Lorry driver refused taxi licence due to violent offences from more than 25 years ago

A lorry driver has been refused a taxi licence on the back of violent offences committed more than 25 years ago. John Metcalfe, of Wolviston Walk, Stockton , appeared at Teesside Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday afternoon to fight Middlesbrough Council’s decision to turn down his licensing bid (August 13). The 46-year-old was judged not to be a “fit and proper person” to hold a private hire licence at an authority committee held behind closed doors in June.

But he will dispute the decision at an appeal hearing at court on November 11. Minutes from the June meeting state Mr Metcalfe had “a long list” of past convictions involving dishonesty, violence and dangerous driving from the 1990s. The timeline stated Mr Metcalfe was convicted of robbery, theft by housebreaking, assault and reckless driving in April 1993.

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The report added: “The matters were so serious that the applicant received a prison sentence of five years and three months.

“He was also disqualified from driving for an extensive period of five years. “Then again on September 23, 1993, the applicant was again convicted of two counts of burglary of a dwelling and one count of dangerous driving. “Again, he received a prison sentence and a disqualification.”

The council’s policy dictates a “single major traffic offence” means those applying for a taxi licence must have an “incident free period” of four years.

Taxis at a rank

It adds a “firm line” is taken for those who had a history of violent convictions and demands a ten-year period free of incidents. But its policy also states applicants “must be trustworthy” – and a licence would “normally be refused” if an applicant had been convicted of a serious offence involving dishonesty – or had more than one conviction for a “dishonesty offence”. According to the minutes, Middlesbrough councillors acknowledged Mr Metcalfe had not committed an offence for 20 years.

But they did not grant him a licence.

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The report added: “It noted that the applicant had a difficult childhood, that he had worked as an HGV driver and wanted a licence so his work could be more flexible and he could see his family more. “However, despite the incident free period – and because of the varying types of offences of violence, robbery, burglary and dangerous/unsafe driving – and the seriousness of those offences – the committee could not be satisfied that the applicant was safe and suitable to be placed in such a high level of trust of that of a licensed private hire vehicle driver.” The minutes showed councillors realised the convictions were old but still considered them relevant – adding he had not committed “one off” offences but a string of crimes.

Letters supporting Mr Metcalfe were offered up to the licensing committee, but the panel ruled they “did not outweigh or override” the concerns about his past offending. The minutes also showed committee members did not think Mr Metcalfe was “wholly truthful in his explanations of the offences” – claiming Mr Metcalfe had “misled” the committee in a bid to minimise both his involvement in the crime and their seriousness. The report added: “The committee noted the reasons for the applicant to apply for a licence but considered its responsibility was to the travelling public, other road users and their protection.

“It considered it was too high a risk to the public to grant such a position of trust to the applicant.”

A date was set for the appeal at this week’s court hearing and Mr Metcalfe will challenge the decision in November.

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