Agenda item

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

Minutes:

Cllr Eddy left the meeting and Cllr Hance Chaired

 

SA, was in attendance with his Solicitor ML together with the complainant KT & SP.

 

The Chair Cllr Fi Hance welcomed and led introductions and acknowledged that Cllr Eddy had to leave proceedings.

 

The Enforcement Officer presented the report and summarised the complaint received alleging that SA, hackney carriage driver, had refused or neglected to take a child wheelchair 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 noted CCTV footage of events previously viewed. 

 

Also viewed by SA when interviewed under caution.

 

Highlights from Officer Report:

·        SA was the second car in the rank, behind the point car.

·        That SA denied, when interviewed under caution, that he refused to take the fair.

·        The CCTV showed that SA remained in his vehicle throughout the incident up until after he was approach by driver of the point car when shortly afterwards SA drove off the rank without taking a fare.

·         SA contended that the only conversation he could recall centred around change with another driver and that he could not recall any other conversation

·        SA contended he left the rank to attend prayer at his mosque in St Pauls

The Chair invited questions of clarity from committee and parties present but none were posed.

 

The Complainant was invited to address the Committee.

 

KT explained the events surrounding her visit to Bristol to attend a performance at the Hippodrome with her daughter and her Carer.  They lived in Wiltshire and not all taxis there could take a wheelchair so initially they thought nothing of it until they realised that no one wanted to take them from temple meads to the Hippodrome.  Only SP approached the drivers, KT stayed back withdrawing her daughter from the scene.  The second taxi driver left the rank and they took his number.  They were eventually assisted by taxi driver plate no.11 who also provided his business card and advised them that all Bristol Hackney Cabs were accessible as shown by the sign on the back.  It was at this point they realised that the other drivers should have been able to transport the wheelchair.

 

SP recalls going to the first taxi driver and then being told to go to the taxis behind.

The Chair invited questions of clarity from committee and parties present but none were posed.

 

The Chair invited AS to present his case:

·        AS shared that he had 20-years experience of driving taxis first as private hire and now with hackney licence

·        That he was aware of disability issues

·        He denied that either of the ladies approached him or spoke to him

·        That he did not refuse to take the complainant because no one came to him to request a ride

·        Common practice is for the driver to sit in the car and wait for a customer to approach.  It is protocol to wait if there is a taxi in front in the rank

·        The CCTV shows that the complainant did not approach his vehicle

·        He recalled a conversation with the driver first in the rank about change but not about taking any passengers

·        ML drew attention to the disputed facts about the request and further added that it would be appropriate for directions to be given to customers indicating that they should go to the front of the rank.

·        AS reaffirmed that he was not approached by the complainants.

·        AS said he did not leave the rank to avoid detection but because he had to go to prayers.

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

 

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

 

Members viewed the CCTV footage again to see if the complainants approached his vehicle. 

·        Noted that the person approaching his vehicle and having a conversation was not the complainants.

·        Noted that the driver in front approached SA vehicle and had a brief conversation before moving along the rank

·        Noted that SA left the rank without a passenger.

Members then revisited the terms of the legislation before making the final decision.

 

Resolved:

 

That on a balance of probabilities, the complaint had not been made out and therefore in would not be appropriate to take any action in respect of SA’s licence.

 

Reasons:

 

The Committee considered that the complainants had presented their evidence truthfully but given that there were several drivers that were subject to similar allegations, there might have been some confusion as to what was said or otherwise to this particular driver.  The CCTV footage appeared to corroborate SA’s version of events that he was not approached by the complainants and crucially, the evidence of the independent witness, the taxi driver who eventually transported the complainants, did not support there being any conversation between SA and the complainants.  The independent witness stated that he did not see the driver – he just drove off.  Although the committee had some doubts about the credibility of SA’s version of events, there was insufficient evidence against him to uphold the complaint.

 

The parties returned to the room and were advised of the decision.