Document

Taxi and private hire licensing: Criminal convictions policy

1. Introduction

1.1 The purpose of this policy is to provide guidance on the criteria taken into account by the council when determining whether or not an applicant or an existing licence holder is a fit and proper person to hold a hackney carriage and/or private hire driver or operator licence.

1.2 The overriding aim of the licensing authority is to protect the safety of the public. The licensing authority is concerned to ensure:

  • That a person is a fit and proper person
  • That the person does not pose a threat to the public
  • That the public are safeguarded from dishonest person
  • The safeguarding of children and young persons

1.3 This policy provides guidance to any person with an interest in taxi and private hire licensing. In particular, but not exclusively:

  • Applicants for drivers’ licences
  • Existing licensed drivers whose licences are being reviewed
  • Officers of the Council
  • Members of the Licensing Committee
  • Magistrates hearing appeals against local authority decisions

1.4 Where Officers have delegated powers to grant licences, they will utilise these guidelines when making a decision to grant a licence. In all other cases applications for licences will be referred to the licensing committee. Whilst officers and the committee will have regard to the guidelines contained in the policy, each case will be considered on its individual merits and, where the circumstances demand, the committee/officer may depart from the guidelines.

2. General policy

2.1 There may be occasions where it is appropriate to depart from the guidelines, for example where the offence is a one-off occasion or there are mitigating circumstances or alternatively where there are many or continuous offences which may show a pattern of offending and unfitness.

2.2 A person with a conviction for a serious offence need not be automatically barred from obtaining a licence, but will be expected to:

a) Remain free of conviction for an appropriate period; and HDC Taxi and PHV Licensing Criminal Convictions’ Policy 2

b) Show adequate evidence that he or she is a fit and proper person to hold a licence (the onus is on the applicant to produce such evidence). Simply remaining free of conviction may not generally be regarded as adequate evidence that a person is a fit and proper person to hold a licence.

2.3 Where an applicant has been convicted of a criminal offence, the licensing authority cannot review the merits of the conviction [Nottingham City Council v. Mohammed Farooq (1998)].

3. Pre-requisites to making an application

3.1 It is the policy of the licensing authority that every application for a licence to drive a Hackney Carriage and/or Private Hire Vehicle must be accompanied by satisfactory evidence of the following matters (and that applications that are incomplete will not be deemed to have been made until such time as they are completed) -

  • That the applicant has the right to live and work in the country
  • An enhanced criminal record check and evidence that they are not on a child and/or vulnerable adult barring list
  • A certificate of their current medical fitness [to Group 2 standard]
  • That the applicant is authorised to drive a vehicle of the same classification as that which the licence will allow them to drive
  • That the applicant has a minimum of 12 months post-qualification driving experience (or if not, successful completion of an advanced driving assessment)
  • That the applicant has adequate literacy and numeracy skills to provide the service that they wish to be licensed for
  • That the applicant has sufficient ability to speak English and to understand spoken English to provide the service that they wish to be licensed for
  • That the applicant can demonstrate an understanding of safeguarding awareness (including in respect of sexual exploitation and disability)
  • (For persons who seek to be authorised to drive a wheelchair accessible vehicle) that the applicant has the ability to safely load and secure wheelchair users in a wheelchair accessible vehicle whilst in their chair

3.2 If an applicant has spent six continuous months or more overseas the licensing authority will expect to see evidence of a criminal record check from the country/countries covering the period before a licence application can be made.

4. Appeals

4.1 Any applicant refused a driver’s licence on the grounds that the licensing authority is not satisfied he or she is a fit and proper person to hold such a licence has a right to appeal to the Magistrates’ Court within 21 days of the notice of refusal [Local Government Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1976, s 77 (1)].

4.2 Any applicant refused an operator licence on the grounds that the licensing authority is not satisfied he is a fit and proper person to hold such a licence has a right to appeal to the Magistrates’ Court within 21 days of the notice of refusal.

