The concept of ‘fit and proper’ is the cornerstone of hackney carriage and private hire licensing.  In this article, we will focus on what the new statutory guidance says about criminal records checks.

Much of the enquiries through to Taxi Defence Barristers involve applicants or licence holders who have had licences refused or revoked due to relevant information on criminal records checks. 

Prior to the statutory guidance, some rules relating to criminal records checks varied between licensing authorities.  However, the statutory guidance has now introduced a common approach.

The statutory guidance

The statutory guidance has expended the remit of criminal records checks.  Prior to the statutory guide, criminal records checks were restricted to driver and vehicle licence holders (enhanced) and in most cases licensing operators (basic check).

Under the new guidance, the follow are now subject to criminal records checks:

  • Drivers – “All individuals applying for or renewing a taxi or private hire vehicle drivers licence licensing authorities should carry out a check of the children and adult Barred Lists in addition to being subject to an enhanced DBS check (in section x61 of the DBS application ‘Other Workforce’ should be entered in line 1 and ‘Taxi Licensing’ should be entered at line 2). All licensed drivers should also be required to evidence continuous registration with the DBS update service to enable the licensing authority to routinely check for new information every six months. Drivers that do not subscribe up to the Update Service should still be subject to a check every six months.”
  • Vehicle proprietors – “Licensing authorities should require a basic disclosure from the DBS and that a check is undertaken annually. Any individual may apply for a basic check and the certificate will disclose any unspent convictions recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC).

“Licensing authorities should consider whether an applicant or licence holder with a conviction for offences provided in the annex to this document (Annex – Assessment of previous convictions), other than those relating to driving, meet the ‘fit and proper’ threshold.” 

  • Operators – “Licensing authorities should request a basic disclosure from the DBS and that a check is undertaken annually. Any individual may apply for a basic check and the certificate will disclose any unspent convictions recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC). Licensing authorities should consider whether an applicant or licence holder with a conviction for offences provided in the annex to this document (Annex – Assessment of previous convictions), other than those relating to driving, meet the ‘fit and proper’ threshold.”

Criminal convictions and rehabilitation

The guidance states: “In considering an individual’s criminal record, licensing authorities must consider each case on its merits, but they should take a particularly cautious view of any offences against individuals with special needs, children and other vulnerable groups, particularly those involving violence, those of a sexual nature and those linked to organised crime. In order to achieve consistency, and to mitigate the risk of successful legal challenge, licensing authorities should have a clear policy for the consideration of criminal records.” 

The guidance clearly states that consideration must be given to the individual merits of each case and rehabilitation times. 

It used to be the case that taxi and private hire offences and cautions never became spent irrespective of the time that has elapsed since the offence.  This is no longer the case with the introduction of “filtering” and “protected” convictions and cautions. 

In law, certain minor offences are removed or ‘filtered’ from standard or enhanced certificates.  These changes are only applicable in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

If you are a taxi or private hire licence holder or prospective applicant facing legal issues with your licence, Taxi Defence Barristers can advise you including any subsequent representation at licensing panels and appeals.

Stephen McCaffrey

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

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