A man wearing a wool sweater over a white and blue button-up shirt speaks into a microphone lit up with a red light. The background is beige.
Douglas James Brine speaks to Halifax regional council’s Appeals Standing Committee during his appeal hearing in May 2019. — Photo: Zane Woodford
Douglas James Brine speaks to Halifax regional council’s Appeals Standing Committee during his appeal hearing in May 2019. — Photo: Zane Woodford

A Halifax taxi driver with a long history of assault convictions is appealing the city’s revocation of his licences for the third time after he was charged again.

Douglas James Brine applied to renew his taxi driver’s and owner’s licences in March. According to a staff report to the municipality’s new Licence Appeal Committee, a criminal record check showed Brine had two new charges pending: assault causing bodily harm from November 2020 and failure to comply with undertaking while at large from January 2021.

The municipality’s licensing authority denied Brine’s licence renewal, and in April, he appealed that decision. The Licence Appeal Committee will hear that appeal during a meeting on Wednesday. It won’t be livestreamed.

In a handwritten letter to the committee, Brine said the charges were laid while he was in an abusive relationship. He said he pushed his ex-girlfriend after she bit his finger. The failure to comply charge, he said, was laid after he dropped off a pair of shoes to the ex-girlfriend months after the incident. He wrote that the ex-girlfriend wants the charges withdrawn, and included a letter attributed to her stating as much. (The charges haven’t been dropped, with a trial scheduled for February 2022.)

“I’ve been doing everything in my power to stay out of trouble […] sometimes trouble finds u,” Brine wrote in the letter.

Brine attached a few testimonial letters of support with his appeal, and a letter from Satellite Taxi saying he’d be able to drive for the company if he has a “legit taxi driver licence.”

It’s not listed in the staff report, dated July 6, but Brine also has a newer charge pending, from June 8. He’s accused of causing a disturbance, resisting an officer and failing to comply with a condition. Brine is due in court in August for arraignment on those charges.

In 2016, Brine was sentenced to five months in jail for assault with a weapon, two counts of uttering threats to cause bodily harm, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and failure to comply with court conditions. Brine was also convicted of assault with a weapon in 2013.

This is Brine’s third licence appeal. He’s been successful two other times.

As StarMetro Halifax reported in May 2019, Halifax regional councillors on the Appeals Standing Committee gave Brine his licence back after he was charged with assault just months after being convicted of resisting or obstructing a peace officer:

“The new charge, I was a little intoxicated walking home,” Brine told the committee.

“I still attend (Alcoholics Anonymous meetings) every day. I was having a bad night there. I had a little too much to drink, was walking home.”

Councillor David Hendsbee argued Brine’s licence should be renewed because he wasn’t driving a taxi at the time of the offence.

“If he had an obstruction or resisting police and he was operating a motor vehicle or his taxi at the time, I would have no problem with this,” Hendsbee said.

“But this being the situation, where he was on private business, intoxicated in a public area on the sidewalk, nothing to do with his job, not endangering any public in regard to operating a taxi under any influence, I find this a little far-reaching, and I’m prepared to grant the appeal.”

Brine said the assault charge stems from an incident with a former roommate and he told Star Halifax after the meeting that he expects the charge to be withdrawn.

He then went on to tell the Star “at least I didn’t rape anybody or assault anybody in my cab.”

The committee voted 2-1 in favour of allowing Brine’s appeal. Councillors Hendsbee and Russell Walker voted yes, and Councillor Matt Whitman voted no.

It’s the second time the committee has given Brine a break. In 2017, following his convictions in 2016, the committee voted in favour of a motion from Hendsbee to overturn the licensing authority’s decision to deny Brine’s application for renewal, according to the minutes for that meeting.

This appeal, however, is before a new committee. The Licence Appeal Committee was created to remove councillors from the decision-making process. Councillors had a history of licensing taxi drivers who were facing sexual assault and other charges.

The new committee was created following sweeping changes to the industry’s regulations passed in 2019. This will be its first meeting.

Under the recently revised terms of reference for that committee, three members will hear each appeal and decide whether drivers get their licences back. The three current members are Mark Everett, who will serve as chair, Ryan Baxter, and Carine O’Brien.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, the committee will hear an appeal from Kirk Withrow, who was convicted in 2019 of laundering proceeds of crime, conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, and trafficking in schedule substances.

The Chronicle Herald’s Chris Lambie reported on Withrow’s sentencing here.

According to the staff report to the committee, Withrow applied to become a taxi driver in August 2020 and the licensing authority refused to grant him a licence based on the convictions. He appealed that decision in December 2020.

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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