Bury cabbie has licence suspended after a long list of complaints 

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A Bury hackney carriage taxi driver has had his licence suspended following a long list of complaints made against him.

The taxi driver, referred to as Licence Holder 05/2019, attended his hearing with Bury Council represented by Barrister Mr Giles Bridge and accompanied by Mr Charles Oakes, from the Hackney Drivers Association Ltd.

All parties present confirmed that they had read the full report put together by the council.

The report explained that Licence Holder 05/2019 had first been issued a Hackney Carriage Driver’s licence with Bury Council on 29 April 2003 and that the current licence is not due to expire until 24 January 2022.

The report went on to state that the Licensing Unit had received a number of complaints relating to various matters within the last 12 months from a member of staff at the Council’s test centre, passengers and members of the public regarding the Licence Holder.

Mr Bridge asked the taxi driver to explain his version of events for each of the incidents that had arisen from the report.

On 1 April 2018, a complaint was made by a passenger suggesting that the taxi driver did not switch on the meter and over charged him for the short distance to his home.

In his defence, the taxi driver stated that this was not the case and the passenger was drunk and abusive and threw a stone at his vehicle. The police were called but no further action was taken.

On 14 May 2018, a passenger approached the taxi driver to ask the cost of the journey to his home address and was told £10, but as the passenger had purchased a TV cabinet and loaded this into the vehicle, the passenger alleged he had charged an extra £5.

When contacted by the Deputy Licensing Officer, initially the driver stated that he could not remember but then he telephoned to say he could remember.

He refunded the £5 when he was reminded that an additional charge was not permitted and a warning letter was sent to him.

The driver stated to the Panel that the passenger had agreed to the additional charge of £5 before the journey, however, he accepted that he shouldn’t charge extra over the agreed fare table.

On 9 September 2018, a passenger approached the taxi, which was third in line on the rank, but the two in front had passengers in.

Initially the passenger knocked on the window, but was ignored by the Licence Holder. The passenger got into the taxi and asked the driver if he could take him to Brandlesholme Road. The taxi driver then told him to get in the taxi in front, but the passenger explained there were passengers in them and the driver then told him to get out and wait for another taxi.

In his defence, the driver stated to the panel that he asked the passenger to pay £5 up front and that he would put the meter on and give back any change at the end of the journey. He also stated that as a hackney carriage it was more expensive than a private hire vehicle.

On 30 January 2019, the Deputy Licensing Officer was contacted by an investigator at an insurance company as the taxi driver had made a claim relating to an accident in December 2018. The vehicle had been examined by an independent assessor and concern was raised as to the safety of the vehicle.

The vehicle’s licence was therefore suspended and the driver was asked to attend the Council’s test centre for an inspection. The driver wished to retain his licence plates himself before the vehicle was examined and therefore suspension stickers were placed across them.

When the vehicle was presented for test on Monday 4 February 2019, the examiner found the licence plates on the passenger seat with the stickers removed. When questioned about this by licensing staff, the driver claimed that his daughter had washed the stickers off the plates.

The Licence Holder stated to the panel that after the accident in December 2018, he contacted the Licensing Service and was told he would be given a month to sort out the vehicle.

Regarding the licence plates, he took the plates off the car and took them into the house and as they were dirty, his daughter decided to wash them and removed the stickers. He denied that he had forcibly removed the stickers or that he had used the hackney carriage whilst the stickers were off.

A number of other complaints were made against the driver, including another claim of overcharging and an incident at the council's vehicle test centre were he was said to of been reluctant to hand over the vehicle keys to one of the examiners.

The examiner claimed that the driver had been filming him during the examination and seemed to be trying to distract him, but a witness statement from an Uber driver who was present at the test centre backed up the taxi driver saying he was not filming him and was trying to cooperate with the examiner.

Barrister, Mr Bridge, finally summed up by explaining that his client had explained his version of the events regarding the incidents and that the point had not been reached that the licence holder was not fit and proper.

There was clearly a different version of events in relation to the testing station and the witness had confirmed that both his client and examiner had frustrated attitudes on that day.

Overall, he stated that all of the incidents were minor and could warrant a possible suspension but for the panel to appreciate that this was the man's livelihood and he has been driving for 27 years.

Three references were provided to the Panel.

The panel carefully considered the report and oral representations by the taxi driver, his witness and representative.

They also took into account the council’s Conviction Policy and Guidelines and in accordance with the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 resolved, on a majority, to suspend Licence Holder 05/2019 for a period of 3 months.

Furthermore during the period of the suspension the panel required that the man complete a communications course and the statutory safeguarding course.

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