Agenda item

Application for the Suspension/Revocation of a Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver's Licence

Report of the Assistant Director of Commissioning.

Minutes:

The Committee heard the application in accordance with the Council’s agreed procedure.

 

The Hearing took place in the presence of the appellant who was accompanied by a Hackney Carriage Proprietor (employer), the Licensing Officer and Mr P Mason, the Council’s Solicitor.

 

The Chairman made introductions and explained the procedures to the appellant. 

 

Patrick O’Brien, Licensing Officer presented the report which was to consider the suspension/revocation of a Hackney Carriage/Private Hire driver’s licence in accordance with Section 61(1) (b) of the local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 under any other reasonable cause, due to failure to produce a valid medical certificate as required by the conditions of his licence.

 

The principal consideration was whether the safety of the public might be at risk through the appellant’s failure to provide a satisfactory medical certificate and his inability to meet the required optical standard.

 

The appellant stated that given the length of time it had taken the DVLA to respond to his application for a Group 2 Lorry/Bus driving licence made in March 2011, he progress chased it over the telephone with them, asking them to make their decision as soon as possible as the outcome would be vital inasmuch as he might need to find alternative employment.  At that time he was not told about the Group 2 requirement with regard to taxis.  He received letters from them dated 29 June 2011 one of which advised him his application had been refused for a Group 2 Lorry/Bus driving licence, another letter advised that a car/motorcycle driving licence had been issued to him.

 

Following receipt of the letters from the DLVA he had carefully checked that no restrictions applied to his car/motorcycle driving licence whatsoever until he reached the age of 70, and therefore on that basis he decided to apply to renew his Hackney Carriage/Private Hire drivers licence.

 

He did not understand why he was not entitled to drive a taxi when his licence enabled him to drive a car.

 

He believed the comments made by the Doctor on the Medical Declaration form dated 17 October 2011 to be quite vague as the Doctor had not performed an eye sight examination himself, but copied all the figures from the VOC33 Eyesight Certificate.

 

The Licensing Officer wrote to the appellant on 27 October 2011.  The appellant had not to date, provided additional information from a specialist optician as suggested in the letter, as he did not believe it would support his case, however he would have no problem in obtaining one. 

 

He explained he was short sighted with a stigmatism.  Whilst his eye sight could not be corrected to the perfect standard it was not degenerative.  His current lens prescription was slightly below that prescribed for perfect correction, to “make his eyes work” and therefore it would not be beneficial for him to wear lenses twice as strong. He had been advised against corrective laser eye surgery due to his particular circumstances.

 

The Licensing Officer explained that Breckland Council’s Licensing Policy was based on best practice guidelines, part of which was that applicants must be considered fit enough to meet at least the standards required for the grant of a Group 2 driving licence as recommended by the DVLA.

 

The appellant believed that the DVLA did not enforce the standard, to which  he was advised that it was not the DVLA’s responsibility to advise applicants of Breckland Council’s Licensing Policy.

 

The appellant stated that if it was the decision of the Committee to revoke his Hackney Carriage/Private Hire driver’s licence he would be without employment and would not be able to provide his employer with notice.

 

The Chairman explained that with regard to eye sight, Breckland Council’s Licensing Policy demanded higher than the normal standard required.

 

The appellant was asked by the Chairman if he wished the Committee to consider if the hearing could be deferred to allow him the opportunity of obtaining a further eye sight test, to which he replied he would be happy to undergo a further eye sight test and the Hackney Carriage Proprietor who accompanied him added he could have a test to have his lenses strengthened to improve his eye sight.

 

The Committee withdrew to consider a deferment.

 

The Committee returned and advised the appellant they would not grant a deferment until the next hearing on 4 April 2012.

 

The Licensing Officer advised that during the intervening period from when the appellant was first licensed to when he applied to renew it, the application form had radically changed inline with best practice, and for the benefit of the Members he read out the difference in the question asked of the GP. 

 

The appellant did not believe that the testing equipment at the Optometrists he attended on 2 June 2011 was fitted correctly, unlike the Optometrists he attended in Cambridge 3 years previously.

 

Having heard all the evidence, the Committee withdrew to consider their options.  The Solicitor explained that the Members would apply the statutory test to the application to determine if they considered that the appellant was a fit and proper person able to drive and to perform the duties expected of a Breckland Council Hackney Carriage/Private Hire driver.

 

After considering the matter the Committee returned.

 

The Solicitor advised the following findings of fact :

 

1.                  The appellant had held a Breckland Council Hackney Carriage/Private Hire drivers licence since October 2008.  He applied to renew the licence in October 2011.

2.                  A Medical Report dated 17 October 2011 indicated that the appellant was not fit to drive Group 2 vehicles which included taxis and private hire vehicles.

3.                  A letter dated 27 October 2011 requested clarification of the appellant’s medical condition.

4.                  A letter dated 29 June 2011 from the DVLA indicated that the appellant was eligible to drive cars.

5.                  The evidence available to the Committee confirmed that the appellant could not satisfy the requirements of the Council’s relevant policy.

 

In the circumstances it was :

 

RESOLVED that the appellant’s Hackney Carriage/Private Hire drivers licence would not be renewed, as the appellant failed to satisfy the relevant standard for eye sight as set down in Breckland Council’s Licensing Policy, and was therefore found not to be a fit and proper person able to drive and to perform the duties expected of a Breckland Council Hackney Carriage/Private Hire driver.

 

The Chairman advised the appellant the decision was subject to Appeal to the Magistrates Court.  The Appeal period was 21 days from the date on which the notice of the decision was given.

 

It was explained to the appellant that the Committee took no view in granting extra time to obtain a further eye sight test.  However if he did undertake one, and obtained an alternative pair of glasses following which he believed he could meet  the required medical standard, he would need to supply evidence to the Committee and re-apply.

 

Some Committee Members were concerned that the appellant would be able to continue to drive during the Appeal period of 21 days from the date on which the notice of the decision was given.

 

The appellant, his employer and the Licensing Officer were asked to leave the room, whilst the Committee discussed the matter further.

 

When they returned, the appellant was advised that on advice from the Solicitor and after further discussion, the Committee agreed the appellant did have the right to the appeal period of 21 days.