Northumberland County Council welcome the decision of the High Court to dismiss a challenge, by way of judicial review, brought by Blue Line Taxis’ Ltd concerning the decision of the council, in the interests of public safety, to attach conditions to hackney carriage proprietors licences (taxi licences).
Following a hearing in Leeds at the High Court on the 22nd May 2012, the formal judgment was “handed” down by Mr Justice Foskett on the 1st June 2012 which confirmed the approach adopted by the council to be lawful.
The court action by Blue Line Taxis Ltd sought to challenge the policy of the council to attach conditions to hackney carriage proprietors licences, the purpose of which was to ensure that taxis licensed by the council are exclusively or predominantly used within Northumberland, thereby enabling the council, in the interests of public safety, to exercise local control over licensed taxis.
On the 2nd March 2011, the councils Licensing and Regulatory Committee agreed, following consideration of a report, from the public protection service, to attach additional conditions to specific hackney carriage proprietors licences where the applicant is or is associated with a Private Hire Operator other than licensed by Northumberland County Council, or the applicant intends to undertake pre-booked hiring’s on behalf of a Private Hire Operator not licensed by the council.
The conditions require hackney carriage proprietors to ensure drivers keep a notebook /record of journeys and other specific information including times and destinations which would be subject to review by the Council.
The Committee further agreed (Revised 8th June 2011)to adopt a policy whereby there would be a presumption that an application for a hackney carriage licence would be refused if the application was made by a person who does not live, or intend to keep or maintain the vehicle for which a licence is sought, in Northumberland or in a local authority which has a border with Northumberland County Council unless the applicant was able to demonstrate that there are exceptional circumstances, which would not undermine public safety, which would make it appropriate to grant the licence .
Changes were made to the council’s hackney carriage licensing policy as it has a duty to the public to make sure that taxis are safe for travelers as well as residents. It was obliged to take steps to ensure that it performs its duty in a manner which afforded local control.
Blue Line Taxis Ltd, who operate a mixed fleet of vehicles (hackney carriage and private hire) are a licensed Private Hire Operator with North Tyneside Council, claimed that the use of the legislation to attach conditions of the type proposed by the council, was unlawful and the keeping of such records irrational and impractical.
“Councillor Jeff Watson, Chairman of the Licensing and Regulatory Committee said, “I am delighted with the decision. The changes in council policy were brought about mainly with public safety at their heart. It is absolutely essential that the council should be able to establish the actual nature and use of hackney carriages once licensed by the council. If vehicles are not being used as intended by the applicant it undermines our safeguards and we cannot effectively monitor them within Northumberland to ensure the vehicles are safe.”
Hackney carriage vehicles can be hailed in the street, stand and ply for hire and may be pre-booked in advance. Private hire vehicles must be pre-booked, and customers should be quoted the exact fare when the booking is made with the operator.
Approved Judgment – Case No: CO/4942/2011