Taxi & Private Hire Drivers - Are you fit enough?

TAXI & PRIVATE HIRE LICENSING & APPEALS

Taxi & Private Hire (“TPH”) drivers and operators are licensed by their relevant Local Authority or, in London, by Transport for London (“TfL”).

In recent years, there has been an increased focus on compliance in light of concerns surrounding public safety, and many licensing authorities have seen an increase in funding towards its enforcement functions.

Since the Mayor of London’s announcement of a “new era” for the capital’s Taxi & Private Hire market, TfL have invested in many more compliance officers across London, and with increased powers to “combat illegal taxi and private hire activity”.

With public safety in focus, and pressures on controlling the number of licensed TPH drivers, licence holders are under scrutiny more now than ever, and at risk of being subject to irrational and disproportionate decisions by licensing authorities. In light of this, it is essential to know where you stand and how such decision can be effectively challenged.

Being “Fit and Proper”

Your licence can be refused, suspended or revoked if the licensing authority considers you are not “fit and proper” to hold a licence.

Common reasons for coming to this decision include where:

  • You receive a caution or conviction for driving offences, e.g. touting for hire, driving without insurance, careless/dangerous driving etc;

  • You receive a caution or conviction for other criminal offences, e.g. offences involving violence, dishonesty and sexual offences etc;

  • Unproven criminal allegations are made;

  • Customer complaints are made;

  • Vehicle safety concerns are raised;

  • Administrative issues are identified, such as poor record keeping, signage etc.

Whatever the alleged act or omission, the licensing authority will be arguing that you are not not “fit and proper” to hold a licence because of the conduct complained of (e.g. the conviction).

Most licensing authorities adopt their own guidance when considering how they should exercise their powers in order that they are consistent and reasonable.

The fitness test will consider, amongst other things, your:

  • Character

  • Likelihood of offending

  • Health

  • Driving ability

The licensing authority will assess whether you have a tendency to behave in ways that render you unsuitable to work with the traveling public, children or vulnerable adults as a result of the matters complained of. 

Appealing a Decision

In practice, when a decision to refuse, suspend or revoke your licence is contemplated, you may receive a letter from a Licensing Manager informing you of the relevant information that has come to their attention. This could be information provided by the police of a caution having been administered. You may be offered an opportunity to make representations before a decision is made.

Once a decision is made, the Licensing Manager will write to you confirming the decision and the basis upon which it is made.

You will also be informed of whether the decision has immediate affect, or whether you are entitled to work if you appeal the decision. In most cases you can continue to work as a licensed driver pending the outcome of the appeal.

You should also be given information about your appeal rights.

If you are not happy with the decision to refuse, suspend or revoke your licence, you can appeal to the Magistrates’ Court on that basis that you remain fit an proper to hold a licence and/or that the decision is irrational or disproportionate to the alleged offence.

Such an appeal must be lodged within 21 days of the relevant decision.

The Appeal Hearing

At the appeal hearing itself, the Court will consider whether you are in fact “fit and proper” to hold a licence. Every case will be different and should be considered on its own particular merits.

When hearing an appeal, the Court will consider the issues of public safety and an individual’s Human Rights.

The role of the Court on hearing an appeal is to form their own independent judgment of the issue at hand, and not simply to review the decision of the licensing decision (as per McCool v Rushcliffe Borough Council [1998] EWHC Admin 695).

In reaching such a decision, the Court is entitled to rely on any evidential material which might reasonably and properly influence the making of a responsible judgment in good faith on the question in issue; including hearsay evidence.  It is for the Appellant to show that he is a "fit and proper” person to hold a licence on the balance on probabilities.

If an appeal to the Magistrates’ Court is unsuccessful, it is also possible to appeal further to the Crown Court.

It should be noted that, where an appeal fails, it is likely that a costs order will be awarded against you and in favour of the relevant licensing authority.

How can I assist?

I can assist with drafting written representations to the licensing authority, prior to a formal suspension or revocation decision being made, as well as providing advice on the preparation of your appeal, and representation at the appeal hearing itself.

If you are a private hire driver or operator requiring advice and assistance, please contact me on 07766001774 or via email (contact@crimelawyer.co.uk).