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Council delay in communicating with courts in taxi licence dispute could have “significantly affected the administration of justice,” Deputy High Court judge says

A borough council has been criticised for poor communication and delays in a case in which two people were in disagreement over who was the holder of a hackney carriage vehicle licence.

In Camayo v Colchester Borough Council [2021] EWHC 2933, Peter Marquand, sitting as a deputy High Court judge, found that the council’s delays in responding to directions could have "significantly affected the administration of justice," and he ordered the findings to be brought to the attention of the council's Chief Executive.

The claimant, Mr Camayo, brought a challenge against the local authority, alleging it had unlawfully failed to transfer to him a hackney carriage vehicle licence carrying the number 19 as he was the owner of the vehicle to which that licence applied.

The Judge dismissed the claim on the basis that although he owned the vehicle, he was not the proprietor of the taxi business using that vehicle - the interested party, Mr Bryant, was.

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The case was based upon his ownership of the vehicle which the license was registered to.

There was a dispute between the claimant and Mr Bryant about the position under the contract they had agreed.

Under their written agreement, Mr Bryant is referred to as the owner of the taxi licence plate 19 and the contract purported to lease it to Mr Camayo with a view to him ultimately taking ownership after 156 weeks of payments.

A term in the contract stipulated that Mr Bryant would retain all of the paperwork and ownership relating to the car and plate until full payment was received and the contract concluded.

Before their contract had ended, Mr Camayo began attempting to register the licence in his name with the council.

However, when the council began looking into the issue, it decided to revoke the licence from Mr Camayo, and later decided that the contract was void and Mr Bryant was the proprietor of the licence.

This was the decision Mr Camayo appealed at the High Court.

Judge Marquand found that the evidence before him showed that Mr Bryant did not transfer the proprietorship of the taxi business to Mr Camayo.

The council argued that the transfer of the licence to a second car, which occurred a year into the contract, was of no legal effect.

The Judge said Mr Camayo was not the proprietor of the taxi business relating to his car. The proprietor remained as Mr Bryant. "Therefore, Mr Camayo did not have a right to appeal any suspension/revocation of the licence by the Defendant Council and therefore the Defendant Court did not have jurisdiction," Judge Marquand said.

Commenting on the council's conduct, the judge said that at the conclusion of the hearing on 12 October 2021 amongst the other orders made, he ordered that a copy of his judgment be provided to Colchester's chief executive to draw their attention to the conduct of the council in the course of the litigation.

Judge Marquand said that although the defendant council notified the court of its objection to Mr Camayo's claim no acknowledgement of service was filed.

The defendant council, according to a witness statement from a lawyer at the council, received nothing further until notification of the trial date. That notification was in an email from the court dated 9 June 2021 stating the date of trial.

The order dated 10 May 2021 giving permission was received by Colchester on 13 May 2021, but not passed to a lawyer until August 2021. It had not been emailed to the legal department. "If an acknowledgement of service had been filed it should have included an appropriate address for service, as opposed to the address the court had which was the one provided by Mr Camayo."

The lawyer stated that attempts were made to contact the court once the trial date had been received and from August 2021 the council "used its best endeavours to rectify matters as soon as possible". The court emailed counsel for Colchester on 27 September asking if it intended to take part in the proceedings. The application for relief from sanction was not issued until 4 October 2021.

Judge Marquand said: "On the particular circumstances of this case, for the reasons I gave at the beginning of the trial, it was appropriate for the case to proceed with the defendant council's involvement. However, the delays in communication and responding to directions could have significantly affected the administration of justice and wasted court time. For these reasons, I ordered that these facts should be drawn to the attention of the chief executive of the defendant council in order for consideration to be given to any changes to the defendant council's internal arrangements to avoid a repetition of similar events."

Adam Carey  

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