Law on PSV drivers with previous convictions

The Land Transport Authority has clarified the policy on Public Service Vehicle (PSV) drivers with criminal records was amended last year for the safety of the general public.

The authority’s comments came in response to a letter by the Fiji Taxi Association regarding taxi permit holders with criminal records being denied their right to employment.

Association general secretary Rishi Ram said PSV drivers with criminal records allegedly faced double jeopardy, contrary to the LTA Regulation.

He alleged these permit holders were asked to surrender vehicle registration plates and wheel tax stickers to the office of the LTA in 2014.

In a letter, Mr Ram said these operators had been dealt with by the courts and should not be penalised twice by the LTA.

However, LTA spokesman George Rubine said the new Adverse Record Policy came into effect on 12/2/2015 outlining the offence classification and the level at which it is dealt with.

i. If the offences are serious and the client has an adverse record of less than five (5) years the Board will make the decision(s);

ii. If the offences are serious and the client has an adverse record of more than five (5) years, the CEO shall make the decision(s);

iii. If the offences are minor and the client has an adverse record of less than five (5) years, the Regional Managers shall make a decision(s);

iv. If the offences are minor, and the client has an adverse record of more than five (5) years, the Team Leaders shall make a decision(s)

The above-mentioned policy is considered together with the Irrelevant Conviction Act when such cases arise.

Mr Rubine said the authority was exercising its powers, in setting standards, criteria and procedures, under the following sections of the Land Transport Act 1998:

Cap 176 -38 – (1) The Authority shall establish codes of practice which specify the procedures, standards and other criteria which the Authority will use in considering applications and conducting tests and inspections.

Cap 176 – 58 – (2) An application for a licence or for the renewal of a licence to drive a public service (vehicle) shall be refused by the Authority if the Authority because of the nature of any conviction recorded against the applicant, is of the opinion that the applicant is not a fit and proper person to drive a public service vehicle.

Regulation 5 (1) (d) states that in considering an application to issue, renew or change any conditions of a permit, the Authority must take into account any matter it thinks fit or desirable to give effect to the provisions of the Act and in particular must have regard to: d) the suitability and fitness of the applicant to hold a permit.

The policy outlines the offence classification and the level at which it is dealt with.

When contacted for a comment the Fiji Bus Association president said they would comment after consultation with members.

Taxidriver of 16 years, Sher Punja Singh, 44, of Yalalevu Ba, said he was fined $150 and convicted by the magistrate court for drunken driving in 2006.

Mr Singh said renewing his taxi permits over the years had not been a problem until 2014.

He had just purchased a new car for the taxi business. He applied for a renewal and was denied and revoked from driving because of a criminal record.

He said he was instructed by the authority to appear before the board in Suva where a decision on his fate as a taxidriver would be determined.

“They informed me weeks later I should appear in Lautoka instead.

After appearing before the board I waited again for weeks before my permit was granted,” he said.

The sole breadwinner of a family of five said it took a total of one and a half months before the permit was granted.

During that time he was unable to work without a permit.

He said constant worries of keeping up with his new car payments and the outcome on the decision threatening his family’s livelihood haunted him. He labelled the treatment double jeopardy being punished twice for an offence he had paid for.

Mr Singh says he agrees with the need to ensure public safety in PSVs but the system in place was unfair on people like him. He says to renew taxi permits drivers needed to: fill a form and attach a police clearance that costs $105, a medical report that costs $15, a base letter that costs about $67, pay LTA to process application for $66 and approval of permit that costs: $30.

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