A Bristol licensed taxi driver was cleared of allegations of overcharging passengers after the meter accidentally displayed the total earned that day to passengers.
The Bristol City Council Public Safety and Protection Committee unanimously accepted the driver's explanation, ruling that there was no deliberate attempt to defraud or misuse the taxi meter.
The incident took place during the early hours of New Year's morning, when the taxi driver, operating near Bristol Bridge, was approached by passengers requesting a ride to St George. The driver agreed to take them and received £20 through the window before unlocking the car to allow them in.
Nervous due to previous encounters with the police, the driver checked his badge and briefly touched the meter to ensure everything was in order when he noticed a police presence. Consequently, he unintentionally caused the meter to display the total fare of £240, mistakenly believing it represented the cumulative amount earned for the day.
During the hearing, the passengers testified that they had discussed the fare with the driver before entering the cab. They confirmed that an Uber ride was deemed too expensive, prompting them to inquire about the taxi fare beforehand and ultimately handing over the agreed-upon £20.
To shed light on the meter's functionality, the Licensing Policy Officer produced a manual for a similar device, demonstrating that some meters could display various totals other than just the ticking fare of the journey.
Additionally, it was clarified that the roof light on a taxi is switched on when the vehicle stops to discharge passengers, indicating its availability for hire. At this point, the meter is restarted to calculate the current fare.
As part of his defence, the driver explained that he had been a taxi driver for 25 years without any previous incidents and possessed a clean driving licence. He emphasised his commitment to passenger safety, even ensuring the well-being of those who doze off during the journey.
Furthermore, the driver informed the committee that when transporting passengers beyond Bristol's boundaries, he would share a book detailing the applicable charges with them. He also highlighted his willingness to provide passengers with cost estimates upon request, thereby fostering transparency throughout the journey.
After carefully evaluating all the evidence presented, both written and verbal, the committee considered the explanation provided by the driver. Although they were unable to question the events of that evening without the Officer present, the committee acknowledged the anxiety caused by previous encounters with law enforcement. Ultimately, they accepted, on the balance of probabilities, that the incident arose from a genuine mistake rather than a deliberate act.
Taking into account the driver's impeccable driving record and 25 years of incident-free service, the committee decided not to take any action against him. They expressed their hope to not see the driver before the committee for any future instances.