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PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2021 12:28 pm 
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About the revoked Sefton PHD again, but this one's more specifically about Liverpool's licensing chair :?

Interesting case though, and because he was badged/revoked by another authority and she was misled a bit by his mother I have some sympathy for the councillor, but awful headlines for her :-o


Fake taxi creep who terrified woman was given character reference by Liverpool councillor

https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/li ... d-20318906

Cllr Christine Banks, who heads Liverpool council's licensing committee, wrote a glowing "testimonial" for an ex private hire driver who targeted a lone woman

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Image: Liverpool Echo

A bogus taxi driver jailed for attacking a female passenger was given a character reference by a Liverpool councillor.

Cllr Christine Banks provided a glowing "testimonial" for ex-private hire driver Joseph Prior, the ECHO can now reveal.

Prior, 40, lost his Sefton Council private hire licence in 2018, after eight women complained of him making "sexualised" comments.

But he went out late in Liverpool city centre in March 2019 to try and pick up illegal fares, when he targeted a "drunk" lone woman.

After the 23-year-old got in his Ford Focus, he pulled into a quiet street, then put his hand on the "terrified" victim's thigh.

When she rejected his advances, Prior took her to a McDonald's drive-thru, where she mouthed "help" to staff, who rang police.

The dad-of-one, who was arrested and later admitted common assault and offering the woman cocaine, was jailed for 18 months.

Image
Image: Liverpool Echo

Part of his defence mitigation was a reference from Cllr Banks, who chairs Liverpool council's licensing and gambling committee, along with the taxi driver licensing sub-committee.

Both Judge Rachel Smith and Prior's lawyer referred to the Labour councillor's "testimonial" at Liverpool Crown Court on March 4.

However, when we asked for a copy of the reference, Cllr Banks tried to block its release - leading to a legal battle won by the ECHO.

We can now publish the letter in full below, in which the former Lord Mayor said she had known Prior and his family for more than 40 years and told the judge he came "from a background of hardworking, good Christian family values".

Cllr Banks said: "I don't know the full extent of his court appearance, but find it out of character and popularity of Joseph".

When the ECHO requested the document, Cllr Banks objected, stating in an email: "l was not given the full information as to his crime. I would not have written that reference if l had known the full extent to his crime."

Part of the councillor's role on the licensing and gambling committee is overseeing the safety of taxi drivers and the travelling public.

But in a court hearing she argued she provided the reference in a personal capacity - despite the fact she signed the handwritten letter "Cllr Christine Banks".

Case law says character references are evidence and the default position is they should be released to the media on request, in accordance with open justice principles.

Ben Gallop, representing the ECHO, argued the "public interest" was heightened when the referee was a public official, who holds elected office.

He said Cllr Banks being "embarrassed" by her electorate knowing what she said about Prior was not a proper reason to withhold disclosure.

Cllr Banks, who has represented Liverpool's Central ward since 2008, also sits on culture and tourism, audit and governance, overview and scrutiny committees.

She told the court she was approached by Prior's mum to provide a reference for her son.

The councillor said: "I asked what it was for and she said 'it's for Joseph, he picked up a fare and the lady made an accusation against him.

"I asked Mrs Prior what kind of accusation and she said the young lady was a bit drunk, she got in the cab and she was a bit nervous and he said 'don't worry', patted her and said 'we will get you home to your mum'."

Cllr Banks said she had thought Prior was working for a taxi company.

She said she informed Mrs Prior she could only give him a reference on his family background and knowing him in her role as a youth worker.

Cllr Banks said: "I went on to say to her I cannot give him a reference on his taxi record, because he's never been licensed in Liverpool."

The councillor told the court she explained she couldn't give a reference on council notepaper and added that she didn't use the council letterhead or her council email address.

Cllr Banks said Mrs Prior "didn't give me the full account of what Joseph was up in court for".

She said: "The thing is you trust people that they give you the truth and the full information and in this case I didn't receive the full truth and the crime that Mr Prior had committed."

