Agenda item

To Seek consideration of whether the driver is 'fit and proper' - ZS

Minutes:

Note:  This item was taken out of sequence Cllr Eddy had to leave the meeting, Cllr Hance took the Chair.

 

ZS was in attendance with his Solicitors ML together with the complainant KT & SP.

 

ZS had requested an interpreter and they were present in the room.

 

The Chair welcomed those present and led introductions.

 

The Enforcement Officer presented the report and summarised the complaint received alleging that ZS, hackney carriage driver, had refused or neglected to take a child wheel chair passenger in the company of her mother and her carer from Temple Meads (TM) Station, Bristol on the 29th November 2017.

 

All those present with Committee had previously viewed the CCTV footage of events and agreed that matters would proceed without a further viewing.

 

A note for the records that the Interpreter and ZS agreed that as ZS listening skills and understanding of English were adequate there was no need to interpret at every point but ZS would be permitted to consult on any issues of clarity if one arose.  This was agreed with ZS legal representative who advised that that the Report had been gone through prior to the hearing.  ZS therefore understood what the report was about.

 

Highlights from the Officer report:

·        That drivers are expected to make themselves proficient in using equipment in their vehicle that allows a wheelchair to be carried

·        That the Gold Standard test provides general information but because of the different makes and models of vehicles the onus is on the driver to identify the mechanisms in their particular vehicle to complete the training.

·        That Bristol is one of the few LA’s in the country that requires all Hackney Cabs to be  wheelchair compliant.  100% of the hackney cab fleet are wheelchair accessible.

·        Officers determined from the interview under caution that ZS was not aware that his vehicle could be adapted to take a wheelchair and two passengers.

The Committee put questions for clarification to the Enforcement Officer and ZS’s Solicitor was invited to do the same and the complainant.

 

The Complaint KT & SP were invited to present their complaint to Committee:

·        KT mother and SP of carer of child had travelled from Wiltshire by train to attend a performance at the Hippodrome.  On arriving at TM station they went to the front of the taxi line requesting assistance.  The first driver was unable to assist, neither the next and they approached ZS with the same request and were told by ZS, who was next in line, that he was unable to take 2 passengers with a wheelchair.

The Chair invited the committee to put questions for Clarification to the complainant.

 

The Chair then invited ZS solicitor to address the complaint that ZS refused or neglected to take the fare without reasonable excuse.

·        ZS laboured under the misunderstanding that his vehicle was only able to carry 1 passenger with a wheelchair. 

·        ZS informed Officers during the course of the interview that was his understanding and that was the reason for refusal.

·        ZS had previously only carried one other wheelchair bound passenger.

·        ZS through his solicitors extended a further apology to the complainants.

The Chair invited questions to be put to ZS.

 

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

 

Decision:

 

The Members considered very carefully all the written and verbal evidence presented together with the CCTV footage.

 

They noted their Policy and the complaint made against ZS, which if made out, was akin to an offence of refusing or neglecting to take a fare contrary to section 53 TPCA 1847.

 

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

 

The committee resolved that ZS neglected to take the fare without reasonable excuse which was akin to an offence under section 53 TPCS 1847.

 

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

 

The Chair invited ZS to present mitigation before consideration was given to what action, if any should be taken in respect of ZS HC driver’s licence.

 

ZS Solicitor made a mitigation statement

·        Extended a further apology to the complainant

·        That ZS was married with 4 children

·        That in the four years ZS had held his HC licence there had been no complaints

·        That ZS was labouring under a genuine misunderstanding about the adaptability of his vehicle

·        That ZS licence should not be suspended but further training should be imposed

The parties left the room to allow Committee to deliberate on the appropriate course of action.

 

 

Decision:

       i.          That ZS’s HC Driver’s licence be suspended for a period of 4 months on the grounds contained in section 61(1)(i)(a) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 in that there had been a 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”

 

Reasons for Decision:

 

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

II.               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

III.              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

IV.              All taxis bear the logo that they are fully accessible although ZH laboured under the misunderstanding that his vehicle could only take 1 passenger when a wheelchair passenger was on board.

V.               The Committee therefore accepted that the conduct arose out of ignorance rather than a deliberate refusal to take the fare.  Consequently, this mitigation justified a shorter period of suspension of 4 months.  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.  ZS lack of knowledge on the capabilities of his vehicle to carry 2 passengers with a wheelchair was therefore unacceptable.

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

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