4.3 Any licensee whose licence is suspended or revoked has a right to appeal to the Magistrates’ Court within 21 days of the notice of suspension or revocation.

5. Powers

5.1 Section 61 and Section 62 of the Local Government Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1976 allow the licensing authority to suspend, revoke or refuse to renew a licence if the application/licence holder has been convicted of an offence involving dishonesty, indecency, violence; failure to comply with the provisions of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847; failure to comply with the provisions of Part II of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976; or any other reasonable cause.

5.2 The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions)(Amendment) Order 2002, allows the licensing authority to take into account all convictions recorded against an applicant or the holder of a private hire vehicle or hackney carriage driver’s licence, whether spent or not. Therefore the licensing authority will have regard to all relevant convictions, particularly where there is a long history of offending or a recent pattern of repeat offending.

5.3 In this policy the term “disqualification” refers to the period served, in order to take account of the fact that a court may reduce the period of disqualification from driving. An applicant must provide evidence in advance to prove that the court agreed a reduction in the period of disqualification.

6. Consideration of the disclosed criminal history

6.1 Under the provisions of Sections 51, 55, and 59, Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, the licensing authority is required to ensure that an applicant for the grant or renewal of a hackney carriage and/or a private hire vehicle drivers’ licence and/or private hire vehicle operators licence is a ‘fit and proper’ person to hold such a licence. However, if an applicant has any convictions, warnings, cautions or charges awaiting trail, the licensing authority will look into:

  • How relevant the offence(s) are to the licence being applied for
  • How serious the offence(s) were
  • When the offence(s) were committed
  • The date of conviction
  • Circumstances of the individual concerned
  • Sentence imposed by the court
  • The applicant’s age at the time of conviction
  • Whether they form part of a pattern of offending
  • Any other character check considered reasonable (e.g. personal references)
  • Any other factors that might be relevant

6.2 Existing holders of drivers’ licences are required to notify the licensing authority in writing immediately or no later than 5 days of receiving a driving licence endorsement, fixed penalty notice or criminal conviction (including cautions).

6.3 Applicants can discuss further what effect a caution/conviction may have on any application by contacting the Licensing Officer for advice.

6.4 The licensing authority conducts enhanced disclosures from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) of any applicant for a driver/operator licence. The licensing authority follows the DBS’s Code of Practice on the fair use of disclosure information. A copy is available on request.

6.5 Applicants applying for the grant or a renewal of a driver/operator licence will be required to obtain an enhanced disclosure at their expense. The licensing authority abides by the DBS’s Policy on the secure storage, handling, use, retention and disposal of disclosure information, which is available on request.

6.6 More information about DBS can be found on the Disclosure and Barring Service website.

6.7 The licensing authority is also entitled to use other records and information that may be available to it in determining applications or an entitlement to continue holding a licence. This may include information held by the licensing authority or other licensing authorities, and information disclosed by the police under the common law police disclosure.

6.8 DBS disclosures will not include details of any foreign convictions or cautions unless they have been recorded on the UK National Computer. Any applicant who has resided outside the UK for any period longer than 6 months within the preceding 3 years will be required to produce a “Certificate of Good Conduct” from the relevant countries which details any cautions or convictions arising against the applicant while resident in that country. It shall be the applicant’s responsibility to obtain this documentary evidence and to bear the costs of such. The requirement is in addition to the DBS disclosure.

Where an applicant is unable to obtain the above, a discussion will take place with the Licensing Officer to ascertain what alternative evidence should be provided. This may include character references from appropriate individuals or other bodies as to the applicants conduct whilst resident in the other country.

6.9 It is an offence for any person knowingly or recklessly to make a false declaration or to omit any material particular in giving information required by the application for a licence. Where an applicant has made a false statement or a false declaration on their application for the grant or renewal of a licence, the licence will normally be refused.

7 Serious offences involving violence

7.1 The following will apply to a licence applicant or an existing licence holder unless there are exceptional circumstances to indicate to the Environmental Health and Licensing Manager/Licensing Officer that that person is a fit and proper person to hold a licence.

