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.
The driver addressed the Panel, explaining that it was their first permanent route as a Home to School Transport (HTST) driver and that they had not been briefed by the operator regarding the child’s condition beforehand. They admitted to playing the radio softly on one occasion, but they had not done this with any intention of hurting the child.
The driver said that much of the complaint against them was false, including the suggestion that they had pressured the complainant not to contact the Council. They emphasised that they were a nice person and would never have hurt the child on purpose.
In response to questions from the Panel, the driver clarified the following:
· The Passenger Assistant (PA) in the back seat had said that they could not hear the radio and was willing to back the driver up on this.
· Both the driver and PA had done everything they could to help the child and they believed they had a good relationship with the family.
· The complaint had only been submitted to the Council after the driver had made the decision to request a change of route.
· The complainant had not spoken to the driver in-person before about the child’s condition.
· The driver had been driving the child since March; however, they were frequently absent from school, so they had not spent much time with them overall.
· On the day of the incident, the child had told the driver and PA not to speak so she had put the radio on her side of the car very softly and didn’t think that it would impact the child. They accepted that they had overwritten a condition not to play music.
The Solicitor drew the Panel’s attention to the email from a parent on the driver’s current route which was written in support of them retaining their licence.
To conclude, the driver said that they did not believe that they were a risk to public and apologised again for the mistake which they had made. They stated that in future they would always check first before doing anything that they are unsure about.
The meeting adjourned between 10:30 – 11:03 for the Panel to deliberate.
The application before the Panel today is for the review of Ms Larking’s joint hackney carriage/PHV driver’s licence. She is employed by 24 x 7 Ltd on the Home to School Transport (HtST) side of the business and this hearing is being conducted upon a hybrid basis. The Panel, the Case Officer and the Legal Advisor are in the Council Chamber at London Road, Saffron Walden and other participants, including Ms Larking, are attending via Zoom.
We have had the opportunity of reading the officer’s report in this case, a copy of which has been served on Ms Larking, and we have also seen, as has she, the background documents annexed thereto including the complaint letter. We have also taken into account national and the Council’s policy and have heard from the Case Officer and from Ms Larking. We have also read a glowing testimonial from the parents of the children she is now transporting.
The facts are that on 10 June 2021, the Uttlesford District Council Licensing team were notified by 24x7 Hampshire of a complaint made by a member of the public concerning Ms Larking, one of their employed HtST drivers. The complaint is included within our bundle.
The complainant (who is the parent of the child passenger) had previously asked Ms Larking not to play music or speak loudly when the child was in the vehicle as she has a condition called hyperacusis, which is a type of noise sensitivity. The child had advised her parent that Ms Larking had been playing music during the journey which had caused her distress. The disclosed WhatsApp messages between Ms Larking and the parent appear to show awareness of the issue, and this was also acknowledged during interview with Licensing Officers. We have been provided with more information by the officers concerned, and it should be noted in mitigation that Ms Larking told Licensing Officers that she had previously asked her employer to change her route due to the request for minimum noise during the journey.
We were mindful of Condition 7 of the Uttlesford District Council Private Hire/Hackney Carriage Driver licence conditions which states that the driver will not ‘’Play any radio, tape recorder, CD/DVD player or similar device, during the course of hiring, without the hirer’s permission’’.
We have listened carefully to what Ms Larking has told us. We note that it was her first route as an HtST driver and she tells us that she was not briefed by the operator regarding the child’s condition. She further told us that it was one occasion only and that she would not have put the car radio on if she had known and understood the exact position as she would not have dreamed of harming the child. She told us the Passenger Assistant (PA) in the back seat had said she could not hear the radio, and confirmed that little if any information had been provided by either the operator or the child’s family. She and the PA did everything they could to help the child and Ms Larking believed she had had a good relationship with the family.
However, a though WhatsApp message sent by her in the papers before us somewhat negates this she repeated that she did not appreciate that the journey had to be made in total silence and that this in fact only happened on one occasion.
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 continue to hold a licence then our duty is clear – we should revoke the licence. However, we have heard from Ms Larking and we note she had some insight into the special needs of this particular child but had received no training: we also note she requested redeployment from this route, this has happened and we note the glowing testimonial from the parent of the children she now drives.
We do, however, note her genuine contrition. She tells us that she loves her work, would be devastated to lose her job and consider the operator, and possibly the education authority, must bear some responsibility for this incident. When her licence comes up for renewal we urge her to pay particular attention to the relevant parts of the mandatory training day she will be required to attend. Accordingly, we are prepared to allow Ms Larking to retain her licence and we would urge her to take advantage of whatever training may be available.