The Chair invited Elaine Moreton, Section Leader (Licensing) and the Applicant (BS), accompanied by his solicitor, Mahmood Hussain of MH Solicitors (MH), into the Hearing, made introductions and outlined the procedure to be followed.
The Section Leader (Licensing), outlined the report regarding an application for a Hackney Carriage Driver’s Licence, which had been circulated to all parties in advance of the meeting. The matter had been referred to the Sub-Committee in accordance with Guidelines Relating to Relevance of Convictions and Breaches of Licence Conditions, specifically paragraphs 5.1.10(b), 5.1.3(b) and 5.1.9.
All parties were invited to question the Section Leader (Licensing) on the report. No questions were asked.
MH confirmed that the information contained within the report was accurate.
The Chair invited BS to make representations.
With the agreement of the Chair, MH circulated BS character references from his current employer and his place of worship, which included photographs of his community work. Documents detailing the death of his child and the medical records of his other child were also circulated.
On behalf of BS, MH stated that BS was a fit and proper person and should be granted a licence. He had driven taxis for almost 10 years prior to his 2000 conviction for indecent assault on a female 16 or over. Since then he had only had one speeding offence. The relevant conviction was the only really serious offence on his record. He understood that it involved touching, which BS continued to deny, which was not to say that it was not serious. The offence would today be categorised as the lowest of the 3 ‘sexual offence’ categories, at the bottom end of the spectrum and BS had served 3 months imprisonment and 3 months on licence. It was a long time ago and no pattern of behaviour had occurred since then. He was not a persistent offender and the guidelines stated that an applicant could be eligible for a licence after 7 years and the Sub-Committee had discretion to grant one. For BS to face an indefinite ban would be to put the offence on a par with terrorism or murder. He had previously twice been granted fit and proper person status and the circumstances should allow a lot of mitigation.
The reason for providing written evidence relating to the applicant’s existing child was to show the need for BS to have a job that enabled him to work flexible hours. He needed to be able to visit his child whenever necessary.
BS had enjoyed his previous taxi work and was very eager to drive again. He was sorry for occurances in the past.
All parties were invited to question the Applicant on his submission.
In response to questions from the Sub-Committee, BS stated the following:
· The circumstances of the indecent assault conviction were that following a drop-off a couple at 3am, BS wound down his window to ask for the fare. The couple were drunk and laughing and had left a rear door open so he got out to shut it and again asked for the fare. The female passenger said that she worked in town and would pay later so he gave her his card. The male passenger then tried to come at him so he left. 2 weeks later the female passenger reported him and 2 days on the Police arrived at the taxi rank to take him to the station, where he was charged;
· He was later convicted despite there being no proof of the incident;
· The male passenger had come at him, touched him and the female passenger had stopped him. MH added that BS Was alleged to have hugged her;
· His current work as a delivery driver entailed deliveries to both shops and residential properties.
The Lead Lawyer corrected MH’s earlier statement that the indecent assault would today be categorised as the lowest of the 3 ‘sexual offence’ categories, saying that the lowest point would be a high end community order whereas the offence referred to was only the lowest starting point for culpability A. The guidelines followed in 2000, based on the 1956 Act, would be a lot more lenient than the 2014 guidelines followed today.
In response to questions from the Lead Lawyer, MH stated the following:
· BS had told him that the offence was a hug or a touch. BS demonstrated how he was alleged to have touched the female passenger.
In response to questions from the Sub-Committee, MH stated the following on behalf of BS:
· He recognised that if he admitted guilt with regard to the sexual assault it could help his case but he specifically instructed me that he didn’t do it. In context, even if he had done it, he had done nothing since that conviction;
· The earlier demonstration by BS was of what the female passenger accused him of and what he denied doing.
In response to questions from the Section Leader (Licensing), BS again demonstrated the sexual assault that he was convicted of and stated the following:
· He had got out of the car to close the left-side rear door. The male passenger leant on the open driver’s side window and BS went to move him. The female alleged that that was when he held her;
· Between 2000 and 2010 his time was taken up with part-time work, visits to his mother in India and looking after his unwell child.
The Chair invited BS to make a final statement. On BS’s behalf, MH said that he understood that public safety was paramount and that he was a fit and proper person. Even for a serious assault the guidelines state that discretion can be applied after 7 years and the relevant conviction in this case was 17 years ago with no incidents since then. A licence could be granted without fear.
BS, MH and the Section Leader (Licensing) left the room to allow the Sub-Committee to determine the matter.
The Chair invited BS, MH and the Section Leader (Licensing) back into the Hearing.
The Chair detailed the decision of the Sub-Committee.
That, having considered all the evidence presented at the Hearing, both written and oral, the Sub-Committee is not satisfied that you are a fit and proper person and therefore, in accordance with Section 51 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, have decided not to grant RK a Private Hire Vehicle Driver’s Licence. This decision is made in accordance with paragraph 5.1.9 of the guidelines relating to relevance of convictions and breaches of licence conditions agreed by the Licence Committee on 25 July 2012.
The Applicant has a right of appeal, against the decision of the Sub-Committee, to the Magistrates’ Court within 21 days of receipt of this decision.
BS, MH and the Section Leader (Licensing) left the room and the Chair closed the meeting