Suzanne McLaughlin, Public Protection Partnership representative presented the report on the Institute of Licensing’s Guidance on Determining the Suitability of Applicants and Licensees in the Hackney and Private Hire Trades. Members were asked to adopt the Institute of Licensing guidance, and incorporate the time periods in relation to convictions and cautions into the existing Bracknell Forest policy.
Members discussed the report, and the following points were noted:
· Members were reminded that they could adopt the Guidance in part.
· All drivers underwent a local Enhanced DBS check, which would include a background check by local police.
· Where the Institute of Licensing column had been left blank, the conviction had not been covered in their policy.
· It was clarified that a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) may be issued by a Police Officer in respect of certain road traffic offences (criminal offences), such as for certain speeding offences, as an alternative to Court sanctions otherwise being imposed following conviction. Depending on the offence, Penalty Points may also be endorsed on a driver’s licence either in addition to a Fixed Penalty Notice being issued for a road traffic offence or as part of a Sentence for such offence following conviction in Court.
· A conviction follows a finding of guilt in a Court of law, whereas a road traffic offence (criminal offence) dealt with by way of Police Caution, a Fixed Penalty Notice, or participation on a driver speed awareness course, outside of the Court process, does not.
· It was noted that the Institute of Licensing guidance, however, (at Chapter 4.12) defines “conviction” as including matters that amount to criminal behaviour but which have not resulted in a conviction, including acquittals at Court, cases resulting in decisions not to prosecute and cases of complaint where there was no police involvement.
· It was clarified that a Fixed Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) may be issued by authorised persons in respect of other driving contraventions (such as parking contraventions) which are Civil matters rather than criminal offences.
· Members raised concerns around a number of areas of disparity between the Institute’s timescales around convictions compared to Bracknell Forest’s existing policy.
· Members asked whether other authorities had adopted the Institute’s Guidance, and officers agreed to look into this.
· It was noted that the consultation had received 3 responses, compared to the 331 email notifications sent out. Other authorities within the Public Protection Partnership had seem similarly poor response rates.
· Members were reminded that drives are banned for a period of time in order to protect the public as well as the Council’s reputation, and was not only a punishment of the driver.
· It was suggested that if the Institute wished to create unanimity across Local Authorities, it would be difficult if Bracknell Forest were to adopt some and not all of the guidelines. Members were reminded that not all of the Public Protection Partnership authorities follow the same set of standards.
· Members queried the difference between the possession of and conviction for drug use. It was clarified that the Bracknell Forest policy currently referred to a ‘single isolated conviction’, which the Institute’s guidelines did not. It was also questioned that ‘drugs’ were not defined in the guidelines.
· Members agreed that the current Bracknell Forest policy had some poor phraseology and needed reviewing.
· The Committee recognised that taxi drivers had paid attention when it had amended guidelines in the past, which had led to improvements in areas such as notifying of driving penalties.
· To alleviate concerns that drivers may not be aware of the change, officers agreed that drivers would be asked to sign and confirm they have received and read the new policy, if implemented.
· It was understood that Wokingham and West Berkshire would be adopting these guidelines at their upcoming Committee meetings.
· Members raised concerns around the lack of differentiation between convictions or non-convictions in the guidance, and wished for these to specified and separated into convictions and non-convictions before supporting the guidance going forward.
· Members asked officers to reconsider the wording around timing of convictions and non-convictions, to ensure clarity.
· Members asked to see a working draft version of the new timelines before the Committee meeting in September.
· While Members agreed with the general principle of aligning the policies across the Public Protection Partnership and nationally, it was not felt that the guidance could be adopted in its current format and wording.
Members did not support the recommendations, and requested that the report be presented again at the next meeting.