However, Cllr Banks confirmed that she knew her reference would be provided to the court and that she identified herself as a councillor.

Asked by Judge Smith whether she understood it would be submitted as part of the sentencing exercise, she said: "Yes, I think so. We give out references all the while and as I said, if I had known the full extent of the crime committed I would have said 'no, I can't give you that reference'.

"I only gave him the reference on his family background and as I knew him as a young man in my youth worker days."

Asked by Mr Gallop whether she accepted the electorate was entitled to take into account what she had said in the reference at election time, the councillor agreed, but added: "In all good faith I gave this reference out."

Zillah Williams, representing the Crown Prosecution Service, supported the ECHO's application.

Judge Smith said she accepted Cllr Banks' explanation entirely, including that she wouldn't have given the reference if she had known "the full facts".

But she said it was an essential feature of the criminal justice system that criminal proceedings are conducted in public and can be reported in the press.

Judge Smith said: "People who provide testimonials or character references are witnesses providing evidence to the court."

She added: "A person who provides such evidence has no reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of that evidence discussed in open court."

Judge Smith concluded: "There is a legitimate and powerful public interest in the public having an understanding of the nature and extent of what Cllr Banks was willing and able to say on the defendant's behalf."

Following the hearing, the ECHO asked Cllr Banks whether she wished to make any further comment.

She said: "I provided a character reference in my position as a former youth worker and friend of the family. I wish to make it clear that I did not provide the statement in my position as a councillor.

"As I made clear during the court hearing, I was not given the full extent of the charges against Joseph Prior before I provided the character reference."

Police responding to a call by McDonald's staff stopped Prior's car when it emerged from the Mersey Tunnel in Birkenhead, at around 0.50am, on March 9, 2019.

Officers found the woman "upset and agitated" and arrested Prior, before they discovered two bags of cocaine in his vehicle, and magnetic plates for Britannia Taxis, for whom he previously worked, in his car boot.

Prior, of Fontenoy Street, Liverpool city centre, originally denied sexual assault, false imprisonment and supplying and possessing cocaine.

However, he admitted common assault and supplying cocaine ahead of a trial, and the other charges were left to lie on the file.

Prior was given a five-year Criminal Behaviour Order, banning from having any female in a car, apart from in a very limited set of circumstances.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2021 5:48 pm 
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I suspect a number of people are asked for references from folks they know, but it should have rang alarms bells when someone else was asking for a reference on their behalf.

Very surprised the councillor didn't ring the fella up and ask the questions she should have done. I.e. is this the first time you have been accused of something like this and were you licensed at the time.

A lesson for us all.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 05, 2021 7:09 pm 
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this is liverpool they have a somewhat more African style of approach to governance there ! :lol:

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2021 12:51 am 
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A bit more on this - opposition councillor thinks it would prejudice any future licensing committee decisions:

Liverpool Echo wrote:
Following the ECHO's revelations today, Liverpool's opposition leader, Lib Dem boss Cllr Richard Kemp said Cllr Banks should not continue in her role as chair of licensing.

He said: "Cllr Banks is a warm hearted woman whom I am sure gave this reference in good faith.

"However, I am afraid that by giving it, Cllr Banks has damaged her credibility as the chair of the licensing committee.

"She should have known what questions to ask before she agreed to do it.

"Her action, if she continues as chair, may well prejudice the council which deals with disciplinary actions against taxi drivers and managers of licensed premises.

"I strongly suspect that her involvement in future hearings to withhold licences would be used in a series of legal challenges in the Magistrates Court which the council would find it hard to defend."

Not so sure about that, unless it could be seen to prejudice a particular case.

I mean, if a councillor's lack of judgement prejudiced licensing committee decisions, would there be any left? :-s


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 06, 2021 5:34 pm 
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This one decision will in no way prejudice any future decisions the lady makes.

If the Lib Dem fella wants to make a political point he best make a better one than this.

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