Gosport taxi operator given green light to operate two private hire vehicles

Posted by Tim Williamson on
Blake Morgan was contacted in April 2012 by Bryn Gibson, the proprietor of Col's Cars, after his application for two private hire vehicle licences had been refused by the Licensing Sub Committee of Gosport Borough Council.

Mr Gibson had previously been granted licences in respect of two Ford Transit mini buses.  However the two vehicles were more than eight years old.  Under Condition 3 (ix) of Gosport Borough Council's Licensing Conditions 2008, a vehicle would not be eligible for a private hire licence if it was more than eight years old at the time the application was made. 

However Condition 74 of Gosport Borough Council's Licensing Conditions provided that where a vehicle could not meet one of the criteria referred to (as in this case) the vehicle would have to be licensed as an Exceptional Vehicle, if it was to be licensed at all.  Mr Gibson contended that both of his vehicles were not able to meet one of the conditions (the age condition) and therefore sought a licence on the basis that they were Exceptional Vehicles.

The Licensing Sub Committee met on 3 April 2012.  Mr Gibson handed in copies of the service records and MOT certificates for each vehicle.  He sought to demonstrate that the vehicles were mechanically sound and he also sent the vehicles to be examined as required by the Borough Council.

Both vehicles passed each test, however his licence was refused.  The Licensing Sub Committee decided that the vehicles were not Exceptional Vehicles and to depart from the 'eight year rule' would set an unacceptable precedent. 

Mr Gibson appealed that decision to the Magistrates Court and instructed Blake Morgan, who represented Mr Gibson at Portsmouth Magistrates' Court on Friday 21 September 2012.

The basis for the appeal was that the Licensing Sub Committee was wrong to hold that the vehicles were not Exceptional Vehicles when plainly they were within the meaning of Condition 74.

It was further contended that the Licensing Sub Committee was wrong to refuse the licenses on the basis that any exception to the age condition would set an unacceptable precedent; it was clearly written down in Condition 74 that there could be exceptions.  The Licensing Sub Committee ought to have considered the merits of Mr Gibson's application based on the quality of mechanical evidence as to the state of the vehicles rather than any other factors.

Finally Mr Gibson argued that the Licensing Sub Committee had not paid sufficient attention to the aforementioned engineer's report.

The Magistrates agreed with all of the arguments put forward on Mr Gibson's behalf, noting that Condition 74 was quite plain: it provided that ANY vehicle that could not meet ANY of the licensing conditions were within the category of Exceptional Vehicles.  There was no basis for trying to work out what the Committee might have had in mind when it drafted Condition 74.  Further it was not in dispute that the vehicles were both mechanically sound.  The Magistrates accepted that it was plainly envisaged in Condition 74 that there would be exceptions to the conditions and there was no basis for denying Mr Gibson his licences given the sound mechanical state of the vehicles.

Mr Gibson's appeals were allowed and he was granted the licences that he had sought in respect of both vehicles.  After further submissions he was also awarded his full costs in the case, which Gosport Borough Council has now paid in full.

Tim Williamson, the head of Blake Morgan's Motoring Offences team, who acted for Mr Gibson, said:  "This was an important case because it was never in dispute that the vehicles for which Mr Gibson sought private hire vehicle licences were capable of being classified as Exceptional Vehicles.  Mr Gibson had provided full records demonstrating the soundness of the vehicles and he did not understand why the Licensing Sub Committee had not granted his application accordingly."

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Tim is a leading Criminal and Regulatory lawyer, who defends businesses and individuals under investigation by the police and regulatory bodies and when accused of criminal offences.

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