A HELENSBURGH taxi driver has been allowed to keep hold of his licence – for now – after being accused of assaulting a man in the town.

Police Scotland asked that Stephen Coates’ licence be suspended after the force’s chief constable complained that he was “no longer a fit and proper person” to be allowed to drive a taxi.

The force submitted a complaint to Argyll and Bute Council, asking that Mr Coates be stripped of his licence, after police submitted a report to the procurator fiscal in relation to an alleged incident in Helensburgh on September 18.

According to police, Mr Coates committed an assault and contravened section 38 (1) of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010, which covers “threatening or abusive behaviour likely to cause a reasonable person to suffer fear or alarm”.

But the council’s planning, protective services and licensing committee unanimously decided that Mr Coates can keep his licence for the time being, opting to continue consideration of the matter “until the matter was dealt with by the Procurator fiscal or court”.

At a hearing in Lochgilphead, Lomond North councillor George Freeman said that a person was “innocent until proven guilty” and that he would have “serious concerns” about suspending Mr Coates’ licence at this stage.

The minutes of the meeting state that Mr Coates told the committee he had been driving taxis since 1982 without any trouble, and that he said he did not agree with the police’s description of the alleged incident.

Sergeant Iain MacNicol from Police Scotland in Lochgilphead told the meeting that the chief constable’s complaint arose out of the allegation of assault, and said the accusation suggested to him that this was not normal conduct.

Mr Coates brought with him a statement from a witness to the alleged incident, but the committee decided not to examine the statement because it was a matter for the court.

Questioned by Helensburgh councillors Graham Hardie and Richard Trail, Mr Coates told the meeting that he only recognised the person he is alleged to have assaulted after he pulled up next to the other person’s vehicle, and that he had never had any previous dealings with the other driver other than general conversations.

Oban councillor Roddy McCuish said he believed the allegation alone was not enough for him to support suspending Mr Coates’ licence, and said the fact Mr Coates had been driving taxis since 1982 without incident meant he did not have serious concerns about public safety.

The committee’s chair, Councillor David Kinniburgh, moved that consideration of the suspension of Mr Coates’ licence be continued until the matter has been dealt with by the procurator fiscal. His motion was unanimously backed by the rest of the committee.