1. Don’t panic

I understand that a review of your taxi or private hire licence before a licensing committee/panel can be very upsetting and stressful. It is important not to panic however. A licence review before a committee/panel is not as formal as it may sound or appear. Give yourself time to come to terms with the fact that you have to appear before a committee/panel, read the correspondence properly and give due consideration to the benefits of being represented.

2. Preparation is key

Whilst the prospect is daunting, there is a lot you can do to prepare. Read the correspondence you receive, read the taxi licensing policy of your council and make sure you understand why you have been called to appear before the committee/panel. The accompanying officer’s report should be useful as a reference to the relevant policy sections and other relevant information.

3. Know the procedure

Licensing committee/panels are conducted following a set procedure. You are entitled to be given a copy of this procedure which is important to know what is going to happen at the hearing and what opportunities you have to address the licensing committee/panel and speak in support of your case. Make sure you are clear on the procedure to ensure you maximise your opportunity to address members of the licensing committee/panel.

4. Seek legal advice

Taxi and private hire licensing is complex and in some cases, the reasons why people are referred to a committee/panel can also be complex in nature. Losing your licence, or having your application refused, is significant and it is not worth a gamble. Expert legal advice and representation will without a doubt put you at a far greater advantage of a positive outcome.

5. Don’t be late and look the part

This may seem trivial but make sure you arrive in good time. Being late may give the licensing committee/panel members the wrong impression of you and how serious you appear to be taking the matter. This will put you at an instant disadvantage.

Equally important is making sure you are presentable. I often find that taxi or private hire drivers often do not make the effort to make themselves presentable and, similar to turning up late, this too can put you at an immediate disadvantage.

6. With or without you

A licensing committee/panel can make decisions about your licence (and livelihood) in your absence. It is therefore important to make sure you attend regardless of how you feel about the hearing.

Where you are unable to attend, you must inform the licensing committee/panel and you must also request a deferment. At the end of the day a decision to defer will normally be at the committee/panel chair’s discretion but it is important to ask for the deferment notwithstanding. It will be helpful to support your request to defer with further information to support the request. If you are unsure, seek legal advice to help with drafting such a request.

7. You will have another chance

If the licensing committee/panel’s decision goes against you, do bear in mid you have a right of appeal which will present you with another opportunity to make your case. For appeals, licensing advice and representation is a must.

8. You are not in trial

Although licensing committee/panels act in a quasi-judicial way, they are not a court of law and you are not on trial. Licensing committee/panels operate in a much more informal way. Notwithstanding the set procedure, licensing committee/panels are usually discussion lead meetings and therefore much less formal than a court of law.

9. Support your case

In addition to verbally addressing the licensing committee/panel and answering any questions that may have for you, you can also submit evidence to further support your case of what you want to put across. It is advisable to submit any evidence in advance of the committee/panel (normally no less than 48 hours in advance) to ensure everyone has had an opportunity to read it. This is particularly important where the evidence is long or complicated.

10. Patience is key

Finally, it is important that you remain calm at all times. As I said before, a review of your taxi or private hire licence before a licensing committee/panel can be very upsetting and stressful but it is important that you remain calm. Do not raise your voice or become angry even. This will put you at a disadvantage because it may call into question your fitness and your ability to control your anger in stressful situations like, for example, aggressive passengers.

Stephen McCaffrey

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

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