A Happy Cabbie Chappy: Taxi driver wins appeal against Licensing Committee’s decision to revoke his taxi licence following a conviction for ‘touting’
It was a dark and stormy night… in Oldham.
In January 2015, the taxi driver concerned picked up two passengers who flagged him down in heavy winter rain at 9pm on a Friday evening.
The 54 year-old said that he:
“saw someone standing right in the middle of the road waving at me as if something was wrong… I felt sorry for the men, the weather was storm-like and they weren’t wearing overcoats”.
He drove the pair for 60 seconds, with a fare of £2.30.
The passengers, however, were undercover community police officers (PCSOs). After interviewing the taxi driver for approximately 45 minutes in his vehicle, the hapless Samaritan was told that he had just committed the offence of ‘soliciting for trade’ (or ‘taxi touting’) contrary to section 167 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. The sentencing guidelines for this particular offence, on conviction for a licensed taxi driver, suggests the imposition of a driving disqualification for a period of 3 months’ disqualification and a fine of up to the maximum of £2,500.
As a holder of a Private Hire Drivers’ Licence (PHDL), the individual concerned is not permitted to pick up passengers without bookings. Worse still, the unlawful pick-up is deemed to have rendered his policy of motor insurance null and void, meaning he was also considered to have been driving without insurance.
The taxi driver concerned formally entered a ‘guilty’ plea in respect of these allegations at the first hearing at Oldham Magistrates Court in September 2015. Following representations, the Court elected to endorse his driving licence with a further 6 penalty points as well as imposing a fine in the sum of £435. The driver was also required to pay prosecution costs and a victim surcharge. As a result of the penalty points imposed upon his driving licence in the preceding three years, the driver had now accumulated 12 penalty points rendering him liable to a driving disqualification for a minimum period of 6 months under the ‘totting-up’ provisions.
Thereafter, in October 2015, the taxi driver received a letter from Oldham Council’s Licensing Committee. The Committee deemed him ‘not fit and proper’ to hold a PHDL and resolved to revoke it permanently with immediate effect.
The driver appealed the decision of the Licensing Committee, the substantive hearing being heard at Oldham Magistrates Court on 25 February 2016. Three character witnesses provided evidence and approximately 180 written statements were submitted in support of the cabbie. The appeal was successful, with the bench deciding that the driver, on this occasion, had been “unfortunate, yet foolish” and that this had been an “isolated incident”. The driver’s PHDL was subsequently reinstated. However, he claims to have been left £7,000 out of pocket due to fines, legal fees and the rise in his insurance premium – all of which appear to have contributed in his decision to terminate his taxi business.
Oldham Council said in a statement:
“we had numerous complaints that there were private hire drivers
operating in the area picking people up who were not pre-booked. This kind of operation happens a few times each year. It is not trying to catch people out, we are trying to see if people are complying with the law...”