The Applicant was in attendance, accompanied by the Chair of Bristol Blue Taxi Association.
The Licensing Officer outlined the background to the application as follows:
· The Applicant had previously held a licence from at least 2004, when the database began, until 2016;
· On reapplying for a Licence in June 2017, the enhanced DBS information revealed a conviction for battery;
· Information from ACRO Criminal Records Office detailed further offences;
· The battery incident in 2016 should have been reported to the Licensing Office as a breach of licensing conditions;
· There was a complaint in 2008 which also wasn’t declared at the time by the applicant and a future complaint by a cyclist in 2013;
· There were further breaches of licensing conditions, including his private hire vehicle being parked in a hackney carriage rank;
· There had been a delay in processing the application as the Licensing Office had requested a copy of the prosecution file in relation to the battery offence which had not been received until January 2019;
· The Licensing Policy stated that a period of between 5 - 8 years should elapse from the date of offence and an applicant being granted a new licence in the case of common assault (which included battery);
· In relation to the breach of licensing conditions, the 6 month period had now elapsed;
· The officers recommended refusal, but if the Committee was minded to grant a licence, the applicant would need to complete a medical check as well as a driving licence check.
The Licensing Officer and Legal Officer responded to questions of clarification as follows:
· “common assault” was a broad term encompassing an assault which is the threat of violence/unlawful force, and battery where unlawful force is applied;
· The 2002 incident involving the possession of cannabis did not show on the disclosure as it was an old offence which may have been filtered out;
· Incidents were included even when no further enforcement action was taken as this was important to determine whether a driver was a “fit and proper person”
· Although the time had passed in terms of some of the individual incidents, these incidents could be taken into account as a pattern of behaviour.
The Applicant made the following points in support of his application:
· He was sorry for the incidents and accepted he was responsible;
· He was happily married with 4 children;
· He accepted he should have contacted the police when he felt he was being threatened rather than confronting the individual directly;
· He circulated two character references about his work in the community;
· He was a good taxi driver and this had been his job for most of his life, he had tried to work in other trades but had not be able to secure a sustainable income.
In response to questioning, the Applicant:
· Clarified that the drug possession incident had occurred when he was younger and he had put this incident behind him;
· He had pleaded guilty to the battery offence on the advice of his solicitor; although he believed that he was acting in self-defence to protect himself from being poked in his eyes.
PM, on behalf of the Applicant, confirmed that he and other taxi drivers had also experienced threatening behaviour from the individual involved in the battery case with the applicant.
At this point in the meeting, the Applicant and the Licensing Officer withdrew while the Committee considered the application and subsequently returned to hear the decision.
RESOLVED - that the application be REFUSED for the grant of a private hire driver (PHD) licence in that, in accordance with Section 51 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, the Committee were not satisfied that the Applicant (SH) was a fit and proper person to hold such a licence for the following reasons:
· The Council’s Policy guides that, in the case of convictions for common assault, there should be a period of between 5 - 8 years free of conviction from the date of offence and an applicant being granted a new licence;
· The Committee was not satisfied that he should be treated as an exception to Council policy without undermining it or the reasons that underlie it;
The Committee recommended a further 2 – 5 year period before re-applying for a PHD licence.