7.2 Licensed drivers have close regular contact with the public. A firm line is to be taken with those who have convictions for offences involving violence. An application will normally be refused if the applicant has a conviction for an offence that involved the loss of life.

7.3 In other cases anyone of a violent disposition will normally be refused to be licensed until at least 10 years free of such conviction. However, given the range of the offences that involve violence, consideration must be given to the nature of the conviction.

7.4 Unless there are exceptional circumstances a licence will not normally be granted where the applicant has a conviction for an offence such as:

  • Murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Manslaughter or culpable homicide while driving
  • Terrorism offences
  • Or any similar offences (including attempted or conspiracy to commit) offences which replace the above

7.5 A licence will not normally be granted where the applicant has a conviction for an offence of similar offence(s) which replace the below offences and the conviction is less than 10 years prior to the date of application:

  • Arson
  • Malicious wounding or grievous bodily harm which is racially aggravated
  • Actual bodily harm which is racially aggravated
  • Grievous bodily harm with intent
  • Robbery
  • Possession of firearm
  • Riot
  • Assault Police
  • Common assault with racially aggravated
  • Violent disorder
  • Resisting arrest
  • Or any similar offences (including attempted or conspiracy to commit) offences which replace the above

7.6 A licence will not normally be granted where the applicant has a conviction for an offence or similar offence(s) which replace the below offences and the conviction is less than 10 years prior to the date of application:

  • Racially-aggravated criminal damage
  • Racially-aggravated offence
  • Or any similar offences (including attempted or conspiracy to commit) offences which replace the above

7.7 A licence will not normally be granted where the applicant has a conviction for an offence or similar offence(s) which replace the below offences and the conviction is less than 5 years prior to the date of application:

  • Common assault
  • Assault occasioning actual bodily harm
  • Affray
  • S5 Public Order Act 1986 offence (harassment, alarm or distress)
  • S.4 Public Order Act 1986 offence (fear of provocation of violence)
  • S4A Public Order Act 1986 offence (intentional harassment, alarm or distress)
  • Obstruction
  • Criminal damage
  • Or any similar offences (including attempted or conspiracy to commit) offences which replace the above

7.8 A licence will not be granted if an applicant has more than one conviction in the last 10 years for an offence of a violent nature.

7.9 In the event of a licence being granted, a strict warning both verbally and in writing will be administered.

8 Possession of a weapon

8.1 If an applicant has been convicted of possession of a weapon or any other weapon related offence, this will give serious concern as to whether the person is fit to carry the public.

8.2 Depending on the circumstances of the offence, an applicant should be free of conviction for 7 years before a licence is granted. In the case of possession of a firearm, an applicant should be free of conviction for 10 years before a licence is granted.

9 Sex and indecency offences

9.1 As licensed drivers often carry unaccompanied and vulnerable passengers, applicants with convictions for sexual offences must be closely scrutinised. Those with convictions for the more serious sexual offences will generally be refused. For other offences, applicants will be expected to show a substantial period free of conviction for such offences before a licence will be granted.

9.2 The following will apply to a licence applicant or an existing licence holder unless there are exceptional circumstances to indicate to the Environmental Health and Licensing Manager/ Licensing Officer that that person is a fit and proper person to hold a licence.

9.2 a) Unless there are exceptional circumstances, an application will normally be refused where the applicant has a conviction for an offence such as:

  • Rape
  • Assault by penetration
  • Offences involving children or vulnerable adults
  • Sexual assault
  • Indecent assault
  • Exploitation of prostitution
  • Trafficking for sexual exploitation
  • Possession of indecent photographs, child pornography etc.
  • Or any sex or indecency offence that was committed in the course of employment as a taxi or PHV driver
  • Or any similar offences (including attempted or conspiracy to commit) offences which replace the above.

