Patterson Law talks to The APH Team about the risks of being an unlicensed chauffeur
To understand the risks that unlicensed chauffeurs face we contacted specialist firm Patterson Law. Chauffeurs fall under private hire legislation which involve the operator, vehicle and chauffeur being licensed which we covered in our previous article what are the insurance implications when hiring an illegal chauffeur, limousine or novelty vehicle in UK?
The short answer is yes, your driving licence is at risk if you are not licensed in accordance with the law. Driving around members of the public on UK roads is regulated to protect the public, vulnerable adults and children with the whole point of the legislation to ensure that the drivers, vehicles and operators have been through rigorous checks to try to ensure only fit and proper people are in the trade.
When looking for work within the transportation industry, whether it is driving coaches or chauffeuring businesses people around the UK, do your homework. If you don’t do your homework the insurance implications of being unlicensed means that the driver and vehicle are not insured but the passengers would be covered under the Road Traffic Act with exemptions to this rule in certain cases.
Patterson Law highlighted the case of Telford & Wrekin BC v Ahmed and others  EWCH 1748 (Admin) which confirmed that if a person was not operating in accordance with the conditions of their private hire licence, this would invalidate any policy of insurance.
This case involved several taxi drivers and until this time, it was suggested that if an insurance policy existed, it would not be invalidated as a result of contractual issues between the insured and the insurer. If the policy is invalidated, the driver would risk a criminal prosecution and would be at risk of 6-8 penalty points on their licence or a ban.
The section of legislation relating to private hire vehicles is the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 (England) or The Town Police Clauses Act 1847 is also used by some councils in England. In Scotland, The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 is used and all makes it an offence for someone to:
1. Drive a vehicle without a private hire licence
2. Employ someone to drive a vehicle without a private hire licence
3. Own a vehicle and use or allow it to be used without a private hire licence
4. Operate a vehicle without a licence
Ria Pleass of Patterson Law said: “If guilty of any of the above the penalty is a fine. The driver and operator could both be prosecuted and both would be liable to a fine not exceeding £1000 in each case. The argument “I did not know I needed a licence” would not be a defence to the allegation that someone drove a vehicle without the relevant licence. It would be taken into consideration as mitigation to get a more lenient sentence but would not be a defence.”
Ria continued: “As I previously mentioned any prosecution is usually brought by the licensing authority (i.e the Council for that district). They have officers who carry out spot checks. So in the case of taxi drivers, the officers will sometimes pose as members of the public and try to flag down taxis. If a private hire vehicle accepts a fare that is not prebooked then they are guilty of an offence of plying for hire.”
“The licensing officers will then report back to the Council who will have an inhouse prosecution team or who instruct solicitors firms to act for them.”
Council officials also have the power to do test purchases where they can contact a chauffeur service to book their services. On arrival the licensing or council official will confirm the driver is there to pick them up and then make themselves known to the driver. As most operations with multiple government agencies tend to target only liveried taxis, private hire and american style limousines normal executive and chauffeur vehicles frustratingly tend to sneak under the radar.
This means that the chances of being caught if you are not licensed correctly are currently rather slim. But if you are caught and personally I see a change in attitude coming you could lose your driving licence and limit your ability to get a job, or at the very least to it. With a minimum 6 to 8 points on your driving licence, a fine of up to £1,000 plus court costs and a NO Insurance on your driving licence even if you are able to keep your licence your premiums will shoot up and you will have a large fine to pay.
I cannot stress enough that if you wish to enter the trade talk to your local council licensing department or contact one of the many trade associations in the UK for advice. The advice is free after all and if you find a position available at a company offering chauffeur transportation and they advise you don’t need any licenses, medicals or criminal records checks to drive the public around walk away…