The driver was present.
The Neighbourhood Enforcement Officer introduced the report and drew attention to the following:
· AK holds both a Private Hire Driver’s licence and a Hackney Carriage Driver’s licence, both of which expire on 28 July 2021.
· The Taxi Compliance Officer stopped AK on 13 March during test purchase test operation with undercover PCSOs.
· AK was not displaying or wearing a badge.
· AK admitted plying for hire immediately and showed remorse for his actions. The officer issued a fixed penalty notice, which if accepted results in a £300 fine and 6 penalty points.
· AK has no previous history of complaints or endorsements.
· Officers recommend a written warning or suspension.
The appellant gave the following evidence:
· AK admitted the offence, apologised, and said it would not happen again.
· AK said he was sitting in his taxi when he was approached by two women asking him to take them to Bristol Temple Meads. AK advised them to go to a nearby taxi rank, but the women said there were no taxis on the rank, and they were concerned about missing their train.
· Ak agreed to transport them and agreed a fee of £7. AK admitted to police that he was plying for hire when he was pulled over.
· AK said that he has been a taxi driver since 1995, that he has a clean record with no other offences.
· AK said he thought it was unfair for the undercover PCSOs to insist on hire when he had already referred them to a taxi rank. He thought he was helping someone who was in danger of missing a train but admitted he should not have charged them if this was a genuine act of charity.
After questioning from the committee, the following information was confirmed
· While AK has insurance cover generally, it was invalidated for that trip due to him plying for hire, which is a breach of the conditions.
· Background record checks do include the older paper records.
· AK said he did not display his ID badge at the time as he took it off as he was about to clock off due to a lack of business. Regarding his vehicle plates, AK said that he had a faulty holder, so the plate kept falling out. He has a new holder now so that issue is fixed.
· AK holds both a private hire and hackney driver licence. He was asked how often he uses these. AK primarily works as a private hire driver as he had to sell his hackney carriage vehicle due to poor health and financial difficulties. He now hires a vehicle for work and two licences means he can be more flexible in what vehicle he drives.
To suspend Mr K’s Private Hire Driver’s licence for a period of two months on the ground contained in section 61(1)(b) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 namely any other reasonable cause. No action will be taken in respect of his Hackney Carriage Driver’s licence.
Mr K had admitted to the offence of unlawfully plying for hire and notwithstanding his explanation as to the circumstances of the offence, the Committee were satisfied that the undercover officers had not acted as agents provocateur because Mr K had not been threatened, incited, overborne upon or pressurised into committing the offence. The officers had acted no differently to an ordinary member of the public and Mr K could have refused to transport them.
The Council takes a dim view of plying for hire because not only does it deprive properly licensed hackney carriage drivers of their legitimate trade but it also places the public at risk because plying for hire will normally mean that the insurance will be invalidated in respect of that particular use of the vehicle.
Usually, the Council’s policy starting point would be to impose a period of suspension of 6 months. However, given that Mr K put forward strong mitigation and was very remorseful as to what had happened, the Committee decided that there were exceptional reasons for them to depart from Council policy and impose a shorter period of suspension of 2 months of the PHD licence but to leave the HCD licence intact, since HC drivers are permitted to ply for hire.