9.3 b) Before an application is allowed, an applicant should be free of conviction for at least 10 years (or at least 5 years must have passed since the completion of the sentence, whichever is longer), if he/she has a conviction for an offence such as:

  • Indecent exposure
  • Soliciting (kerb crawling)
  • Or any similar offences (including attempted or conspiracy to commit).

9.4 In addition to the above the licensing authority will not grant a licence to any applicant who is currently on the Sex Offenders Register.

9.5 A licence will not be granted if an applicant has more than one conviction for a sex or indecency offence.

10 Dishonesty

10.1 A licensed PHV or taxi driver is expected to be a trustworthy person. They deal with cash transactions and valuable property may be left in their vehicles. Taxi drivers are required to deposit such property with the Licensing Department within 24 hours. PHV drivers must pass lost property to the operator. The widespread practice of delivering unaccompanied property is indicative of the trust that business people place in licensed drivers. Moreover, it is comparatively easy for a dishonest driver to defraud the public by demanding more than the legal or agreed fare, etc. Overseas visitors can be confused by our currency and may be vulnerable to an unscrupulous driver. For all these reasons, a serious view is taken of any conviction involving dishonesty.

10.2 In general, a minimum period of 7 years free of conviction should be required before granting a licence. Offences involving dishonesty include:

  • theft
  • burglary
  • fraud
  • benefit fraud
  • handling or receiving stolen goods
  • forgery
  • conspiracy to defraud
  • obtaining money or property by deception
  • other deception
  • taking a vehicle without consent
  • Or any similar offences (including attempted or conspiracy to commit) offences which replace the above

11 Drugs

11.1 A serious view is taken of any drug related offence. The nature and quantity of the drugs, whether for personal use or supply are issues which should be considered.

11.2 Unless there are exceptional circumstances, to indicate to the Environmental Health and Licensing Manager/ Licensing Officer that that person is a fit and proper person to hold a licence, a licence will not be granted where the applicant has a conviction for an offence related to the supply or possession of drugs and has not been free of conviction for 10 years.

11.3 An application from an applicant who has an isolated conviction for an offence related to the possession of drugs within the last 5 years may be granted a licence, but consideration should be given to the nature and quantity of the drugs.

11.4 If there is evidence of persistent drugs use, misuse or dependency a specialist medical examination (in accordance with DVLA Group 2 medical standards) may be required before the licence is granted. If the applicant was an addict then they will be required to show evidence of 5 years free from drug taking after detoxification treatment.

12 Driving offences involving the loss of life

12.1 A very serious view is to be taken of any applicant who has been convicted of a driving offence that resulted in the loss of life.

12.2 The following will apply to a licence applicant or an existing licence holder unless there are exceptional circumstances to indicate to the Environmental Health and Licensing Manager/Licensing Officer that that person is a fit and proper person to hold a licence.

12.3 Unless there are exceptional circumstances a licence will not normally be granted where the applicant has a conviction for an offence such as:

  • Causing death by dangerous driving
  • Causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs
  • Causing death by driving: unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers
  • or any similar offences

13. Drink driving/driving under the influence of drugs

13.1 As licensees are professional vocational drivers, a serious view is taken of convictions for driving, or being in charge of a vehicle while under the influence of drink or drugs. An isolated incident would not necessarily debar an applicant from proceeding on the restoration of his DVLA driving licence but he should be warned as to the significant risk to his licence status in the event of re-offending. More than one conviction for these offences raises significant doubts as to the applicant's fitness to drive the public. At least 7 years, after the restoration of the driving licence following a drink drive conviction should elapse before an application will be considered. If there is any suggestion that the applicant is alcohol or drug dependent, a satisfactory special medical report must be provided before the application can be allowed to proceed.

14. Insurance offers

14.1 A serious view will be taken of convictions of driving or being in charge of a vehicle without insurance. An isolated incident in the past will not necessarily stop a licence being granted provided he/she has been free of conviction for 7 years; however strict warning should be given as to future behaviour. More than one conviction for these offences would normally prevent a licence being granted or renewed.

