Information for Hackney Carriage and Private Drivers
Part 3 - Enforcement
The council has adopted a corporate enforcement policy.
Although the term Hackney Carriage team is used, the team deals with licensing of both Hackney Carriage and Private Hire matters which covers many of the enforcement activities of the council, including the enforcement of hackney carriage and private hire legislation. The corporate enforcement policy is a general document which sets out, amongst other things:
- A commitment from the Council to abide by the statutory principles of good regulation;
- Enforcement precepts;
- Levels of enforcement action;
- Investigation of offences;
- Formal enforcement options;
- Liaison with victims;
- Training of staff;
- Complaints, reviews and appeals;
- Data sharing.
The is available to view. Whilst the corporate enforcement policy applies to general enforcement activities, each service area or team is able to produce operational procedures and guidance specific to their work. Accordingly, this document sets out the operational procedures and guidance relevant to the work of the Hackney Carriage Office. It is intended to support authorised officers in their work and to assist Authorised Officers and Elected Members in making enforcement decisions.
When carrying out enforcement activities, the Council will keep in mind the promotion of the following broad good practice objectives:
- Maintaining high standards of health and safety;
- Ensuring that Hackney Carriage and Private Hire vehicles are mechanically safe, clean and reliable;
- Support of a professional and responsible hackney carriage and private hire trade;
- Protection of the environment;
- Encouragement of high standards of customer service and competence in the local hackney carriage and private hire trade;
- Ensuring that drivers, proprietors and private hire operators are and remain 'fit and proper' persons;
- Providing clarity with respect to the Councils expectations of license holders and applicants and the decision making process.
Administration delegation of functions
This licensing regime is a "non executive function" and is ultimately the responsibility of Full Council. The council constitution sets out the scheme of delegation of functions to officers and the Hackney Carriage Committee. The council supports the concept of subsidiary, meaning that decisions should be taken at the lowest practical level. This minimises costs and maximises efficiency. As such, authorised officers are empowered to deal with applications and take enforcement decisions under delegated authority, without reference to the committee.
As a safeguard, the Constitution allows for the Head of Public Health and Protection,or the Director (Governance), to determine that a particular decision should not betaken under delegated authority by Authorised Officers, but should instead be referred to the Hackney Carriage Committee for consideration.
This means that the majority of the decisions relating to applications or the enforcement of Hackney Carriage law will be undertaken by Authorised Officers, unless it is deemed by a senior officer to be more appropriate to refer the matter to committee.
In the exercise of delegated authority, the authorised Hackney Carriage Officers and Committee will consider the circumstances of the individual case, having regard to the Enforcement Policy Legislation this guidance.
Decisions by officers under delegated authority
Authorised Officers are generally empowered to take the following actions under delegated authority:
- To grant, renew or refuse applications for licences;
- To carryout investigations into alleged contraventions;
- To take appropriate actions including prosecution, suspension or revocation of licences and actions to ensure public safety.
As an alternative to a prosecution, the corporate enforcement policy allows for certain offences to be dealt with by way of a "simple caution". If the Authorised Officer is of the opinion that a simple caution may be an appropriate method for disposal of an offence, this will again be done in consultation with a Senior Officer, legal adviser and having full regard for the MoJ guidance.
Decisions by committee under delegated authority
Where it is decided that a matter is to be referred to the Committee, the applicant/licence holder will be notified in writing of the date and time of the hearing, with an invitation for them to attend. A copy of the committee report, detailing the reason for referral, will be forwarded to the applicant. The committee meeting will proceed according to the standard protocol. Committee meetings may be held during the day or evening, in the interests of justice meetings will not run beyond 10pm.
The committee will be supported by a Committee Manager and Legal Advisor who will take no part in the decision making process.
However, should the committee require assistance from their legal advisor or committee manager during the time they are in deliberation, then that officer will explain to any applicant/licence holder why and what advice they have provided to the Committee. Authorised officers will take no part in the decision making deliberations by committee.
A number of applications and/or disciplinary matters may be heard at the same meeting. Each matter will be considered in private, the public and other applicants will not have access to the meeting. Whilst the members of the Committee will attempt to be as punctual as possible, there may be situations that arise where a particular hearing takes longer than the indicative times, resulting in delays in the timing of subsequent hearings.
When it is time for a case to be heard, the driver/applicant will be called before the Committee, along with any representatives whom they wish to speak on their behalf, in order that they may present their case.
Hackney Carriage Committee meetings will ordinarily be "Part 2 items" and exempt from the press and Public. However, the Director (Governance) and Head of Public Health and Protection may attend committee meetings in an observer capacity. If this happens, any applicant/licence holder will be told at the start of the meeting.
Subject to the individual circumstances of the case, the committee is empowered to take the following actions:
- Do nothing;
- Suspension or Revocation of a licence;
- Refusal to grant or renew a licence;
- Recommend a prosecution. In some cases a simple caution may be an appropriate disposal of a more minor offence where guilt has been admitted. However, it is not something for the committee to decide as it will generally require an offender to take time to consider if they wish to consider accepting a simple caution.
Should the committee recommend a prosecution, or the opportunity to issue a simple caution, this will only take place if the council's legal advisor is satisfied that the requirements of the corporate enforcement policy are met, including the CPS code and the MoJ guidance on simple cautions.
Any right of appeal lies to the relevant Court, in accordance with the relevant statutory provisions. The committee does not consider appeals of Authorised Officer decisions,and officers do not consider appeals of committee decisions. An applicant/licence holder will be given notice of any appeal rights at the time of enforcement action taking place, and it is for them to find appropriate legal advice regarding their rights.
