The Government has recently lost a Supreme Court ruling which may result in a change to the way they process criminal records checks for, amongst others, taxi and private hire drivers.

The Supreme Court ruled the Government’s current system for reporting on people’s criminal history to be unlawful and disproportionate as it breached people’s human rights.

Under the current system, people, including taxi and private hire licence holders/applicants, will have all previous convictions disclosed, however minor, where the person has more than one conviction, and also in the case of warnings and reprimands issued to young offenders.

The Supreme Court found this approach unlawful and as a consequence, the Government will need to reform the system so that it only reports in criminal records that are proportionate for the purpose of the disclosure.

 Clearly within the context of taxi and private hire licensing, criminal history checks exit to ensure public protection and safety is maintained.  Under a reformed system, the DBS and local police forces may filter more minor criminal convictions, allegations and/or intelligence.

Such a reformed system could be fairer for taxi and private hire drivers without compromising public safety. 

At present, taxi and private hire drivers are exempt form rehabilitation of offenders  legislation and this means that offences a never considered spent for taxi and private hire drivers so they will always be considered.  In cases however it will be disproportionate for minor and historic offences to be disclosed particularly where unique circumstances may apply. 

The Supreme Court said that is circumstances such as the example mentioned above, disclosure should be withheld.

It remains to be seen what the Government will do in response to losing the appeal but it is widely thought that more vigorous filtering of minor and historic offences will become more prominent.

Stephen McCaffrey

Regulatory defence barrister specialising in taxi and private hire licensing law, appeals and defence.

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