14.2 At least 5 years should elapse (after the restoration of the DVLA driving licence), before a licence would normally be granted for a hackney carriage or private hire drivers licence. An operator found guilty of aiding and abetting the driving passengers for hire and reward whilst without insurance will have his operators’ licence revoked immediately and prevented from holding a licence for 7 years.

15. Using a hand held device whilst driving

15.1 Where an applicant has a conviction for using a hand held mobile telephone or hand held device whilst driving, a licence will not be granted until at least 5 years have elapsed since the conviction or completion of any sentence or driving ban imposed, whichever is the later.

16. Other motoring offences

16.1 There may be occasions where an applicant has accrued sufficient points under totting up for the Court to consider disqualification, but successfully argues that exceptional hardship should apply and the Court has not, therefore, imposed a disqualification. In these circumstances the Council expects the individual to supply full details of each of the matters, which led to the totting up. The Council will take those matters into account when deciding whether to grant or refuse an application or whether to take action against an existing licence. Should the individual not supply full details of each of those matters then the Council will take the failure to supply such information into account when deciding whether to take any such action.

17. Licensing offences

17.1 Certain offences under taxi legislation such as plying for hire, overcharging and refusing to carry disabled persons would normally prevent a licence being granted or renewed until a period of 5 years has passed.

18. Outstanding charges or summonses

18.1 If the individual is the subject of an outstanding charge or summons their application can continue to be processed, but the application will need to be reviewed at the conclusion of proceedings. Where information is received through the Common Law Police Disclosure on existing licence holders, consideration will be made by the Environmental Health and Licensing manager/ Licensing Officer.

18.2 If the outstanding charge or summons involves a serious offence and the individual’s conviction history indicates a possible pattern of unlawful behaviour or character trait, then in the interests of public safety the application may be put on hold until proceedings are concluded or the licence may be refused.

18.3 A suspension or revocation of the licence of a driver takes effect at the end of the period of 21 days beginning with the day on which notice is given to the driver. If it appears that the interests of public safety require the suspension or revocation of the licence to have immediate effect, and the notice given to the driver includes a statement that is so and an explanation why, the suspension or revocation takes effect when the notice is given to the driver. [Road Safety Act 2006, s 52, 2A&2B]

19. Non-conviction information

19.1 If an applicant has, on more than one occasion, been arrested or charged, but not convicted, for a serious offence which suggests he could be a danger to the public, consideration should be given to refusing the application. Such offences would include serious violent offences and serious sex offences.

19.2 In assessing the action to take, the safety of the travelling public must be the paramount concern.

20. Cautions

20.1 Admission of guilt is required before a caution can be issued. Every case will be considered on its own merits including the details and nature of the offence.

21. Overseas residents

21.1 If a private hire operator applicant has spent six continuous months or more overseas the licensing authority will require to see evidence of a criminal record check from the country/countries covering the period.

22. Licences issued by other licensing authorities

22.1 Applicants who hold a licence with one licensing authority should not automatically assume that their application will be granted by another. Each case will be decided on its own merits.

23. Summary

23.1 To summarise, a criminal history in itself may not automatically result in refusal and a current conviction for a serious crime need not bar an applicant permanently from becoming licensed. As the preceding paragraphs indicate, in most cases, an applicant would be expected to remain free from conviction for 5 to 10 years, according to circumstances, before an application can be considered. However, there may be occasions when an application can be allowed before 5 years free from conviction have elapsed.

23.2 Any person who has committed an offence and has to wait before an application is positively considered is more likely to value their licence and act accordingly.

23.3 While it is possible that an applicant may have a number of convictions that, individually, meet the above guidelines, the overall offending history must be considered when assessing an applicant’s suitability to be licensed. A series of offences over a period of time is more likely to give cause for concern than an isolated minor conviction. Obviously some discretion can be afforded if an offence disclosed is isolated and there are mitigating circumstances, but the overriding consideration is the protection of the public.