Published on 11th November 2016
Cheltenham Borough Council has revoked the licence of a private hire driver after he was convicted of illegally plying for hire.
Ephraim Chimuka pleaded guilty to unlawfully accepting a passenger without the journey being booked through a licensed operator. The offence took place during the Cheltenham Festival in March this year when officers from Cheltenham Borough Council and neighbouring councils carried out a series of round-the-clock checks on taxis and private hire vehicles to ensure compliance with the law.
On Wednesday the council’s licensing committee reviewed Mr Chimuka’s licence in light of the conviction. The committee took into account not only the conviction but also Mr Chimuka’s previous compliance record, including an earlier review of his licence in 2015. The committee decided that the evidence showed that he is not a fit and proper person and revoked his licence with immediate effect in the interests of public safety.
Councillor David Willingham, who chaired the licensing committee, says: “Adhering to the law and the council’s policies is a fundamental requirement for licensed drivers, and the council has a duty to protect the public. Mr Chimuka has demonstrated a pattern of behaviour that suggests he is unwilling or unable to comply with the standards of behaviour required of a licensed driver. In the circumstances, the committee unanimously felt that the appropriate course of action was to revoke the licence with immediate effect.”
Two other drivers whose licences were reviewed by the committee for the same offence; Duncan Holder and Aziz Rehman were told that their licences could continue but were warned about their future conduct. The licensing committee felt that although Mr Holder and Mr Rehman had admitted to unlawfully plying for hire, their compliance histories and the information they gave to the committee about the incidents showed that they were still fit to hold a licence.
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A private hire driver may accept a journey only when it has been booked through a licensed private hire operator. They cannot ply for hire, use a taxi rank, be flagged down or accept any journey that has not been booked through an operator licensed by the same council as themselves. Private hire vehicles in Cheltenham have stickers in the side windows saying ‘ADVANCE BOOKING ONLY’.
By contrast a hackney carriage (taxi) licensed by Cheltenham Borough Council can be flagged down in Cheltenham without being booked in advance. To tell the difference between licensed private hire vehicles and taxis, visit http://tinyurl.com/cbc-staysafe.
Members of the public who get into an unlicensed vehicle or a private hire vehicle that has not been booked in advance are putting themselves at risk as the driver may not have been vetted and will not be properly insured.