
(10:43am the Licensing Officers, applicant and interpreter returned to the meeting)
The Legal Advisor read out the Committees decision. The Committee had taken into account all the relevant law, policy, guidance, the content of the report and the representations made. Public safety was paramount, the rules and regulations contained within the hackney carriage policies were there for drivers to abide by. The driver had failed to maintain his vehicle. Regular checks had not been carried out and a pattern had been catalogued over time with the vehicle being in a dangerous condition and being illegal to be on the road despite being issued with penalty point notices, the level of compliance did not appear to improve. The driver had held a licence since July 2015 and should be fully aware of the importance of maintaining a vehicle, however he seemed to have total disregard for policy as a hackney carriage driver and the safety of the travelling public. The overriding consideration is the safety and protection of passengers and the general public. On consideration of the sanctions available Members had taken a stepped approach and were satisfied that the records did not show improved standards despite the issuing of penalty points. Members decided to revoke the drivers licence as they considered that he was not a fit and proper person to hold such a licence under section 61(1)(b) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
The applicant had 21 days to appeal the decision to the Magistrates Court.