The Licensing Officer introduced the report and drew attention to the following:
· JM applied for a new private hire driver’s licence on 13 June 2021. He previously held a licence until 25 February 2021, when he was given a 6-month driving ban due to totting up of driving offences.
· He has multiple recent endorsements as per the report and 12 historical convictions. JM was issued a warning letter in 2019 for failing to report his offences.
· He has previously applied for a PHD licence, but this was deferred as he did not hold a valid driving licence.
· Under BCC policy, committee should consider whether multiple offences mean an individual is fit and proper to hold a PHD licence. Under the new policy guidance, an offence of using a phone while driving should result in no licence being granted for a 5-year period.
The appellant gave the following evidence:
· JM has been driving for 34 years and has not received any complaints from customers in that time.
· For the offence regarding using a phone while driving, he maintained this was an emergency as the call was related to his sister, who was in hospital at the time. The phone has a hands-free system, but this was not working. There was no customer in the car.
· JM believes that he has served his punishment following a 6-month driving ban. This has caused him and his family financial hardship due to being unable to work.
After questioning from the sub-committee, the following information was confirmed
· JM was reminded that in addition to the phone offence, there are a long list of offences on his record that could be considered an unfit pattern of behaviour. He was asked about his more recent offences of speeding and failing to comply with traffic lights but was unable to explain his behaviour.
· It was confirmed that the BCC policy is to not issue a licence for 5 years after the recording of an offence using a phone while driving. This policy came into effect in 2019 following new national statutory guidance. There has always been a policy that multiple offences are a cause for concern.
The applicant was given the opportunity to sum up, then parties left the room while the sub-committee deliberated.
That the application for the grant of a PHD Licence made by JM be refused on the ground contained in section 51 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 in that the committee could not be satisfied he was a fit and proper person to hold such a licence.
After receiving the decision, JM became very aggressive towards the committee members and officers.
The Members noted with some concern that JM had a large number of driving convictions on his record and although a number of them were historic, there were four convictions in the last four years, including a conviction in May 2020 of using a hand-held device whilst driving. This had resulted in him being disqualified from driving under the totting up procedures.
The policy starting point of using a hand-held device whilst driving is a period of at least five years free of conviction before an application will be entertained. The policy also states that whilst a single occurrence of a minor traffic offence may not necessitate the revocation of a taxi or private hire vehicle driver licence, an applicant with multiple motoring convictions may indicate that an applicant does not exhibit the behaviours of a safe road user and one that is suitable to drive professionally.
The Committee had not heard anything from the applicant to satisfy them that he should be treated as an exception to Council policy without undermining it or the reasons that underlie it. The committee noted his personal circumstances during the pandemic, but these were not relevant, save to excuse the conduct of the driver. The Applicant provided a detailed explanation for committing the offence of using a mobile phone whilst driving, which the Members accepted was out of character, but due to the number of driving offences which were caught by Council policy, the Committee could not be satisfied that JM was a fit and proper person to hold a PHD licence. The Council is entitled to expect high standards from those whom it licences but unfortunately JM’s driving standards, over a period of four years, had not demonstrated that he was a safe road user. The application was therefore refused.