To determine a review of a Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Driver Licence.
The Senior Licensing and Compliance Officer gave a summary of his report which requested that members determine a review of the applicant’s Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Driver Licence.
In response to various questions from Members, the driver said that he had not attempted to bribe the vehicle technician but had said that the technician could keep the change when he paid a £35 invoice with a £50 note. The driver said that he had not used the vehicle since then but he had been using a vehicle supplied by Happicabs, the operator for whom he drives.
The matter before the Panel today is an application for the review of the driver’s joint hackney carriage/PHV driver’s licence reference PH/HC0187. Since the driver is an owner/driver, we may also need to consider vehicle licence reference number PHV 4109, dependent on our decision today. This is a hybrid hearing with the Panel, our Legal Advisor and the driver in the Council Chamber at London Road and the other parties attending remotely.
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 the list of vehicle defects and the written statements of the vehicle technician involved. We have had the opportunity of hearing from the driver and have been able to ask him questions. We have also seen some video footage of the car in question prior to today’s hearing. In reaching our decision we have also taken into account national and the Council’s policy and have heard from the Case Officer and the driver. We also understand that the Police have become involved in this matter since it involves, inter alia, allegations of dishonesty
The facts of the case are simply that on 16 July 2021, Private Hire Vehicle PHV4109 underwent a vehicle compliance test at Takeley Performance Tyres (TPT), which is one of the testing stations on the Council’s approved list. The car was due for a 6 monthly inspection.
The Private Hire vehicle owned by the driver failed its test on 11 items. A list of these items along with the compliance test certificate and photo of the vehicle are included in the bundle before us. TPT contacted the Licensing Team at the time the test was being carried out to advise of the poor condition of the vehicle, and they provided photographic evidence of this. Pictures of the car are in our bundle and a short video of the wheel being tested has also been viewed by us. Furthermore, a member of staff at TPT advised officers that the driver had attempted to bribe him into passing the vehicle with a £20 note, both before and after the test had been carried out. A S9 Witness Statement provided by the member of staff at TPT is among our papers and we accept the truth thereof..
Licensing Officers attempted to arrange an interview with the driver following the incident, however he failed to attend at the scheduled date and time and no contact has been made with the Licensing Team. It was made clear to the driver in the letter that his attendance was voluntary but that failure to attend would not prevent the investigation continuing towards a possible outcome. We have seen this letter.
Licensing Officers have multiple concerns, which we share, namely;
- The driver presented the vehicle for inspection in the condition shown in our papers. The inference we can, and do draw is that he did so knowing the vehicle was going to fail the examination.
- He then attempted to bribe the staff member with money even before the test had commenced, indicating the possible knowledge and acceptance of the vehicle’s condition as alluded to above.
- The driver then repeated the attempt to bribe the member of staff a second time after the vehicle test result was confirmed as being a failure.
We have heard from the case officer and the driver has had the opportunity to address us today. Unfortunately we have not found him to be a convincing witness, his explanation being merely that he offered the member of staff at TPT a large denomination banknote to cover the inspection fee, and told him to keep the change. The figures do not add up and we prefer the written evidence of the member of staff at TPT.
The primary function of this Committee is the protection of the travelling public. The legislation makes this clear as does the case law and all authority in the area. We are not entitled to take into account issues such as hardship to the driver in the exercise of our statutory function. Our role is to determine whether or not he remains a fit and proper person to hold a HC/PHV licence and if we consider that he is not, then our duty is clear – we should revoke the licence.
In this case we do revoke the licence, and with immediate effect in the interests of public safety. The driver demonstrated by his actions that he was prepared to drive, and to carry members of the public for reward in a vehicle that he was aware was unsafe. Further, the driver has attempted, on two occasions, to dishonestly bribe a Department of Transport accredited vehicle tester, acting as such to certify an unsafe vehicle as being safe to carry members of the public for reward and on the first occasion he clearly knew that the vehicle he was presenting for testing was unsafe. Repeating the offer after the test had been failed merely compounds matters and we take the most serious possible view of this. At this point we pause to add that the operator for whom he drives, Happicabs, immediately directed that the vehicle be taken off the road and this remains the position.
These allegations amount to two counts of dishonesty, and further evince a cavalier attitude towards the safety of the travelling public. This is totally unacceptable and makes it abundantly clear to us that he is not a fit and proper person to hold an Uttlesford licence. We therefore revoke the drivers’ licence, with immediate effect, and understand officers have rightly referred the matter to the Police.
We now turn to consider whether any action should be taken against the Private Hire Vehicle licence PHV4109, of which the driver is the sole named proprietor, and since only a licenced driver may drive a licenced vehicle, we also revoke the vehicle licence, again with immediate effect, so it can be driven, assuming the defects in it have been rectified, for private purposes. We are, however, pleased to note that it has not been used to transport the public since the inspection but even so its condition suggests to us that it should not be on the road at all.
The driver does have a right of appeal against this decision to the Magistrates Court, which must be exercised within 21 days and he will receive a letter from the Legal Department explaining this. Since the licences have been revoked with immediate effect he may not drive for reward pending the determination of any such appeal.
The meeting was adjourned at 14.45 hrs for the Panel to consider both items.