From time to time police officers and/or Authorised Officers of the Council, will carryout inspections of premises/vehicles/drivers to ensure compliance with the relevant conditions issued with the vehicles. Any reports submitted in relation to premises/vehicles/drivers will be retained by the Hackney Carriage Office and taken into consideration as appropriate. In certain cases licences may be suspended, in which case licence holders must follow the instructions given at the time of the suspension.
Disciplinary and Enforcement Guidance Protocol
In the Council's view, the guidance guidelines that follow are compatible with the rights and freedoms under the European Convention on Human Rights. These sections provide operational guidance to Authorised Officers and members of the Hackney Carriage Committee to assist with consideration of particular circumstances.
The Council will maintain a consistent and firm disciplinary and enforcement regime in the best interests of all concerned, and in line with the Council's Enforcement Policy. Each case will be considered on its merits.
The Council is committed to social inclusion and ensuring a wide variety of opportunities are available to those with mobility impairments in order to enjoy a high quality of life. It fully supports the view of the Equality and Human Rights Commission that:
- "Making successful journeys is critical to the social inclusion of disabled people. Without the ability to travel, disabled people are denied access to life opportunities. Their access to education, shopping, employment, health care, as well as social and family life is significantly improved when journeys become accessible".
For this reason, the Council considers it important that people with impairments have access to all forms of public transportation and will keep this section under review. If complaints are received positive action will be initiated.
It is arguable that different accessibility considerations should apply between hackney carriage/private hire vehicles, in that hackney carriages can be hired in the street or at a rank by the customer dealing directly with the driver. Private hire vehicles however, can only be booked through an operator. It is considered important that a person with a disability should be able to hire a hackney carriage with the minimum delay or inconvenience. Having a reasonable number of accessible hackney carriages licensed within the Borough significantly assists those who are impaired. The Council will therefore actively encourage the licensing of sufficient accessible vehicles and have regard to the requirements of the Equality Act2010 and all relevant Equalities and Disability legislation.
The private hire trade should however, be aware of a Good Practice Guide produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Private hire operators also have a duty under the Equality Act 2010, (EA10 - which replaces the Disability Discrimination Act1995), and other legislation to ensure disabled people are not discriminated against or treated less favourably.
Section 168 of the EA10 imposes a duty on drivers to carry 'Guide and Hearing' (Assistance) Dogs free of charge. An exemption to this requirement is provided where a driver has a certified note showing a 'Proven Medical Condition' which precludes such action.
Driver's who, for medical reasons, are unable to accept wheelchair passengers or guide/hearing dogs are able to apply to the Council for an exemption certificate. Such a certificate will only be considered on production of medical evidence, at the driver's expense, from the drivers own GP, stating the details of their medical condition. Exemption certificates, which show the photograph of the driver, must be displayed in the vehicle at all times when the driver is working.
Persons who breach Equality Act duties may be guilty of a criminal offence.
Equality and Diversity
In carrying out its work, the council is obliged to follow the Equality Act 2010 which places a legal obligation on public authorities to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, and to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons based on race, gender, disability, age, sexuality, transgender,religion or belief.
The council recognises that individuals have certain rights of redress open to them and operates a procedure for dealing with official complaints. Further details are in the corporate enforcement policy and the council's official complaint policy.
A complaint should relate to either something which the council, (or one of its officers)should have done, but have failed to do, or something which the council (or its officers),should not have done, but has done.
The Council recognises that some complaints can be frivolous or vexatious and complaints deemed to be of this nature may not be investigated further.
Requests for service and appeals will not be treated as complaints.
The Council will gather and share data for prevention and detection of crime.
The Council is committed to encouraging the professional image of the trade and it considers that drivers should conform to a minimum standard of dress in order to maintain the profile of the licensed trade in Welwyn Hatfield.
Drivers are expected to dress in a neat and tidy manner that will not cause offence and act courteously both to passengers and other road users. The following are acceptable standards of dress:
- Upper clothing should cover the shoulders (not sleeveless)
- Shorts may be worn in exceptionally hot weather BUT must be tailored
- Smart jean type trousers are permitted
- Footwear should fit around the heel of the foot
- Other forms of dress may be acceptable - please ask for appropriate advice from the Hackney Carriage Office.
Unacceptable standards of dress:
- Bare chests;
- Unclean, damaged or inappropriate clothing/footwear;
- Clothing with offensive words, logos or graphics;
- Beach type footwear (eg flip flops and mules), or any other form of footwear not secured around the heel;
- Headwear that conceals (or partially conceals) the face of the driver; and
- Baseball caps.
If drivers are in any doubt about the appropriateness of their proposed attire they should seek guidance from the Hackney Carriage Team.
Licence holders should be aware that "Mystery Shoppers" and "Test Purchases" are used by the Council to check the standards which are being provided to the travelling public, (for example a test purchase of a taxi/private hire ride). Also, the standards of customer service provided by the council, (for example through a "mystery shopper" phoning into the council). This guidance gives notice to the taxi trade that test purchasing will be operating at such times within the Borough. To satisfy RIPA requests, will not be justified as "covert".
The ability to communicate clearly with customers is an obvious requirement. All applicants must be able to converse with a good basic standard of the English language. This will be assessed by Officers during the application process. Should any applicants fall below a standard deemed acceptable by officers, they will be advised that their application will be rejected.