East Suffolk taxi and private hire drivers to face drug testing following new policy decision


Image credit: Piqsels

Hackney carriage taxi drivers and those driving private hire vehicles, that are licensed by East Suffolk Council, could now be randomly tested for drugs after councillors agreed on the new policy.


In a Licensing Committee meeting held on Monday 20 July, members of the team discussed the introduction of such tests after a draft policy proposal was put in place at the start of the year.

The proposal stated: "An applicant, or licensed driver, who uses illegal drugs would risk compromising the safety of those they transport, other drivers and themselves and so would not be a fit and proper person.


"The licensing authority needs a policy which provides for the mandatory drug testing of applicants with a known history of illegal drug use and existing drivers who the licensing authority has reason to believe they may be using drugs or are under investigation by police, have been arrested, cautioned, charged, prosecuted or convicted of misuse of drugs."

East Suffolk Council have almost 600 drivers licensed, with a small minority flagged up for the use of illegal drugs, prompting the council to move forward with the new policy.


A spokesperson for the council said: “The Council views such drug use as completely incompatible with being fit and proper persons to be entrusted with the safe carriage of the general public as well as the dangers presented to other road users by such licensed drivers.


“This Policy therefore aims to establish procedures to allow for intelligence-led drugs testing of licensed drivers, and the testing of licensed drivers where a licence has been granted subject to random drug testing, with the intention of both detecting drivers who use illegal drugs and also deterring such persons from continuing to use drugs.


“The Policy also provides a discretionary power for certain applicants for the grant of licences to drive taxis or private hire vehicles, and who have a criminal record involving drug-related offences, to be required to pass a drugs test at their own expense as one part of the application process.


“Finally, the Policy also provides a discretionary power for applicants seeking to renew their licences to drive taxis or private hire vehicles, and who have been convicted during the currency of their licence of drug-related offences, to be required to pass a drugs test at their own expense as one part of the renewal application process.”


The policy follows these guidelines:


New Applicants with Drug-related conviction(s)


'In the case of any applicant for a new taxi / private hire driver’s licence who has any drug- related conviction or caution (whether for drug-driving, drug possession, supply / intent / conspiracy to supply or production of drugs) obtained within the period of 3 years prior to the date of application, the Legal and Licensing Service Manager be given discretion to require them as part of the application process to undergo at their own expense a drug test by the Council’s appointed toxicology company.


'This urine analysis test must produce a negative (pass) result. If a positive (fail) result is given, then further testing of the urine must be carried out at the company laboratories.


'For the avoidance of doubt, the provision of such a negative test result will be merely one aspect of the consideration process as to whether the applicant satisfies the “fit and proper person” test and shall not of itself prove determinative. The applicant will be required to pay the cost of the test.


'This discretionary procedure is intended to be used in a very limited number of cases as ordinarily the mere fact of drug convictions will be sufficient to justify refusing the application.


'It may still be necessary for the applicant to go before the Licensing Sub- committee before a final decision is made, even where a test is negative, if the applicant has had a drugs conviction within 3 years of applying for a licence or where officers have concerns as to an applicant’s specific circumstances, such as a repeat pattern of offending in relation to the misuse of drugs.'


Applicant for Renewal with recent Drug-related conviction(s)


'In the case of any licensed driver seeking to renew their taxi / private hire driver’s licence who has any drug-related conviction or caution (whether for drug-driving, drug possession, supply / intent / conspiracy to supply or production of drugs) obtained within the period of 3 years prior to the date of application, the Legal and Licensing Service Manager be given discretion to require them as part of the application process to undergo at their own expense a drug test by the Council’s appointed toxicology company.


'This urine analysis test must produce a negative (pass) result. If a positive (fail) result is given then further testing of the urine must be carried out at the company laboratories.


'For the avoidance of doubt, the provision of such a negative test result will be merely one aspect of the consideration process as to whether the licence should be renewed and shall not of itself prove determinative. The applicant will be required to pay the cost of the test.


'Again, this discretionary procedure is intended to be used in a very limited number of cases as ordinarily the mere fact of drug convictions will be sufficient to justify refusing the application.


'It may still be necessary for the applicant to go before the Licensing Sub- committee before a final decision is made, even where a test is negative, if the applicant has had a drugs conviction within 3 years of applying for a licence or where officers have concerns as to an applicant’s specific circumstances, such as a repeat pattern of offending in relation to the misuse of drugs.


'If the initial screening test is positive (fail), then that sample will be required to be sent to the Councils’ appointed company’s testing laboratory for a confirmatory test which will determine exactly what substance was taken and in what quantities.


'During this time the person who was tested may have any licence to drive taxi and private hire vehicles revoked with immediate effect by the Head of Legal and Democratic Services acting under delegated powers on the grounds of public safety.


'In the event that the confirmatory analytical laboratory result is below the level of quantification or consistent with declared medication then the person who has had their licence revoked may have their revocation rescinded by the Head of Legal and Democratic Service if he / she is satisfied that it is appropriate to do so.'


Intelligence led Drug Testing


'This would be based upon the Legal and Licensing Services Manager being satisfied that credible reasons exist to suspect that a licensed private hire / taxi driver may be using illegal drugs.


'Where he/she is so satisfied the driver will be required in writing to undergo, at the Council’s expense, a urine analysis carried out by the Council’s appointed toxicology company as specified by the Council on a certain date.


'Failure to comply with such a requirement may result in the driver committing an offence of obstruction pursuant to Section 73(1) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and / or may result in the driver’s licence being reviewed to ascertain whether the non-compliance gives rise to “reasonable cause” for the driver’s licence to be revoked or suspended.


'The Legal and Licensing Services Manager will have a discretion at all times to consider whether the driver had a reasonable excuse for not complying with the requirement and may, as he sees fit, require the driver to attend for testing on an alternative date. The licensing authority will cover the cost of the drug testing where the drug testing is intelligence led.'


Licence granted subject to a condition requiring random drug testing


'There may be occasions where a licence is granted to a driver subject to a condition that a driver is subject to random drug testing for the duration of their licence or for a specified period of time less than the duration of their licence.


'For example, where the Sub- Committee is satisfied that despite a misuse of drugs incident in the past, an applicant/driver is sufficiently reformed so as to be fit and proper but the Sub-Committee wish the driver to be subject to random drug tests to ensure the driver’s suitability to be licensed does not change over time, through a return to misusing drugs, to protect the travelling public.


'The licensing authority will cover the cost of the drug testing where a licence is granted subject to a condition requiring random drug testing.'

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