Agenda item

To seek consideration of whether the driver is 'fit and proper' - NS

Minutes:

Note:  This agenda item was the last heard on the day the following Committee Members were present: Cllr Davis, Cllr Hance (Chair), Cllr Langley 

Cllr Eddy, Cllr Johnson and Cllr Bowden-Jones had left the meeting at his point.

 

NS was in attendance and the Complainants KT & SP

The Chair, welcome those present and led introductions apologising for the delay in starting proceedings.

The Enforcement Officer presented the report and summarised the complaint received alleging that NS, hackney carriage driver, had refused or neglected to take a child wheel chair passenger in the company of her mother and her carer from outside the Hippodrome, City Centre, Bristol on the 29th November 2017.

Highlights from the officer report:

  • That officer’s discovered that NS did not have the required equipment to load a wheelchair passenger into the vehicle. 
  • NS had use of the vehicle for 1 year and not carried a wheelchair passenger in that time.

The Committee put questions for clarification to the Enforcement Officer.

The complainant KT & SP were invited to present their complaint to Committee

  • KT & SP had exited the Hippodrome via the disabled exit and approached the line of taxis.  NS was at the front of the line.  NS refused to engage with them stating that he was not the driver first in line and that they should speak to the drivers behind.  They were faced with drivers refusing to take them to TM station.  They were unable to get numbers of any other plates as it became very busy with other patrons leaving the Hippodrome and getting into taxis.  NS drove off but they were able to take a photo of his vehicle.

The Chair invited Committee to put questions for clarification to the complainants.

The Chair then invited NS to address the complaint that he had refused or neglected to take the fare without reasonable excuse.

  • NS explained that he had driven down from Park Street because it was quiet and because there was no room to join at the rear of the line, he had pulled his vehicle in front.  There were approx 6 vehicles ahead of his on the rank.
  • NS contended that it was the code of practice amongst drivers that they proceed in order even though they may be parked out of sequence.
  • The managing authority does not accept the principle of ‘rules of the rank’ in this location.
  • NS stated that he was at the non-operational bus stop and although had seen the complainant was not aware that the request included a wheelchair.
  • NS advised the complainant to go the taxi behind his.
  • NS advised that he was aware that the complainant was in conversation with another driver.
  • NS took a passenger and drove off.
  • NS shared that he was only aware that an issue arose when his number plate was put out on social media.
  • NS had driven taxi’s for 9 years and only taken 2 possibly 3 wheelchair passengers.
  • Confirmed that he had the vehicle for 1 year.
  • The complainant confirmed when re-questioned that NS was the person they dealt with on the evening in question.
  • NS advised that he had undertaken work covering School Runs but that work did not involve wheelchair users.

The Chair invited all parties to withdraw to allow for Committee to consider the complaint and make a decision.

Decision:

The Members considered very carefully all the written and verbal evidence presented.

They noted the policy and legislation relevant to the allegation made against NS.

Following a lengthy debate on whether NS actions constituted a breach of the section 53 TPCA 1847 it was concluded on balance of probabilities NS had neglected to take the fare and that he did not have a reasonable excuse to do so.

The Committee Resolved: that NS had refused or neglected to take the fare without reasonable excuse which was akin to an offence under section 53 TPCA 1847.

The parties returned to the room and the decision was shared.

Resolved:

                 i.          That NS’s HC Driver’s licence be suspended for a period of 6 months on the grounds contained in section 61(1)(i)(a) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 in that there had been failure to comply with the provisions of the Act of 1847 and section 61(1)(b) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 namely “any other reasonable cause”

Reason for Decision

                ii.          That the Council was entitled to expect high standards from those whom it licenced and the conduct of NS fell well below those standards thereby bringing the Council into disrepute.

               iii.          The conduct was akin to an offence of neglect to take a fare contrary to section 53 TPCA 1847 and the starting point under the Council’s policy on offending behaviour was to impose a period of suspension of 6 months.  NS had presented no evidence or mitigation to persuade the committee that he should be treated as an exception to Council policy

               iv.          The Council had regard to its’ public sector equality duties under section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 and therefore the neglect to transport a child in a wheelchair was an aggravating feature

                v.          All taxis bear the logo that they are fully accessible although NS vehicle was missing a vital component to secure a wheelchair passenger that was not viewed as a reasonable excuse.  However, it is the responsibility of all licensees to ensure that their vehicles are suitably equipped and that they are fully aware as to how to load and secure a wheelchair.  It is part of their Gold Standard training.  NS was required to ensure that this equipment was in working order.

               vi.          It was recommended that NS undertake additional training on the Equalities Duty and how to deal with passengers with protected characteristics.