Drivers who faced allegations about drugs and taking advantage of female passengers have been refused taxi licences by councillors.

Stockton Council’s general licensing committee has considered cases of taxi drivers applying or re-applying for hackney carriage and private hire licences. They decided three separate unnamed drivers were not “fit and proper” to hold licences because of past allegations against them, according to minutes of their meetings.

One concerned a driver who lost his licence in 2018 after two complaints of alleged inappropriate conduct towards female passengers. He denied the allegations to licensing officers but the committee decided it was more likely than not “he had taken advantage of lone and vulnerable female passengers”, a decision later upheld by Teesside magistrates.

The driver, who was given written warnings for inappropriate behaviour to a lone female passenger in 2007 and for his attitude and speeding in 2008, continued to deny the allegations. His legal representative said he had “behaved himself and is willing to be watched and scrutinised”.

He assured the committee passengers were safe with him and installing CCTV in his vehicle would protect them and him. But the committee was concerned he had never admitted any wrongdoing and unanimously refused his licence application.

In a separate case, a driver’s licence was suspended in 2020 after his arrest on suspicion of supplying cocaine and supplying a psychoactive substance. It had been alleged he was involved in a conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

Officers found more than 16,000 nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, cannisters in a container rented by the driver with his driving licence in November 2019, and he had been seen at the blue box storage unit in his taxi, files from the North East Regional Specialist Operations Unit (NERSOU) showed. However the driver and his lawyer told licensing officers no further action was taken by police.

His representative said the 16,000 cannisters had nothing to do with him, though he had a business supplying nitrous oxide cannisters. He denied the allegations or any misuse of nitrous oxide, or that he offered deliveries of the canisters on Facebook until 1am.

He claimed the container searched by police was not his and his container was empty. He denied that balloons – which are used with nitrous oxide – were found in his property by police, and later asserted they belonged to his partner who ran “a legitimate balloon business”.

The driver told licensing officers he had a catering supplies business and the containers were used to make whipped cream for cakes. Companies House checks revealed just £100 was recorded on the cream bakery charger firm’s accounts in three years, and he claimed it only lasted six or seven months.

He had a licence revoked in 2011 because of concerns over his driving, he was given a warning in 2014 and there were two anonymous safeguarding and drugs complaints in 2017. The committee revoked his licence.

In a third case, a driver was refused a licence because of a 2016 conviction for possessing cannabis with intent to supply. He had been given a six-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months with 120 hours’ unpaid work.

He had told officers the few grams of cannabis police found in his vehicle were his “personal smoke” and money found was from his work as a takeaway delivery driver. He told the committee he had started using cannabis a month or two earlier, stopped after his arrest, wanted a taxi licence to get a “proper job” to support his family and gave a negative drugs test.

However ten years had not passed since the end of the sentence so the application went against council policy. The committee said the motorist “appeared to minimise” his offending, they found it “hard to accept” his submissions and could not add weight to two character references from family members.

Minutes of the meeting state: “The committee members were not satisfied that they would allow people for whom they care to enter a vehicle with the applicant alone due to their doubts surrounding his previous conviction for supplying drugs.

“Ultimately, the committee did not believe that (the applicant) was a fit and proper person to hold a combined hackney carriage and private hire vehicle driver’s licence owing to his previous conviction for drugs offences, along with his vague responses to the committee when questioned about the circumstances of his arrest and subsequent conviction. The committee were unanimously satisfied that the application should therefore be refused.”

Finally, another applicant with a “history of anger outbursts” had a licence revoked in January 2019 and an application refused in September 2022. But the committee decided to “place their trust” and grant a licence for the driver, who had taken two courses of anger management sessions.