Its only a matter of time before a prosecution against a council for failing to act on genuine concerns
We live in a world where there is no escape from the “Elf and Safety” brigade where they take delight in banning school children from playing conkers without hard hats and protective goggles. I suppose it’s not made any easier with the culture in which we live. There is no such thing anymore as an accident thanks to claim culture we live in.
The government has tried to stem the number of whiplash claims and other personal injury claims by banning referral fees and capping costs solicitors can charge but in the main nothing has really changed. Taking into account the slightest accident or injury results in the claimant hobbling to a solicitor it amazes me that some councils who repeatedly ignore warning about illegal chauffeurs from the trade are not concerned about possible legal repercussions.
Gone are the days where a chauffeur company would just work for clients within a town or city. Thanks to the internet it is far easier for chauffeur companies to offer a service to consumers and businesses on a wider geographical scale including nationwide. This increases the responsibility placed on councils to protect the wider public.
Whether it is a executive car or chauffeur service, limousine or novelty vehicle, councils should be enforcing the law if the company concerned is making the provisions of bookings in their town or city. The truth is the council licensing officials and enforcement officers who are passionate about keeping our roads safe and free from unlicensed operators, vehicles and drivers are consistently let down by councils whose departments verge on being incompetent or not fit for purpose.
I understand council budgets are stretched thanks to budget cuts and that councils are not allowed by law to pass on the cost of enforcement in the fees they charge the hackney and private hire trade, but they have a responsibility for enforcing the law. All the UK trade associations tell me that it is going to take a serious assault, rape or death for the government and councils to get their arse into gear and start enforcing the law.
So what would happen if a council had been repeatedly warned about an unlicensed operator, vehicle(s) and driver(s)? Again, thanks to modern technology including email and the use of freedom of information requests (FoI) you can always find a paper trail in the event of a tragedy.
If an unlicensed vehicle and chauffeur was to be involved in an accident where a passenger or innocent member of the public was to be killed and the council ignored warnings it could find itself liable. The Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007, is a very powerful piece of legislation which if found guilty can result in unlimited fines.
We have seen examples in the press recently where cases of historic abuse were ignored or covered up by public bodies. These same public bodies now face multi million pound law suits for failing in their ‘duty of care’ to the individuals involved. Speaking to legal experts if there was to be a death in unlicensed private hire vehicle where the council failed repeatedly to take appropriate enforcement action the council could face a law suit.
That’s why I would strongly recommend that if the legal side of the trade has failed to persuade a council to take action or the council concerned has ignored concerns that the next step is to write to the Chief Executive and Head of Legal. In the event of a death not only would the council be open to a civil case but could then be prosecuted under the Corporate Manslaughter Act.
For a prosecution to be successful senior management must have failed in their duty of care and not taken the appropriate steps which could have prevented the death. No single individual would be held to account but the councils as previously mentioned could face an unlimited fine.
I can’t wait for a death before taking action. I don’t know how these incompetent licensing officials and departments sleep at night, unless of course they don’t have a conscience. They are not only letting down the trade and public but they are also letting down the hard-working licensing officials consistently take action where appropriate.
Change is coming and councils who don’t shape up will find themselves held to account through the courts either by civil law suits or corporate manslaughter cases.