Application for a Private Hire Driver's Licence
Mr Julian Charles
The Chair explained to the applicant how consideration of his application would proceed. The applicant was accompanied Mr Gordon Milne, present to act as a character witness.
The Licensing Team Leader introduced the application for a private hire driver’s licence. The background papers set out the applicant’s convictions and endorsements, and policy requirements regarding the expected time lapse between these and the re-issuing of a licence. Members can grant the licence, if they consider the applicant to be a fit and proper person, or refuse if they do not consider this to be the case He reminded Members that it is the council’s statutory duty to only grant a licence to fit and proper people, and that the applicant still needs to undertake other assessments. He confirmed that the burden of proof, on the balance of probabilities, is on the applicant, to show that he is fit and proper to hold a licence.
The applicant said that he had not had a licence since 2012. He said that since 2012 his life had fallen apart, and he was struggling to survive and live, dealing with sick parents amongst other things. He said he needs his job as a taxi driver and that he is trying to get his life back on track.
The Licensing Team Leader confirmed that the applicant has submitted a detailed written statement, which is included in the background papers, and that this should be taken into account by Members.
In response to questions from Members, the applicant confirmed that:
- he has no convictions or incidents of violence; under the influence of alcohol, he has made some embarrassing mistakes – but no violent offences and never while a work;
- he has not sought or received any counselling for his issues; he has tried to explain his situation in four sides of paper, but it is not a simple story;
- he believed himself to be under the limit in the incident in November 2013, having had one glass of wine; he drove one hour later, was pulled over by the police and was a fraction over the limit; after 1.5 hours at the police station, he was allowed to drive home. He realises now he made a huge mistake in driving after the glass of wine;
- the incident in 2015 was more complicated and after drinking in a local pub, he exchanged abusive texts with his step-father following being evicted by him, which he now regrets. Rather than carry his shopping home, he decided to drive the three-minute journey, being angry and not thinking clearly. When he arrived home his step-father had reported him to the police and they were waiting to breathalyse him;
- he understands that policy expects people to be free of drink-driving offences for five years before a licence can be re-issued, except in exceptional circumstances. He said he is still looking after his sick parents, and is permanently on call to help them. He has undertaken various temporary work, and lost a job through looking after his mother; he has no job at the moment, has just acquired a flat, and is trying to get his life back in order and move on, while looking after his parents;
- he would not say he has a poor relationship with alcohol. The first drink-driving incident was a mistake, the second arose from a volatile relationship. He has a glass of red wine with a meal, but not every day.
Mr Gordon Milne, former manager of A2B private hire company, used to employ the applicant, and told Members that he was aware of his family problems, but always found him to be honest and of good character, a fit and proper person to hold a licence. He was good with the public, always received good conduct reports, and only used alcohol during recreational time, never when driving passengers. As someone with 42 years’ experience in the taxi trade, would not be at the meeting tonight if he had found otherwise.
Members raised the following issues and concerns during the debate:
- the applicant has not one but two convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol. Given the council’s public safety duty and policy, which would allow him to be licensed again in May 2023, Members would feel uncomfortable granting a licence now;
- the definition of ‘fit and proper’ is not defined in law, but a widely-used test would be whether a person would allow a spouse, child etc to get into a vehicle with this person, is he safe and suitable to be allowed a licence?;
- the applicant has had his driving licence back for 18 months, but this is not long enough to prove that he can be trusted to drive loved ones or vulnerable members of the public;
- as the applicant has had no issues since 2015, and nothing else on his DBS regarding non-driving incidents, one Member felt he would not want the applicant to wait until 2023 to comply with policy;
- whilst having sympathy with the applicant’s family situation, this is not a material in the decision as to whether or not to grant him a licence;
- Members would be happier if the applicant had sought and was receiving some help for alcohol and abusive behaviour;
- Members felt that the applicant should come back in 12 months;
- as an authority, CBC has to be assured applicants can maintain a high standard of driving and behaviour; driving with excess alcohol and malicious texting is therefore concerning, as is failure to declare a disqualification and caution;
- CBC has a duty to protect the safety of the travelling public in Cheltenham.
The applicant explained that the caution for malicious communications and driving over the limit all took place on one night. He said his undeclared disqualification was 21 years ago, and he understood from a licensing officer that only more recent ones, since the grant of the first taxi licence, needed to be declared. He has no excuse for the other.
Mr Milne said there are currently several licensed drivers working in Cheltenham with drink-drive and criminal convictions, and asked if there were double standards here. He reiterated the applicant’s concern for his parents.
1.4.1 to grant the applicant’s Private Hire driver’s licence if Members consider him to be a fit and proper person
0 in support
5 in objection
The Chair confirmed that the licensing committee is not minded to grant the private hire licence due to concern about the short time between convictions, and the fact that this does not comply with policy. He told the applicant that officers will confirm this in writing, and that he, the applicant, has the right to appeal to the magistrate’s court, within 21 days