Humphreys and Williams in Novel Public Interest Immunity Licensing Case

Humphreys and Williams in Novel Public Interest Immunity Licensing Case

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council received judgment on 21st January confirming that they could rely on Public Interest Immunity (“PII”) in taxi licensing cases. Ben Williams and Freddie Humphreys presented the case on behalf of the Council and argued that although there was no legal authority on the applicability of PII to taxi licensing cases it was a legal principle of general application and that the real issue the court had to grapple with was how to procedurally apply it in this context.

In delivering judgment in the Crown Court, the Recorder of Sheffield accepted these arguments. In his open judgment he identified three questions that the court had to consider:

  1. Can PII be claimed in this form of appellate proceedings in the Crown Court in a licensing appeal?
  2. If so, what are the principles that govern the decision?
  3. Having applied those principles, is it right to grant PII to the material which has been made available to us?

The court was unhesitating in answering the first question in the affirmative, recording in the judgment “PII is not a procedural device, it is a rule of law in which procedures are in place to determine whether it can be properly claimed by a party.” The court then set out, in response to the second question, 9 steps that the court should go through when considering whether or not PII could be relied upon in the case.

Although not binding authority the judgment is likely to be of key interest to those working in taxi licensing. It is intended that Ben Williams and Freddie Humphreys will put on a number of workshops for local authority lawyers in the coming months to discuss the case and associated issues. To be kept informed of any such events please contact: Jake Brooke on 0121 200 3570 or jbrooke@kingschambers.com

Ben and Freddie were instructed by Liz Anderton at the Council throughout the proceedings.

PLEASE NOTE: Given the sensitive nature of the issues in the case, the judgment was handed down in two formats, an open form and a closed form, with the closed form being subject of a contempt of court order. The open judgment is available here.

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