The prosecution of Call a Cab Limited for operating a private hire vehicle without a licence has resulted in its conviction on return to the magistrates' court. The case attracted widespread interest in licensing circles when it was thrown out in March 2013 because the district judge said that the prosecutor, Aylesbury Vale District Council, had not followed correct procedure 30 years ago when adopting the legislation regulating private hire vehicles (the Local Government Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1976 Part 2). This prompted the Local Government Association to write to all councils warning them of the risk that their own adoption may be found unsound.
Aylesbury Vale appealed to the High Court by way of case stated. The appeal was allowed in November 2013, with the court ruling that the judge had been wrong to decide that even the most minor lapse in procedure meant the adoption was void – please see here. The case was sent back to the district judge for him to apply the correct test. He had to consider whether there had been "substantial compliance" with procedure when the resolution to adopt had been passed.
Both defendants (the company and its director) chose not to take part in the resumed proceedings. The district judge declared he was quite satisfied that the procedures had been substantially complied with, and that the defendants had been operating without a licence. He therefore found them guilty of all five offences, and ordered them to pay prosecution costs of £20,000.
An interesting twist in the tale emerged in new evidence that could not be shown to the Divisional Court. The district judge stated that it shed a different light on the defendants' evidence given at trial. It suggested that Mr Raja, the director of Call a Cab Limited, had given deliberately misleading evidence about the records he had found in archives concerning the notification procedure when the legislation was adopted. The district judge commented that this had put the council to a great deal of expense as a result.
Rory Clarke acted for Aylesbury Vale DC in the magistrates' court.