Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council has lodged an appeal with Liverpool Crown Court over whether a former policeman convicted 14 years ago of abducting a 15-year-old girl should be granted a taxi driver licence.
The council’s taxi licensing panel had refused Imran Ali a licence. However, he successfully appealed, with magistrate Keith Elford finding that Mr Ali had built a business portfolio, started a family, significantly helped the community during the COVID-19 pandemic and his conviction was anyway many years old.
Mr Ali was 26 years old and a serving police office at the time of the offence, to which he pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 6 months’ imprisonment wholly suspended for a period of 18 months, and also made subject to an 18 month supervision order.
A spokesman for Sefton said after the magistrates’ ruling that the council was “bitterly disappointed” with the decision.
It has now lodged a notice of appeal with Liverpool Crown Court. Gary Grant of Francis Taylor Building will appear for Sefton, instructed by Fiona Townsend from the council’s legal team.
In its notice the council submits that Mr Ali’s previous offending went to the heart of the modern approach to taxi licensing that had developed since the Rochdale and other grooming scandals came to light.
It argues that Mr Ali had abused a position of trust with a vulnerable child in 2006, whilst still a police officer.
Sefton says councils, and by extension the courts, are entreated to take a cautious approach when they determine whether or not to grant a taxi driver licence to a person who has serious criminal convictions that involve vulnerable victims.
The notice of appeal argues in particular that Mr Ali’s case falls into Annex A of the Statutory Taxi & Private Hire Vehicle Standards Guidance, issued by the Department of Transport in July 2020.
The annex recommends that no taxi licences should be granted, no matter how much time has passed since the offence, in the following instance of relevance (emphasis in Sefton's notice of appeal):
Exploitation: Where an applicant or licensee has been convicted of a crime involving, related to, or has any connection with abuse, exploitation, use or treatment of another individual irrespective of whether the victim or victims were adults or children, they will not be licensed. This includes slavery, child sexual abuse, exploitation, grooming, psychological, emotional or financial abuse, but this is not an exhaustive list.
The council submits that Mr Ali’s behaviour in 2006 fell within this category.
Arguing that the decision of the magistrates’ court was wrong, the notice invites the Crown Court to reinstate the council’s original decision to refuse to grant Mr Ali a taxi driver’s licence on the basis that he does not meet the “fit and proper person” test.