Taxi Licensing Penalties: an essential guide
We were lucky enough to be invited to speak at the National Taxi Association Conference in Sunderland on 29th October. The feedback that we had from both drivers, the law commission and local authority was so positive that we thought we’d turn what we said into a short article on the thorny issue of taxi licensing penalties.
Many taxi drivers want to know whether certain licensing authority penalties are worth appealing? This problem is most acute on the issue of licence suspension which can have a huge impact on a driver’s ability to earn a living.
One genuine example that we have been given is that of a taxi driver who contacted his licensing authority to report a low level criminal offence. He had hoped for nothing more than a warning but instead received a suspension of his licence of a fortnight.
This penalty seemed very harsh as it meant he was unable to work and significantly, unable to earn for that period.
So should you appeal? And if so how?
You have 21 days in which to decide and our advice is that the merits of an appeal can be so fact specific that you should give us a call! We don’t charge for this call and it’s better to get peace of mind.
As a guide there are 5 factors that are of general importance in all cases:
1. Unless the issue is safety and requires an immediate sanction – suspension does not come into effect until 21 days have expired and if you choose to appeal it will not imposed until the conclusion of the same.
– So, even if unsuccessful, you have delayed the imposition of the sanction.
This is particularly important when it comes to appeals against the revocation of a licence as it gives you a ‘stay of execution’.
Unfortunately if you want to appeal there is an imposed cost of issuing – £200. This is fee that the Court imposes therefore we have no control over it. In addition there is also the cost of representation to assist you in presentation of your case.
The good news is that both of these costs are recoverable from the other side if you are successful. Therefore it is not money you’re kissing goodbye to!
It is very difficult to say how long it will take for your appeal to be dealt with as it very much depends on the court you’re appealing to. As a rough guide, we anticipate that your case will be heard within 3 weeks.
4. A re-hearing not a review
It’s important to remember that appeals to the Magistrates Court are a re-hearing, not a review. The Magistrate can come to a completely different decision on a completely different basis. It therefore comes down to the strength of your case.
On that basis, a procedural flaw in process would not necessarily guarantee you success on appeal. Conversely, neither do you need the licensing committee to have got it legally wrong.
The difference with a Magistrates Court is that they will look at the case afresh. Because Magistrates are used to formal rules of evidence they are less likely to attach weight to police intelligence or unproven allegations. The instinct of a Magistrate is to interpret rules of natural justice generously in favour of the appellant. This will therefore go in your favour!
5. Finally, experience tells us that Magistrates take a sympathetic approach to these types of cases where the appellant is a hard working man or woman. They don’t generally want to be the people stopping you from earning a living.
So, the answer to the question “is it worth it?” depends on a balancing of all those factors. We can help with the key consideration of how strong your case is. Therefore, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us as soon as you encounter this problem.