Careless Brighton taxi driver judged ‘fit and proper’

Bikes on the beach at Brighton. Credit: Flickr CC, 4foot2

Careless Brighton taxi driver judged ‘fit and proper’

Drive carelessly and knock a cyclist off her bike. Leave her on the road and fail to stop. Of course you're a fit and proper person to drive a taxi along Brighton seafront. Welcome to the merry go round where protecting taxi drivers trumps public safety.

The Brighton merry go round 

A District Judge at Brighton Magistrates Court decided last week that Mehrdad Kaivanpor was a ‘fit and proper person’ to be a taxi driver in Brighton, concluding a legal merry go round which started slowly spinning 21 months ago.

On 2 May 2014 Kaivanpor was driving his taxi near Harrington Road in Brighton when he crashed into 19-year-old Robyn Gargan, knocking her off her bicycle. The Argus in Brighton reported that Robyn was left covered in bruises, suffering headaches and back pain after the collision.

Kaivanpor did reportedly stop after hitting Robyn, but it is unclear from the press report whether this was immediately at the scene or further along the road. What we do know is that he didn’t leave his taxi and only contacted the police an hour later.   

Round one and Brighton Magistrates

Following Kaivanpor’s arrest, Brighton and Hove City Council exercised their licensing functions and revoked his private hire licence on the basis that he was not ‘a fit and proper person’ to hold a taxi licence. Kaivanpor appealed to Brighton Magistrates Court, which considered his appeal in October 2014 while sentencing him for careless driving and failing to stop after an accident.

Imposing fines of over £900 and nine penalty points for the offences, the magistrates also rejected his taxi licence appeal on the basis that he could not prove that he was a fit and proper person to hold such a licence.

Unfortunately the magistrates applied the wrong legal test and asked themselves the wrong question. They were considering Kaivanpor’s appeal against the Council’s decision, and needed to ask whether the Council had shown that he was not a fit and proper person, not whether Kaivanpor had proved that he was. They may have reached the same conclusion if they had reversed the question, but the error allowed Kaivanpor to appeal to the High Court.

Round two at the High Court

The High Court was the venue for round two of the appeal merry go round last November, over a year later. The Lord Justices ruled that the magistrates got the law wrong, and that the Council bore the burden of showing that Kaivanpor failed the fit and proper person test, not the other way round. Their decision just concerned the legal test, so they sent the case back to the magistrates to re-hear it.

Back to Brighton for round three

The appeal wheel finally stopped last week with round three at Brighton Magistrates Court. The Council, when considering the fit and proper person test, have to have regard to their own Blue Handbook Guidance on licensing matters, page 23 of which refers to such matters as a driver’s good character and number of penalty points on their licence.

The Judge had to decide whether the Council had shown that it was more likely than not (civil burden of proof) that Kaivanpor failed the fit and proper person test. Despite his convictions for careless driving and failing to stop after an accident, leaving Robyn on the roadside after she was knocked off her bike, the Judge decided that the Council had not satisfied that test. Kaivanpor has his taxi licence back and can be booked for hire along Brighton seafront.

Becky and Bricycles left baffled

CTC delayed reporting this story because we would have preferred to consider any media report from last week’s hearing, or any press release or comment from the Council. There have been no press reports as the media didn't attend the hearing, and no publicity. CTC has asked the Council to comment, but they have provided no statement or comment save to confirm the outcome outlined in this report.

Becky Reynolds, Campaigns Officer for Bricycles, the Brighton and Hove Cycling Campaign, has been following this case and expressed her concerns about the road safety risk implications last November, saying: “We really need to be very strict about who we licence. Licensing the wrong people could lead to more death and injury on the roads.”

We are baffled by the Judge’s decision to reject the Council’s appeal.

Becky Reynolds, Campaigns Officer for Bricycles

Following the decision last week allowing Kaivanpor his licence, Becky summed up the frustration and fears of members of the Bricycles Campaign, pointing out: “The Council’s role, described in the so-called Blue Book of guidance, is to protect the public by refusing or revoking taxi licences where high standards have not been met and the public are put at risk. This Council and a number of preceding administrations have made enormous efforts to encourage walking and cycling. We support the Council and we are strongly in support of measures which protect vulnerable road users. We are baffled by the Judge’s decision to reject the Council’s appeal.”

Protecting taxi drivers or protecting the public?

CTC does not have any comment from either Kaivanpor or his employers following last week’s decision. However, after the High Court decision in November, John Streeter, Vice Chairman of Brighton and Hove Streamline Taxis, told the Argus, “We couldn’t have asked for a better result”, adding that, since he began in 2003, “Procedures have never been in place to safeguard taxi drivers, and this was wrong”.

In the absence of information about exactly what was said in court last week, and the reason for the Judge’s decision, it is difficult for CTC to comment further, other than to observe perhaps that, while Mr Streeter has spoken about safeguarding taxi drivers, the public might believe the Council’s licensing functions exist to protect them first and foremost.

The Council appears to have taken all possible steps to ensure that its original decision was upheld, but that decision has been overturned. This presumably means that it is possible to drive carelessly, fail to stop after an accident, leave a young girl injured on the roadside, but still be a fit and proper person to drive a taxi.

You can decide whether that is either contradictory, concerning, or both.

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