A report by the Assistant Director (Legal and Democratic Services) is attached.
1. Licence holder 22/2018 attended the meeting and was represented by his Solicitor Mr Latif.
The Chair introduced the Panel and outlined the procedure to be followed. The Licensing Unit Manager then presented a report submitted by the Assistant Director (Legal and Democratic Services), which was accepted by the Licence Holder and his Solicitor.
The report explained that the Licence Holder is a licensed Private Hire driver and his licence is due to expire on 9 August 2019. On 8 November 2018, a complaint was received from a member of the public regarding this Licence Holder’s driving and conduct. The complainant alleged he was travelling in his vehicle along Pilkington Way in Radcliffe, a dual carriageway and was in the outside lane and the Licence Holder’s Private Hire vehicle was on the inside. The Licence Holder’s Private Hire vehicle started to encroach into the complainant’s lane and therefore he sounded his horn to warn the Licence Holder. The Licence Holder pulled alongside the complainant and wound down his window, shouted obscenities and drove off.
Statements were produced from the complainant, a representative of the operator and a voice recording was played at the meeting of the passenger in the Licence Holder’s vehicle at the time of the incident, which confirmed the Licence Holder had shouted abuse at the complainant.
Mr Latif addressed the Panel and stated that they had requested a signed witness statement to be used as written evidence under section 9 of the Criminal Justice Act from the complainant but this was declined by the Licensing Unit Manager. He and his client had not had the opportunity to investigate as they were not aware of the complainant or their details as these had not been provided. Mr Latif further stated that in his opinion the personal details of the complainant should have been provided under the Data protection Act. He stated that the Licence Holder was in fact the victim in this scenario as he had been racially abused by the complainant, for which he wanted to now report this incident to the Police for investigation.
The Council Solicitor advised the Licensing and Safety Panel that the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 did not apply in these proceedings as they are regulatory and would in any event only apply in criminal proceedings before the Magistrates Court when served with the requisite notice as per the provision of the legislation. The statements would therefore stand as basic statements.
In relation to the Data protection Act and GDPR, this was a request for third party personal data and a lawful basis would be required to share
that information. In view of the fact that the complainant feared reprisals and had refused to consent to the disclosure of his personal data, the only lawful basis would be the public task or public interest basis, which may not be satisfied in view of the concerns he had raised and the effect on such proceedings from a public perspective, particularly as the public may be dissuaded from complaining if their personal information is routinely shared with those they are complaining about. In addition, although there are exemptions that could be applied to allow disclosure, these did not place an obligation upon the data controller, i.e. the Council to disclose and in any event, did not apply in view of the regulatory nature of the proceedings and still require a lawful basis for disclosure of the data.
The Chair indicated to Mr Latif that the advice would be followed by the Panel and Mr Latif offered no counter arguments or precedent to justify his original contentions. The matter therefore proceeded.
Mr Latif stated that the Licence Holder’s version of events was different to the complainant’s as Pilkington Way in Radcliffe is not a dual carriage way but a single lane road and only divides into 3 lanes at the traffic lights, with Asda on the left hand side. Pictures were provided to the Panel of the road layout. He stated that the complainant was in fact sounding his horn and flashing his lights at the Licence Holder and chased him a total of 37 car lengths, before pulling up alongside him, winding down his window and calling him a racially offensive name and that the incident was a case of severe road rage, which would now be reported as a hate crime to the Police.
The Licence Holder’s Solicitor went on to explain that the Licence Holder has 3 children with a high rent to pay for their home. He averaged 30 jobs a day and worked 6 days a week to provide for his family. He has never had any other issues other than a misunderstanding with a customer in February 2018. He relied heavily on his job as a licensed Private Hire driver and the Panel should understand that the Licence Holder is in fact the victim.
The Panel carefully considered the report, the additional documentation and oral representations by licence holder 22/2018 and his Solicitor and taking into account the Council’s Conviction Policy and Guidelines and in accordance with the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, resolved, on a majority basis, to admonish the licence holder as to future conduct.
The Panel found as follows:
· That the Licence Holder’s behaviour and language was completely inappropriate to the complainant and also whilst carrying a member of the public at the time.
· That abuse was likely to have been shouted from both parties.
· That the proposal to report the matter to the police as a hate crime had only come after speaking with the Licence Holders Solicitor.
· The racial abuse allegation had not been mentioned to the Licensing Service during interview.
· That the licence holder should be fully aware of the Licensing conditions and what is expected of him as a Private Hire driver in Bury.
The licence holder was informed of their right to appeal to the Magistrates’ Court within 21 days.
2. Licence holder 25/2018 attended the meeting and was accompanied by his friend. The Chair introduced the Licensing and Safety Panel and outlined the procedure to be followed.
The Licensing Unit Manager presented a report submitted by the Assistant Director (Legal and Democratic Services). The report explained that the Licence Holder is a Private Hire Driver and his operator notified the Licensing Service that they had suspended him, following the receipt of a complaint. The female reported that she had made a booking and when the Licence Holder arrived and she went to get into the car, she asked if she could sit in the front passenger seat, upon which the Licence Holder gestured to his lap and said ‘you can sit here if you want’.
