BILKING: The law on taxi runners

Updated: Mar 7


As the Police Taxi Compliance Officer, I deal with many reports of “runners”. I work hard to make sure that the Avon and Somerset Police response is correct and help drivers when things don’t go right.


I know that when passengers fail to pay their fare, it’s not just lost income. Drivers are out of pocket as they’ve had to pay fuel and running costs for the journey. If the matter is not dealt with, the offender may be tempted to do it again to another driver.

As a result I have produced a number of Information Sheets to help our local drivers and the following information is adapted from one of them:


IS IT A CRIMINAL OFFENCE TO FAIL TO PAY THE FARE?


That all depends on the circumstances. There are 3 pieces of law that cover this:

  1. When someone runs off - Section 3 Theft Act 1978 “a person who, knowing that payment on the spot for any good supplied or a service received is required or expected from him, dishonestly makes off without having paid as required or expected and with intent to avoid payment of the amount due shall be guilty of an offence”

  2. If someone pretends they will pay “going to a cash machine” “my friend will pay when we get there” – Section 2 Fraud Act 2006 “if he dishonestly makes a false representation, and intends by making the false representation to... cause loss to another or to expose another to risk of loss” ~ note that a representation is false if a person knows it is, or might be, untrue or misleading

  3. When someone else is involved, orders a cab for someone else – Section 11 Fraud Act 2006 “if he obtains services for himself or another by a dishonest act... intends that payment will not be made, or will not be made in full”

The common theme is that there has to be intent and dishonesty. Genuine mistakes or misunderstandings are not dishonest, such as confusion over who is paying.

Dissatisfaction with service or a disagreement about the price may mean it’s not a crime. It only covers the fare, so any extras such as soiling charges aren’t covered. At Court we have to prove they were dishonest beyond reasonable doubt and that they intended to avoid payment.


No dishonesty = no crime.

HOW DO I REPORT IT?


It’s really important to report these crimes. It shows us how often it happens, and we can identify trends and repeat offenders. Here in Avon and Somerset it tells me which operators or drivers are particularly prone to it so I can work with them to try and prevent it.


It’s usually best to report the crime online to your local


Police Service and you can also call 101.


If the crime is in progress call 999. Be clear on the exact location, that a crime has been committed and that the suspect is present or nearby.

WHAT WILL THE POLICE DO?


We will assess the information you give us and decide if a crime has been committed. If we believe there is no crime we may pass you the passengers’ details so you can make a civil claim. We will also consider if it is proportionate and in the public interest to investigate further. For example, for a £5 fare we would record it as a crime, but if there were no additional factors we might take no further action because of the value.

If we identify a suspect, you may be required to make a statement about what has happened. If we can’t locate a suspect or the suspect denies it and there isn’t enough evidence the matter will be filed. If the suspect admits the offence and has not been in much trouble before they may be given a Conditional Caution. This is a criminal record and they may have to pay you the fare due. If the suspect denies it and there is sufficient evidence then they may have to go to Court and you may need to give your evidence to the Magistrates.


TOP TIPS

  • Getting home safe to your family is more important than a fare. Remain professional. Be calm and avoid strong or threatening language.

  • Avoid following or detaining suspects. Although legally you can arrest the suspect using reasonable force, it could make you unsafe or open to civil action. It’s usually best to avoid doing this – especially for a small amount of money. That includes locking the suspect in your vehicle or taking them to a police station

  • You are quite entitled to ask for a surety for the fare, such as a driving licence, passport or mobile phone.

  • If there is a problem, make sure you know how to quickly start recording on your phone or dashcam if safe to do so. Try to get the person to say how much they owe you on the recording.

  • Provide a way of paying by phone or card.

  • Remember descriptions and anything said that may identify the suspect later - particularly if you are a Hackney Carriage driver.

  • If you are a private hire driver, tell us who your operator is and the job or booking reference for the journey.

  • When a suspect is due to pay compensation to you as part of a Conditional Caution or Community Resolution and we ask you for a cost, don’t forget to include your time making a statement as well as the fare.

  • If you have to call 999, the first thing they will want to know is your location. Be prepared to give an accurate location – you could use What3Words, a postcode or a road name.

PC Patrick Quinton is a Police Officer who is fully funded by two local Councils to support drivers, enforce the law and ensure compliance with licensing conditions. He has worked with Bristol City and South Gloucestershire Councils for three years. He runs a WhatsApp group for drivers to share information in support of the trade.

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