St Albans Magistrates' Court has upheld a decision of St Albans City and District Council to revoke the hackney carriage driver's licence of a driver who is due to stand trial for a conspiracy to supply Class A drugs offence in September.
In March 2019, the Council received a two paragraph summary from Hertfordshire police under 'Common Law Police Disclosure'. The information was that the driver had been arrested and charged with a conspiracy offence and had been remanded in custody. There was nothing else to go on.
On the same day, the Council decided to immediately revoke the driver's licence on grounds of public safety. The driver appealed. In the meantime, he pleaded not guilty to the conspiracy offence and a trial was set for September 2019 - after the date of his appeal against the revocation decision.
At the appeal, unsurprisingly, the driver maintained that he was "100% innocent" and that the jury will, in due course, acquit him. The Council argued that:
- It could revoke a licence for any reasonable cause, which did not require a conviction.
- The facts that the driver had been charged and was due to stand trial were indications that there was merit in the allegation, even if the driver is eventually acquitted at trial. Even then, an acquittal does not mean that the allegation was false.
- It is not the role of the Council or the court to sit in judgment on the allegation. That is the job of the Crown Court. Rather this case involved an assessment of risk, balancing the seriousness of the allegation – if true – against the possibility that it might not be.
- The Council was entitled to err on the side of caution. Its decision to revoke in these circumstances was in complete conformity with the case law, the Council's own convictions policy and the government's draft statutory guidance which recommends that licence holders should not be given the benefit of the doubt.
The Magistrates accepted the Council's arguments and dismissed the appeal, ordering the driver to pay £1,500 in costs.
Matt Lewin represented St Albans City and District Council, instructed by Judith Adamson. Matt recently gave a talk on the use of non-conviction information - "No smoke without fire?" - at the IOL Taxi Licensing Conference in Sheffield.