by Lauren Sturgess, Trainee Solicitor
Whilst working as a trainee solicitor at North West Leicestershire District Council (NWLDC) I have been able to experience the law, regulations and requirements around Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licencing for Local Authorities, whilst working alongside our litigation, regulatory and enforcement solicitor.
So far this experience has included attending a Taxi and Private Hire sub-committee meeting and an appeal hearing at the Magistrates’ Court, and experiencing the preparation required by both the licencing team and the legal team ahead of these meeting and hearings.
As NWLDC is a licencing authority, we have the responsibility of ensuring the public travel in ‘safe, well maintained vehicles driven by competent drivers’.
Section 51 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 (the Act) sets out that a district council shall not grant a licence unless they are satisfied that the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold a driver’s licence. Therefore, in order to qualify to hold a licence, you must be deemed ‘fit and proper’.
This applies where a person applies for a taxi licence, and where the decision is being made to suspend or revoke an existing licence.
Section 61 of the Act deals with the suspension and revocation of driver’s licences and allows a district council to suspend or revoke or refuse to renew the licence of a driver of a hackney carriage or a private hire vehicle on any of the following grounds:
(a) That he has since the grant of the licence-
- been convicted of an offence involving dishonesty, indecency or violence; or
- been convicted of an offence under or has failed to comply with the provisions of the Act of 1847 or of this Part of this Act;
(aa) that he has since the grant of the licence been convicted of an immigration offence or required to pay an immigration penalty; or
(b) any other reasonable cause.
Any “other reasonable cause” therefore includes where the driver is no longer considered to be fit and proper to hold a driver’s licence.
This test is applied to each individual case and a decision is made by the individual district council’s regulatory/licencing sub-committee.
How is a decision made?
The Department for Transport has issued statutory guidance on the ‘fit and proper person test’ as follows:
“Without any prejudice, and based on the information before you, would you allow a person for whom you care, regardless of their condition, to travel alone in a vehicle driven by this person at any time of day or night? If, on the balance of probabilities, the answer to the question is ‘no’, the individual should not hold a licence.”
The local government association have also issued a handbook which sets out guidance for Local Authorities in making taxi licencing decisions and have summarised the above guidance with a reasonable rule of thumb to ask when considering a taxi licencing decision ‘would I be happy letting my wife/husband/daughter/son be driven by this driver?’. If we cannot be confident that the answer is ‘yes’, then a licence should be refused.
Decision and Appeal
If it is found that an existing licence holder is no longer deemed to be a ‘fit and proper’ person, the licencing authority can suspend the licence or revoke the licence. Where a district council suspend, revoke or refuse to renew any licence they shall give to the operator notice of the grounds on which the licence has been suspended or revoked or on which they have refused to renew the licence within 14 days of such suspension, revocation or refusal.
Under section 61(3) of the Act, the licenced driver has the right to lodge an appeal with the Magistrates’ Court. If an appeal is lodged, a licenced driver can continue to work until the outcome of the appeal has been decided.
A licence can however be suspended or revoked with immediate effect. The effect of this is that the licence holder must stop working immediately, and will therefore not be able to of continue to work whilst any appeal is determined. Immediate suspension or revocation is reserved for matters where such action is in the interest of public safety.