The applicant was in attendance.
The Licensing Officer introduced the report and drew attention to the following:
· MW is applying for renewal of a PHD licence. His existing licence expired 15 June 2020. MW has held a licence since June 2010 with short interruptions. On his application, MW declared two speeding offences from 2017. However a DVLA check showed two speeding offences from 2016 which were not declared.
· When MW received penalty points in November 2017 he was up to a total of 12 points on his licence. This would normally result in a driving ban. This was considered by Weston-Super-Mare Magistrates Court, but they accepted a plea of exceptional hardship.
· Licensees are required to notify the Local Authority of any offence they incur. MW has not notified any of his offences to date. At the time of his 2016 offences, MW was reminded of the need to declare convictions in future but he did not declare his 2017 convictions. MW maintains that he telephoned the authority to inform, but there is no record of this.
· MW has several complaints on file: allegation of plying for hire (2011), making obscene gestures (2011) and using a map during the knowledge test (2009). Has also received conviction for driving without due care and attention in 2014.
The applicant gave the following evidence:
· MW maintains that he made two phone calls to the BCC licensing office when he received the summons his speeding offence. He was advised to contact again once the case went to court. A licensing officer took his details and said she would call him back but he claims this never happened.
· MW has not incurred any offences since 2017. He stated that incurring traffic offences is inevitable given the amount of miles driven. He stated that he had a badly behaving customer distracting him at the 2017 offences.
· MW is a carer for his brother, who has MS and is bed-bound. His mother was also diagnosed with cancer at the time of the offences. She is now in remission but is still weak. MW is restricted in his work during Covid-19 as he has to be careful about infecting his vulnerable family members.
· MW apologised for his conduct and acknowledged that it was below the standard expected of taxi drivers.
After questioning from the committee, the following information was confirmed:
· New statutory guidance has come into force a few weeks ago on criminal convictions. Drivers must notify the authority within 48 hours of arrest, charge or conviction. Failure to disclose might be seen as a question of honesty that affects their suitability to hold a licence.
· Under the current BCC policy, notification must happen on the next working day after the offence.
· MW has been told several times to put notifications in writing. It also says this in the licencing documents. Notification by phone is insufficient.
· MW said that as he rents his vehicle, there have been delays in his previous notification as he gets the offence paperwork second hand from the vehicle owner.
· MW’s recent speeding offences were travelling at 35mph in a 30mph limit, and travelling at 59mph in a 50mph limit on a smart motorway with variable limits. MW said he found the variable limits difficult to deal with.
· The court issued MW with a minimum fine given his financial situation.
The Committee withdrew to deliberate on their decision.
RESOLVED (unanimous decision)
That MW’s application to renew his Private Hire Driver’s (PHD) Licence be refused on the ground contained in section 61(1)(b) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, namely any other reasonable cause, because the Committee could no longer be satisfied that he was a fit and proper person to hold such a licence
The Committee noted that MW had submitted an application to renew his PHD licence on 3 June 2020. His existing licence expired on 15 June 2020. A search on his DVLA licence revealed not less than four endorsements between 8 October 2016 and 30 November 2017 – all for speeding. The most recent offence of speeding on a motorway (SP50) took his penalty points total to 12 which meant that he was liable to be disqualified from driving under the totting up procedures. However, he successfully argued exceptional hardship and avoided disqualification. The Council’s policy on offending behaviour states that “In "totting-up" cases where disqualification is considered by the court, even if the court does not disqualify a driver, (e.g. because satisfied of exceptional hardship) the Council is likely to refuse a hackney carriage or private hire driver's licence
because different criteria apply and an applicant will normally be expected to show a period of 12 months free from conviction from the date the court made its finding of exceptional circumstances justifying the non- disqualification.”
In MW’s case this meant that had he immediately disclosed details of this conviction in writing to the Council in compliance with the conditions attached to his licence, consideration of his fitness to continue to hold a private hire driver’s licence would have been placed before this committee at that time with a policy starting point of 12 months “off the road”. However, there was no record of MW ever having disclosed this conviction to the Council which had resulted in him benefitting from no action being taken on his licence.
Although MW contended that he had informed the Council via telephone about the conviction, there was no file record of him ever having done this and information was provided to the Committee that MW had previously been advised, albeit verbally, by a Licensing Officer that all convictions needed to be disclosed to the Council in writing.
The statutory taxi and private hire licensing standards, that recently came into force, place emphasis on the importance of licensees self-reporting offences to the issuing authority and that a failure to disclose convictions the issuing authority is subsequently advised of might be seen as behaviour that questions honesty and therefore the suitability of the licence holder.
Although a speeding conviction on its own is treated as a minor motoring offence under the Council’s policy, the pattern and frequency of the convictions gave rise to a cause for concern.
The finding of exceptional hardship was made on 25 September 2018 but the matter was not considered by the committee at that time, since the convictions were not brought to the licensing team’s attention. On balance, it was found that MW had not properly notified his convictions to the Council which had resulted in him having the benefit of retaining his licence until a check of his DVLA licence had been carried out.
In consequence the Committee could no longer be satisfied that MW was a fit and proper person to hold a PHD licence and there was reasonable cause to refuse his application to renew it.