Being reported for an offence is significant for any licence holder. Not only does it raise the prospect of a criminal record, but licence holders face the prospect of a licence suspension or even revocation.
There is of course a statutory investigation process to follow which must be fair. During this process there are opportunities for a licence holder to respond to the allegations and provide a defence. This is an important step in the process because it will be a relevant factor in deciding whether a case should be brought.
In this article, we will consider Transport for London’s (TfL), also known as the Public Carriage Office (PCO), approach with regards to this and the importance of legal advice and assistance.
Opportunities to respond
You might be interested to read our general overview of TfL’s approach to investigation alleged offences.
Criminal investigations are governed by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). Under PACE, alleged offenders have certain rights and protections to ensure the process is fair. TfL’s is subject to PACE rules which, in practice, means that licence holders have a right of reply but also the right to be informed of their PACE rights.
According to TfL’s Taxi and Private Hire Enforcement Policy, there are a number of opportunities for a licence holder to respond during an investigation:
1. Enquiry Letters – that invites the alleged offender to provide an explanation under caution for the alleged offence or to provide any comments about the alleged incident.
2. TfL on-street Compliance Officers – who may ask questions of licence holders on street. Under these circumstances it is important to understand there is a difference between:
– responding to questions about an alleged offence (requires a caution as it may result in admissions or confessions prejudicial to the suspect’s case);
– responding to questions to confirm identity (which does not require a caution).
A quick word on cautions, TfL taxi and minicab licence holders must ensure they completely understand the wording and significance of a caution before accepting it. If you are unsure, do not accept it and seek legal advice.
The need for legal advice
Criminal investigations are governed by strict statutory rules (PACE) that must be followed for a fair investigation. More so than this, a criminal conviction is significant because it will carry inevitable consequences for you licence with TfL including the very real prospect of a revocation.
Having to appeal a revocation is a lengthy and costly process for licence holders. In some cases, a well-considered and comprehensive response to, for example, a TfL Enquiry Letter might be sufficient for TfL to decide not to pursue a prosecution.
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