If you are licensed by the Transport for London (TfL) (also referred to the as the Public Carriage Office (PCO)) as a taxi or minicab (or private hire) driver, you must be, and remain a fit and proper person.
TfL will undertake a range of assessments, at the initial application stage, to establish whether you are fit and proper person. However, once you are licensed, you must remain fit and proper.
In this article, we will consider TfL’s approach to dealing with public complaints about licensed drivers and how this might affect your licence.
TfL Taxi and Private Hire Enforcement Policy
This policy sets out TfL’s approach to enforcement including how it will investigate and respond to complaints.
The policy explains that “When TfL receives a report from a customer or compliance officer that an offence may have been committed, this will be investigated and the most appropriate course of action will be taken in accordance with this policy document.”
Clearly an important aspect of any investigation is evidence gathering and the principle means of establishing the facts it to talk to the driver.
It is important to note that Compliance Officers and Investigators “will ‘caution’ any suspect in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), where questions put to the suspect are likely to result in admissions or confessions prejudicial to the suspect’s case.”
Understanding the caution and what it means is important and licensed drivers are advised to pay careful attention before confirming the caution has been understood. The policy does go on to say that “Compliance Officer will read out the caution, and ensure that the suspect understands.” Do not be afraid to ask questions or be honest if you do not understand the caution.
Where a licensed driver does not understand the caution, TfL will arrange a separate interview to allow the driver to seek legal advice.
It is important to remember that there is a range of options TfL can consider even in cases where a licensed driver has admitted the offence. The most severe of these options is a prosecution in a court of law. A prosecution will normally also lead to a licence review before the licensing authority.
However, a prosecution is not always the only consideration. In some cases, TfL might take no further action, issue a verbal or written warning or issue a fixed penalty notice as an alternative to a prosecution.
The policy document also sets out how TfL will decide whether to prosecute or take another course of action.
Criteria used to make this decision includes an assessment as to whether:
- The offender has committed a specified offence
- The offender has a previous conviction, warning or licensing action for a specified or relevant offence
- The offender has committed an offence of a serious nature or one in which the impact upon the general public is considered higher
- The offender has committed any public safety offence
- There is sufficient evidence
- Where there has been a genuine mistake of fact
- Where, owing to circumstances beyond the offender’s control, commission of the offence was unavoidable
The rules of natural justice and the TfL policy itself acknowledge the rights of individuals to seek independent legal advice. There are a number of reasons to seek expert legal advice. TfL licensed drivers must:
- make sure they fully understand the implications of acknowledging they understand a caution;
- must make sure any disclosure of alleged wrong doing is properly handled and responded to and;
- finally seek legal representation in relation to licence reviews and any subsequence appeals.
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