Since Professor Allan Fels’ report into the Victorian Taxi Industry was released it seems that a day doesn’t pass when some aspect of the industry isn’t in the media.
Our firm, Doogue + George, has acted for a number of taxi drivers over the years both in terms of allegations of criminal offending whilst in their employment and also in relation to the issue and/or suspension of driver accreditation by the Taxi Services Commission (TSC). Commonly, drivers know little about their obligations or rights in this area of Driver Accreditation (DA).
The first and most basic rule is that anyone driving a taxi must be accredited. It is an offence punishable by a fine of over $6,000 (60 penalty units) not to be accredited.
The DA is issued for up to three years and whether or not a DA is issued or renewed is a matter of judgement/discretion by the TSC. The Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983 (“The Act”) sets out in section 169 the matters which are relevant being the public care objective, the driver’s technical competence and whether or not they are sufficiently fit and healthy to undertake the role. The TSC take into account a large number of matters in making the assessment. Significantly they can take into account any infringement notices under the Road Safety Act which have been issued to the accreditation applicant.
The TSC must not issue a DA to a person who does not hold a licence under the Road Safety Act or whose has been guilty of an extremely serious offence (category 1 offence) or a person who has certain obligations under the Working with Children Act.
The legislation is quite complicated and refers to a number of levels or categories of criminal offences where the DA cannot be issued if a person has been found guilty or charged unless the applicant can satisfy the TSC that it is appropriate.
There are also categories of criminal offending where the TSC may refuse to issue or renew a DA. For example, where a person has been found guilty of a less serious offence (category 3 offence) or subject to charge for a mid-range criminal offence (category 2). Category 1, 2 and 3 offences are defined in The Act by the reference to the Sentencing Act 1991. It is probably too complex to define those categories here but all criminal offences are covered in either category 1, 2 or 3 and include amongst others any offence involving fraud or dishonesty and all of the sexual offences.
The TSC has power to cancel accreditation in certain circumstances and suspended in others. Importantly, the TSC has the power to suspend if the holder of a DA is charged with a category 2 or category 3 offence. The DA must be suspended if the holder is charged with a category 1 offence.
If it is intended to suspend a person DA then the holder of the DA has a right to make submissions and in our experience those submissions are often successful.
It is significant that if the holder of the DA is charged with or found guilty “disqualifying offence” they must notify the TSC of that fact within 28 days or be subject to an offence under The Act (see section 169T(1)). The meaning of “charged with” and “quilty” are also defined in The Act.
Perhaps the only upside of this for holders of a DA is that if they are suspended and found not guilty then they can apply for compensation in relation to loss.
The whole area of taxi drivers’ obligations and the powers to have their DA suspended or cancelled and therefore their livelihood’s interfered with is complex and we would urge anyone who has any questions in this area to seek legal advice immediately.
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