The driver was in attendance.
The Neighbourhood Enforcement Officer introduced the report and drew attention to the following:
· This report is to determine if action needed against LS. LS holds a PHD licence with expiry of 4 October 2020. He has held a licence since 2006. He also owns his taxi and is the only person insured for it, with an expiry of 25 December 2020.
· The Neighbourhood Enforcement Team (NET) received notification from Gwent Police on 30 July that LS had been arrested on the M4 for drink driving and failed to provide a specimen in custody. His court case will be heard on 11 August 2020.
· LS did not notify the Local Authority of his arrest, which is a breach of his licence conditions.
· A DVLA check shows LS has no other offences recorded. There is one complaint recorded in 2012, where LS was aggressive and sexist to female driver.
The applicant gave the following evidence:
· LS was under a large amount of strain at the time of the offence. His wife was ill and in and out of hospital regularly. His mother died in April. He has have 5 siblings and is the de facto head of the family now. His father is deaf and LS is a carer for him. He had to arrange the funeral for his mother, but was only permitted 10 attendees due to Covid-19 restrictions.
· LS admitted to having alcohol in his system as he had 2 beers with dinner. Under normal circumstances, he would take a shift off work if he had been drinking, but on this occasion he drove to visit his sister in Cardiff. He was low on petrol so drove at a slower rate and was stopped by police. He was then arrested on suspicion of drink driving.
· LS apologised for his actions, but said that he did not think he was impaired by that amount of alcohol he had drunk. He has a thyroid issue meaning alcohol stays in his system for longer than average.
After questioning from the committee, the following information was confirmed:
· The legal position is this committee is fulfilling a regulatory function. It is not second guessing the active criminal proceedings but is still able to act. The committee does not have to wait until a criminal conviction to take action.
· The committee is here to establish whether there is a risk to the public. It is not allowed to take into account personal circumstances of a licensee.
· There is new statutory guidance that states licensees should notify the Local Authority of motoring offences within 48 hours. The current BCC policy is to notify the authority by the next working day. This requirement is stated on the licence.
· LS stated that his solicitor had told him he did not need to notify the authority as he had not been convicted of the offence.
The Committee withdrew to deliberate on their decision.
RESOLVED (unanimous decision)
1. That the Private Hire Drivers Licence of LS be revoked on the ground contained in section 61(1)(b) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 namely any other reasonable cause
2. That the Private Hire Vehicle Licence of LS be revoked on the ground contained in section 60(1)(c) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 namely any other reasonable cause
The Committee noted that on 30th July 2020 the Police had notified the Council that LS had been stopped on the M4 and tested positive at the roadside. He was arrested but failed to provide an evidential specimen in custody and was charged with drink driving. LS was due to appear in Court on 11/08/2020 and intended to plead Not Guilty. At the time of the alleged offence LS was driving his Bristol City Council licensed PH vehicle. LS had not notified the Licensing Office of his arrest or pending prosecution which is a requirement as per the conditions attached to his private hire drivers licence.
Although LS had not been convicted of any offence, it was not the role of the Committee to try to second guess the outcome of the criminal matter. The function of the Committee is a regulatory one whereby the main focus is protection of the public and therefore it was not necessary for the Committee to await the outcome of the criminal case in order to make a judgement as to whether LS was still a fit and proper person to hold a private hire driver’s licence. This approach is further endorsed by the recently published statutory taxi and private hire vehicle standards which state that an arrest for any motoring offence should result in a review by the issuing authority as to whether the licence holder is fit to continue to hold a licence. The statutory guidance also places an emphasis on the importance of licensee’s self-reporting an arrest, charge or conviction for any motoring offence. A failure by a licence holder to disclose an arrest that the issuing authority is subsequently advised of might be seen as behaviour that questions honesty and therefore the suitability of the licence holder regardless of the outcome of the initial allegation.
The Committee considered the allegations to be of a serious nature and although the prosecution proceedings were to be defended, the CPS were satisfied that there was a realistic prospect of securing a conviction. The Committee was also concerned at LS’s explanation that he was not aware he needed to notify the Council of his arrest in writing and he had not read the conditions attached to his licence.
Therefore, the Committee could no longer be satisfied that LS was a fit and proper person to hold a Private Hire Driver’s licence and there was reasonable cause to revoke it. There was also reasonable cause to revoke the PH Vehicle licence since LS was the only person insured to drive it.