To determine an application for a Private Hire/Hackney Carriage Drivers Licence.
The Licensing and Compliance Officer gave a summary of her report which requested that members considered an application for a Private Hire/ Hackney Carriage Driver Licence.
The applicant said that he considered that the report had explained the situation quite well. In response to questions from Members, he said that he was unaware that he had a criminal record. He provided explanations for the events surrounding the convictions from 2016.
The applicant left the meeting at 14:25 hrs and the meeting was adjourned; the Panel retired to make its decision following the next Agenda item.
The matter before the Panel today is the applicant’s application for a joint hackney carriage/PHV driver’s licence. If successful, he has an offer of employment from 24 x 7 Ltd on the Home to School Transport (HtST) side of the business. This is a hybrid hearing with the Panel and our Legal Advisor 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 applicant, and we have also seen, as has he, the background documents annexed thereto including the application form and the DVLA documentation supporting the application. We have also taken into account national and the Council’s policy and have heard from the Case Officer and from the applicant.
On the applicant’s application form the answer given to question 6 ‘Do you have any spent convictions?’ the applicant had answered ‘NO’. The applicant had also answered ‘NO’ to the question of ‘Do you have any unspent convictions?’
However, the applicant’s enhanced DBS check submitted to Uttlesford District Council Licensing Department showed that he had 5 convictions as set out below:
16.3.20161. Use of threatening/abusive behaviour likely to cause harassment/alarm or distress – Public Order Act 1986 – Compensation £150
16.3.2016 2. Resist or obstruct constable – Police Act 1996 – Conditional discharge 2 years
16.3.2016 3. Resist or obstruct constable – Police Act 1996 – Conditional discharge 2 years
16.3.2016 4. Destroy or damage property at a value unknown - Compensation £50
20.5.2016 5. Failing to surrender to custody at appointed time under the bail act – No separate penalty.
These matters, taken together, mean that the applicant does not meet the requirements of the Council’s suitability policy in a number of respects.
Our starting point is clause 2.5 which states
“Generally, where a person has more than one conviction, this will raise serious questions about their safety and suitability. The licensing authority is looking for safe and suitable individuals, and once a pattern or trend of repeated offending is apparent, a licence will not be granted or renewed.”
Furthermore, UDC’s driver conditions policy goes on to state:
2.3 Any dishonesty by any applicant or other person on theapplicant’s behalf which is discovered to have occurred in any part ofany application process (e.g. failure to declare convictions, falsenames or addresses, falsified references) will result in a licence beingrefused, or if already granted, revoked and may result in prosecution.
2.10 Where an applicant has more than oneconviction showing a pattern or tendency irrespective of time sincethe convictions, serious consideration will need to be given as towhether they are a safe and suitable person.
Offences involving violence
2.14 Where an applicant has a conviction for an offence of violence, or connected with any offence of violence, a licence will not be granted until at least 10 years have elapsed since the completion of any sentence imposed.
These matters were therefore raised with the applicant on 11th June 2021 during a Right to Work meeting. He was asked regarding his criminal convictions and why they was not declared on his application form. The applicant stated he had ‘forgotten’ about his convictions, and thereafter explained the circumstances in which he had obtained his criminal record. The applicant stated that a ‘friend who holds a ‘green card which exempts him from arrest was about to be arrested by an Officer of the law’. When we asked him about this he explained that his friend has multiple health conditions meaning he cannot be detained in a police cell.
The applicant attempted to stop the police from arresting his friend and as a result was sprayed with pepper spray and thereafter charged with two counts of resisting arrest and obstructing an Officer as there were two Officers present. The applicant had also stated that he was charged with ‘Destroy or damage property at a value unknown’ due to him being pepper sprayed; the carpet that it had landed upon needed to be professionally cleaned.
We have listened carefully to what the applicant has told us. It does not amount to a coherent explanation. The index incident took place within the confines of a Court building in which there will inevitably be a large police and security presence and where people generally are on their best behaviour. He was unable to explain what appears on the face of it to be a substantial overreaction to a minor incident which could have been addressed by a discreet warning regarding his friend’s health condition. He went on to explain his friend has since received civil damages for the incident from which he paid the applicant’s fine, and the latter believed that that resolved the matter and that he did not have to attend Court hence the Bail Act offence.
However, the applicant could not explain why he omitted to declare the fact of these convictions. The application form is clear, it asks for everything, and the incident was only five years ago and must have been very distressing. The only explanation offered is that it “did not occur to him” to put it down. We find this lack of an explanation most unsatisfactory, and the reality was that this was a violent offence: if a pepper spray was used upon him, in a Courthouse environment, there must have been good reason.
The primary function of this Committee is the protection of the public and if we are in any doubt as to whether an applicant is a safe and suitable person to hold a licence then our duty is clear – we should refuse the application, and we do so. These offences were ones of violence and suggest anger management issues which we consider to be a serious concern if the applicant is driving children; they can be very provoking and transporting them is a fully regulated activity under S5 Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.
The applicant 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. I feel it right to warn him though, that the Magistrates do not have power to grant a licence.
The meeting re-convened at 14.30 hrs.