The female immediately left the vehicle and reported this to the operator who cancelled the trip and registered a complaint. A statement from the complainant was attached to the report for the Panel’s information, along with a screen shot of her mobile phone confirming the vehicle details.
Further enquiries of the operator revealed it had received 9 complaints about the Licence Holder which it had categorised as rudeness.
During interview, the Licence Holder stated he could not remember such an incident and believed that he had been suspended from his operator because he cancelled a booking as he was unable to confirm whether the person who was waiting for him was the same person that had made the booking.
The Licence Holder and his friend addressed the Panel and stated he had not taken the female passenger and that it was a mix up as he had arrived for a booking and a man had got into his vehicle. The man would not confirm his name, as requested by the Licence Holder and therefore he would not take him. The Licence Holder cancelled the job but his operator then sacked him two weeks before Christmas. He stated he now works for another operator but is a well-educated man and a Civil Engineer but can’t currently get work in that field and therefore drives for a living. He further stated he did not know about any of the other complaints referred to. He complained that his operator had no consideration for the drivers themselves and that it was very easy for people to log a complaint and give negative feedback. He was a family man and being unemployed will seriously affect his family financially. He stated that his star rating was 4.87 out of 5 for positive feedback and that he had completed over 18,000 trips with passengers and that 9 complaints was very small in comparison.
The Panel carefully considered the report, and oral representations by Licence Holder 25/2018 and his friend and taking into account the Council’s Conviction Policy and Guidelines and in accordance with the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, resolved, on a majority basis, to suspend the Licence Holder for a period of 3 months.
The Panel found as follows:
· That the Panel was satisfied with the complainant’s version of events and found no reason to doubt it
· The complainant had a screen shot on her phone of the Licence Holders name and vehicle details
· The matter was reported immediately
· The allegation was of a serious nature
· That the Licence Holder contradicted himself in that he stated he could not recall the incident and then referred to an incident involving a male passenger for which he believes he was suspended
· The words, conduct and behaviour of the Licence Holder towards the complainant was completely inappropriate
· The Licence Holder had a number of other complaints lodged against him with his operator
· The licence holder had not understood or accepted the seriousness of the allegations
The licence holder was informed of their right to appeal to the Magistrates’ Court within 21 days.
3. Licence holder 26/2018 attended the meeting and was represented by his Solicitor, Mr Rashid. The Chair introduced the Licensing and Safety Panel and outlined the procedure to be followed.
The Licensing Unit Manager read the report which was accepted by the Applicant and Mr Rashid. The report explained that the Licence Holder was issued a caution at Bolton Police Station following a conviction on 30 January 2019 for actual bodily harm. Greater Manchester Police contacted the Licensing Service and reported that an allegation of assault on 12 November 2018 was made by the 11 year old daughter of the Licence Holder during which the Licence Holder had hit her repeatedly with a plastic coat hanger causing significant bruising to her backside. The Licence Holder had attended Bury Police Station voluntarily on 10 January 2019 and admitted the assault and expressed remorse and regret for his actions.
The Licence Holder has been a licensed Private Hire driver with Bury Council since 24 January 2014 and has no previous record of convictions or complaints.
Mr Rashid addressed the Panel and explained that the Licence Holder is happily married with two children, his daughter and a son aged 7 years.
The Licence Holder has been driving for 4 years and has been with his current operator for 3 years and a character reference was provided from it confirming his good character and that there have never had any complaints about him.
Mr Rashid explained that the Licence Holder is of exceptionally good character and has never been in any trouble until this matter. He attended the Police Station voluntarily and cooperated fully with the investigation.
The incident occurred when the Licence Holder’s daughter was repeatedly misbehaving and eventually he just reacted, very uncharacteristically. Social Services and the Police were involved and after a thorough investigation the Licence Holder was cautioned. He explained that the Licence Holder is very remorseful for his actions and that this kind of thing has never happened before or will again.
The Solicitor went on to explain that the Licence Holder is the main earner, his wife is a housewife and looks after the house and children, with whom he has a brilliant relationship. This is an isolated incident, which won’t be repeated.
The Panel carefully considered the report, and oral representations by Licence Holder 26/2018 and his Solicitor and taking into account the Council’s Conviction Policy and Guidelines and in accordance with the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, resolved, on a unanimous basis to admonish the licence holder.
The Panel noted that;
· the offence for actual bodily harm against his young daughter was serious and unacceptable,
· the licence holder was extremely remorseful for his actions
· the police only cautioned the Licence Holder
· the Licence Holder had no other convictions or complaints recorded against him
· this was a one off error and would not be repeated.
· the Licence Holder had voluntarily attended the Police Station and cooperated fully with the Police and Social Services and
· the Panel agreed that the licence holder was a fit and proper person.