Venue: By Skype
Contact: Fiona McCallum Tel. No. 01546 604392
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Gordon Blair, Rory Colville, Audrey Forrest, George Freeman, Roderick McCuish and Sandy Taylor.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
There were no declarations of interest.
CIVIC GOVERNMENT (SCOTLAND) ACT 1982: REQUEST FOR SUSPENSION OF TAXI DRIVER LICENCE (NO. 5105) (J LEACH, DUNBEG)
Report by Head of Legal and Regulatory Support
The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting. In line with recent legislation for Civic Government Hearings, the parties (and any representatives) were given the options for participating in the meeting today. The options available were by Video Call, by Audio Call or by written submission. For this hearing Police Scotland and the Applicant’s Solicitor opted to proceed by way of Audio Call and they both joined the meeting by telephone.
The Chair outlined the procedure that would be followed and invited Police Scotland to speak in support of the Chief Constable’s complaint.
Sgt McGinnis referred to a letter from Police Scotland dated 7 January 2021 which advised of a request from the Chief Constable that, in terms of Paragraph 11(1) of Schedule 1 of the Act, that the Committee suspend Mr Leach’s Taxi Driver Licence. The Chief Constable complained, in terms of Paragraph 11(2)(a) of Schedule 1 of the Act that Mr Leach was no longer a fit and proper person to hold the Licence. In addition the Chief Constable asked the Committee to order the immediate suspension of Mr Leach’s Licence, in terms of Paragraph 12(1) of Schedule 1 of the Act, on the grounds that the carrying on of the activity to which his licence relates was likely to cause a serious threat to public order or public safety. In support of the Chief Constable’s request the letter referred to an incident which took place on 5 August 2020 which resulted in Mr Leach receiving a Procurator Fiscal fine and having his driving licence endorsed.
QUESTIONS FROM THE LICENCE HOLDER
Ms Crowe referred to the Fiscal fine and asked Sgt McGinnis to confirm if this was the lowest level of fine and endorsement that the Fiscal could have imposed. Sgt McGinnis advised that Mr Leach received a fine of £100 and his driving licence was endorsed with 3 penalty points. She said that she could not comment on the level of the penalty imposed by the Procurator Fiscal.
Ms Crowe advised that Mr Leach was a married man with one step child whom he supported financially. Mr Leach’s Taxi Driver’s Licence was granted on 18 November 2019 and would expire on 17 November 2022. In respect of the incident that occurred, which Ms Crowe said happened over 6½ months ago, she advised that a member of the public had made a formal complaint to the Police and after Mr Leach attended the Police station he was charged and the penalty imposed was a Fiscal fine and his driving licence endorsed. Ms Crowe advised that this was the lowest penalty available in terms of what she understood could have been imposed. She advised that it was her submission that this was a reflection of the incident which occurred. She said that her client had apologised refutably and was very remorseful over what had happened. Given the passage of time since the incident, Ms Crowe advised that she would say it would be unreasonable for the Committee to grant the immediate suspension of Mr Leach’s Taxi Driver’s Licence and asked that the Committee consider not suspending the Licence. She said that her client was clearly remorseful and that this was his livelihood and only source of income. She advised that Mr Leach was the sole provider and supported both his wife and child, who was in their final year at University. She said that there had been no further criminal proceedings and that she was content that Mr Leach was a fit and proper person to hold a Taxi Driver’s Licence. She asked the Committee not to suspend his Licence. She pointed out that this had been a one off incident and that she did not consider Mr Leach to be a serious threat to public safety.
Councillor Trail asked if Ms Crowe could explain Mr Leach’s version of events of what happened on that occasion on the pedestrian crossing. Ms Crowe explained that Mr Leach had admitted his guilt and did so by paying the fine. She advised that at the time of the incident a member of the public alleged that Mr Leach had failed to stop to make sure they had been able to cross the road safely. She said that the taxi was 17 metres away from the crossing and travelling at between 26 – 30 mph. Referring to the stopping distances in the Highway Code, she advised that in the interests of public safety, Mr Leach had believed it would have been more dangerous to try and stop. He believed this would have put the pedestrian and the passenger in his car in a more dangerous situation so he continued to drive through the crossing.
Councillor Trail commented that Mr Leach was travelling fairly quickly and questioned if Mr Leach was surprised by the pedestrian stepping out on the road and asked if he was able to avoid hitting the pedestrian just by carrying on. Ms Crowe referred to the location of the crossing in question. She advised that it was in the centre of Oban with Lidl supermarket on one side of the road and a garage on the other. She advised that there was always a lot going on at that location with comings and goings from the garage and the supermarket. She said that it was the case that her client carried on through the crossing to avoid hitting the pedestrian.
Councillor Trail sought and received confirmation from Ms Crowe that no one had been injured as a result of the incident.
Councillor Kinniburgh asked Sgt McGinnis how such an incident would be dealt with by the Police if it was reported to them by someone. Sgt McGinnis explained that when the incident occurred the witness, who was the person crossing the road, went to speak to Mr Leach but did not get the response they were looking for so reported the incident to the Police and gave a witness statement. Police Officers reviewed CCTV footage ... view the full minutes text for item 3.