Private Hire (or minicab) drivers in London are regulated by the direct provisions of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 and Regulations made under it.
Under the 1998 Act and Regulations, an applicant for a private hire driver’s licence must agree to an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. It is well known that this check is to enable Transport for London (also known as the Public Carriage Office) to check any relevant conviction or criminal history (if any).
This criminal records check is a requirement of a private hire driver’s good character (or fit and proper) assessment. TfL guidance states that “the criterion for good character is determined mainly on the applicant’s conviction history.” It is clear therefore that TfL adds significant weight to an applicant’s conviction history.
An enhanced DBS check is not the only means by which TfL assesses the fitness and propriety of a private hire driver. They can also rely on other sources of information such as police held information and entries made on the DVLA database relating to driving offences.
TfL’s Conviction Policy
Generally speaking, TfL will refuse applicants for any of the following convictions:
- Any conviction for a major violent offence (murder, manslaughter etc.)
- More than one conviction of any type of violent offence in the last 10 years
- Serving a custodial sentence, even if the applicant has been released early on licence or the sentence was suspended
- Convicted, cautioned or subjected to any other penalty for a serious sexual offence (rape, indecent assault, trafficking, possession of indecent images etc)
- Convicted, cautioned or subjected to any other penalty for more than one sexual offence of any type, irrespective of age
- Listed on either the Children’s or Adults’ barred list
- Convicted, cautioned or subjected to any other penalty for touting in the last 12 months or have more than one penalty for touting in the last five years
It is worth noting that this is not an exhaustive list and that TfL might, on a case to case basis, refuse application on other grounds not listed above.
Revocations, suspensions and refusals
The requirement to be a fit and proper person is not limited to new private hire applicants. Licensees must also ensure they remain fit and proper people and licensees no longer deemed fit and proper could have their licences suspended and/or revoked.
For licensees, TfL’s guidance states:
“A PHV driver’s licence may be suspended or revoked by the Licensing Authority if the licence holder:
- has been convicted of an offence of indecency, violence or dishonesty;
- where the Licensing Authority is no longer satisfied that the licence holder is fit to hold a PHV driver’s licence; or
- where the licence holder failed to comply with any condition of the licence or other obligations imposed on him by the 1998 Act.”
Where TfL refuse, suspend or revoke a private hire driver’s licence, it is under a duty to 1. give notice of the decision to the licence holder and 2. provide the grounds (or reasons) for the decision.
An applicant or licensee has a right of appeal to the Magistrates Court. Any such appeal must be made within 21 days of the receipt of the decision letter referred to above. A decision by TfL does not take effect until either, the 21-day appeal period has expired or until after the appeal has been determined. The only exception to this is where a decision is taken that the decision should take immediate effect in the interest of public safety.
TfL’s indiscriminate approach to revoking licence is often its demise too. A methodical approach to TfL appeals often means success for licence holders. This is important because TfL’s indiscriminate approach, in many cases, unfairly labels licence holders as unfit to hold a licence.
Taxi Defence Barristers understand the distress of losing your licence particularly if the process was not fair. We take the time to fully investigate allegations and complaints to clearly establish the facts and evidence. This meticulous approach often leads to success because it exposes the lack of willingness by TfL to actually investigate allegations.
Fairness is a fundamental legal principle. Licence holders have a right to be treated fairly and be given a fair trial. Often, this is not reflected in the TfL investigation process.
Disclaimer: This article is for guidance purposes only. Kings View Chambers accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken, or not taken, in relation to this article. You should seek the appropriate legal advice having regard to your own particular circumstances.
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