To determine a private hire/hackney carriage vehicle licence.
The Chair moved Item 7 forward in the proceedings.
The Enforcement Officer gave a summary of the report.A Community Protection Officer for Maldon District Council and an accredited officer of Essex Police was performing road safety duties with a hand held speed camera in Maldon.
He was approached by the driver who appeared to be very agitated and confrontational, and seemed aggrieved that the Officer was doing speed checks without putting signage up. The driver stated that the Officer appeared to be holding a gun and looked dangerous and repeated this a number of times.
The Officer clearly identified himself as an Essex Police accredited Officer doing speed checks and supplied his name and said that the driver could make enquiries with Essex Police if he was unhappy with the situation. The driver said the Officer should get his “governors to kick your arse,” he also said that the Officer was a “sarcastic tosser” and an “idiot” a “jerk” and said that he should get “his arse kicked.”
A video of the driver’s encounter with the police officer was shown to the panel.
The driver said he had been on edge at the time when he went over to speak to the officer. He had not known he was with the police and his ID had been tucked into his jacket. He had thought he had a gun. He had never had any experiences like that before. He had genuinely believed something wasn’t right and had lost his temper, particularly when the officer did not seem to take the matter seriously and refused to let the driver take a photo of his ID.
In response to a Member question, the driver said he had reported the incident to Essex Police, and had received a response.
Copies of this response were circulated to Members.
In response to a Member question, the driver said that with hindsight he would have been more measured and called the police. Such behaviour was not typical of him.
The driver said he hoped the situation could be used to educate people about what could be done better.
Copies of a reference from the Head Teacher at a school he drove for were circulated to the Panel.
At 12.40, the Committee retired to make its decision.
At 13.00, the Committee returned. The decision was read to those present.
RESOLVED to take no further action on the driver’s drivers licence.
DECISION NOTICE –
The application before the Panel today is for the suspension or revocation of Mthe driver’s private hire licence number PHD0452 under S61 (1) (b) Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.- any other reasonable cause. The licence is due to expire on 31 August 2021 and the driver was first licenced by this authority on 24th September 2009. He works for 24 x 7 on school contract work.
We have had the opportunity of reading the officer’s report in this case, a copy of which has been served on the driver, and we have also seen, as has he, the background documents annexed thereto including email correspondence and notes of a telephone conversation between him and the Enforcement Officer.
The driver is before us today because on 12 July 2019, A Community Protection Officer for Maldon District Council and an accredited officer of Essex Police, was performing road safety duties with a hand held speed camera in Fambridge Road, Maldon. He was approached by a driver of a silver Skoda Karoq registration number LK19 AAY which is private hire vehicle 2352. The driver of the vehicle, who was subsequently identified by 24x7 Limited as the driver, appeared to very agitated and confrontational. Their exchange was recorded by the officer on his body cam, and we have had the opportunity of viewing the footage.
Briefly, the driver appeared aggrieved that the Officer was doing speed checks without putting signage up. Only Community Speedwatches manned by volunteers are required to do so. The driver stated that the Officer appeared to be holding a gun, looked dangerous and repeated this a number of times. However, the Officer clearly identified himself as an Essex Police accredited officer doing speed checks, supplied his name and said that the driver could make enquiries with Essex Police if he was unhappy with the situation. The driver said the Officer should get his “governors to kick your arse,” called him a “sarcastic tosser”, an “idiot” a “jerk” and repeated that he should get “his arse kicked.” He was subsequently spoken with by Officer Logie of the Road Crime Support Team on 16 July 2019, who reported that the driver would not let him speak and he had therefore to terminate the call. The notes and records kept by both officers were forwarded to UDC for attention.
The Enforcement Officer carried out a telephone interview with the driver on 11 September 2019. He provided the following information. He had seen the Officer on the side of the road pointing a hand held device. The driver believed it to be a firearm and he was genuinely concerned. Though the Officer was wearing a hi-vis top, the driver did not consider his demeanour professional as he was unshaven and clothes appeared old.
The driver then dropped his passenger off and came back to challenge the Officer, who was allegedly objectionable and “got in his [the driver’s] personal space” although he accepted that he did get in the Officer’s space on one occasion. He then said that the Officer did not have any signage to indicate that he was doing speed checks. The driver said that he did not call the Police at the time as he could not afford to hang about to wait for their attendance which is why he decided to deal with the matter himself: he had been in the security industry before as a doorman.
His sole employment is now driving.
The Enforcement Officer then asked why the driver why he swore at the Officer and he explained that he did not believe that “tosser” is a swear word and that when he has been called one, he does not take offence. The driver does believe that the Officer should have allowed him to take a photo of his ID so that he could remember the details. In conclusion, he admitted that with hindsight he made a genuine mistake and offered to apologise to the Officer. The driver has since submitted an email of apology via the Enforcement Officer to the Officer.
However, we are mindful of the conditions of licence for private hire/hackney carriage drivers, condition 1 of which states drivers will ‘be polite.’ On 12th July he was not.
We have heard from the driver. He answered our questions frankly and read out a prepared statement, He was very critical of the behaviour of the Officer and of the way Essex Police handled his subsequent telephone call, saying that the former should have “embraced the opportunity” to educate him regarding the technology being used.
He told us about the challenges the children he drives face, and he read aloud to us a letter of reference obtained from the Headteacher of the school attended by them. This letter was very positive and we note their strong support of him. We have had an explanation as to what the camera Officer was holding looks like and we note that it would have been perfectly open to him to drop it down to his side when speaking to the driver. We do not consider he did all he could have done to defuse the situation and neither party should have allowed this situation to escalate to the point that it did. We also note that a formal apology was offered very quickly.
We note that the driver has been licensed by UDC for ten years and we also observe that he has never been before this Committee. We are therefore going to allow him to retain his licence, but we do consider that he should keep a tighter rein on his temper in the future and we do not expect to see him before us ever again.