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 and confirmed that they had visited Council Depot for a vehicle compliance test, however denied making any of the alleged comments during and after the inspection.
In response to questions for the Panel, the driver said that it was the first time that they had visited the depot and they had never met the technician before so was unaware of any reason why the technician would have made the allegations against him.
The driver explained that the technician had not informed him of any of the faults and advisories on his vehicle, saying that he would pass the information onto his manager instead, who would then pass it on to the Council. Following the visit, the driver said that he contacted the Licensing department at Uttlesford District Council to say that he did not know if he had passed or failed the inspection and when he received an email from Senior Licensing and Compliance Officer to inform him that the vehicle had failed, he took it straight for repair. He confirmed that he had used T and R Auto Repairs as his garage of choice since he was granted his license in 2012.
The Solicitor clarified that the witness statement was made under Section 9 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967, whereby it is a legal document and contains a statement of truth. Should the technician have given false evidence, it would be punishable as perjury.
The meeting adjourned between 11:20 – 11:46 for the Panel to deliberate.
The matter before the Panel today is an application for the review of Mr Khan’s joint hackney carriage/PHV driver’s licence reference PH/HC0565. Since Mr Khan is an owner/driver, we may also need to consider vehicle licence reference number HCV014 dependent on our decision today.
We have had the opportunity of reading the officer’s report in this case, a copy of which has been served on Mr Khan, and we have also seen, as has he, the background documents annexed thereto including the list of vehicle defects and the written statements of Mr Cutter, the vehicle technician involved. In reaching our decision we have also taken into account national and the Council’s policy and have heard from the Case Officer and from Mr Khan. We also understand that the Police are, or have been, involved in this matter since it involves, inter alia, allegations of dishonesty.
The facts of the case are straightforward. On 17 June 2021, Hackney Carriage Vehicle HCV014 underwent a vehicle compliance test at the Uttlesford District Council Depot in Saffron Walden, following a request made by Licensing Officers for a repeat test due to concerns over the numbers of advisories listed on the prior test which was taken at an independent testing station on 11 June 2021. The Hackney Carriage vehicle, owned by Mr Khan failed its test with outright 7 failures and 9 advisory matters . These are set out in a list forming part of the bundle and they make concerning reading – this vehicle is clearly not safe for the carriage of members of the public and as a professional driver of some years standing Mr Khan should appreciate this.
The test was carried out by one of the Council’s Workshop Technicians, Darren Cutter. Mr Cutter was concerned enough to notify the Licensing Team of comments made by Mr Khan during and after the inspection, and as a result he was asked to complete a witness statement under S9 Criminal Justice Act; both this and further correspondence from him are in our bundle. Once he made it known to Mr Khan that his vehicle would not pass its test, Mr Khan told him ‘’I can’t lose my (licence) plate, is there anything you can do for me and I will look after you’’, and that he would ‘’get his mechanic to sort the faults if [Mr Cutter] didn’t say anything [to the Licensing Team]’’. Licensing Officers held a telephone conference call with Mr Khan on 29 July 2021 and in that interview Mr Khan denied making any of the comments referred to previously. The note of that interview are before us and have been served upon Mr Khan, and we are satisfied they are a true record of that conversation.
We have heard today from the Licensing Officer and from Mr Khan and the latter has had the opportunity to ask questions. However, we did not find him to be a convincing witness and we have concerns regarding the reputation of Mr Khan’s garage of choice. We consider that there can be only one possible interpretation of the words “I will look after you”, while Mr Cutter’s statement is made under S9 Criminal Justice Act 1967 and would therefore serve as his evidence in chief in Court. It contains a statement of truth. Mr Cutter has no reason to lie and we prefer his evidence to that of Mr Khan.
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 revoke the licence. In this case we do so, and with immediate effect in the interests of public safety. Mr Khan has attempted to dishonestly induce a Council official acting in a statutory role as a vehicle tester to certify an unsafe vehicle as being safe to carry members of the public for reward and we take the most serious possible view of this.
These allegations are ones of dishonesty, and further evince a cavalier attitude towards the safety of the travelling public. This is totally unacceptable. We therefore revoke Mr Khan’s drivers licence, with immediate effect, 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. Mr Khan 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 ended at 11:57