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Plying for Hire – A Case Study

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The Case

Mohammed has been working as a TFL cab driver for over 10 years. One day he was parked at the side of the road, in his taxi, when he was approached at the driver’s side window by a member of the public who asked him how much it would cost to take him to a nearby town. Mohammed was an experienced driver and so he estimated the cost and began to look up an operator number so that the man could call the operator himself and book his ride. Instead, the man suddenly revealed that he was an undercover council employee and he accused Mohammed of plying for hire!

The Law

Mohammed was shocked.  He knew the law and that he was only authorised to take fares from those who had booked him through an authorised operator; unlike a black hackney cab he was not allowed to ‘ply for hire’ by taking members of the public on the street directly himself.  He remonstrated with the man who would not listen. 

Interview

Mohammed was invited for an interview by the council officer. Mohammed attended to put his case and denied plying for hire. He explained that he had been looking for an operator’s number to give to the man so that he could book the ride himself. The interviewer did not accept the account put forward.

Court Date

Mohammed was summoned to court to plead either ‘Guilty’ or ‘Not Guilty’. He had been shocked that the officer had not believed him in interview. He contacted Kent Traffic Law and explained that his income had to provide for a family of five and that if he were convicted by the local Magistrates’ Court that TFL would revoke his licence indefinitely. He knew he needed a very experienced barrister to advise him and so he booked a meeting.

The Consultation

Mohammed came to meet me and explained the full story of what had happened. I had read the statements and other evidence the Council had served. I explained to Mohammed what the procedure would be in court and how to prepare for the trial. I took a very detailed statement from Mohammed and discussed the case carefully with him so that he understood how best to present his case.

The Trial

At the preliminary hearing Mohammed pleaded ‘Not Guilty’ and the court made various directions for the trial. Mohammed was advised of further steps he needed to take in advance of the hearing to prepare his case. Eventually the day of the hearing arrived and we both met early at court to go through his case again. In court I cross-examined (questioned) the officer in order to highlight the inadequacies in his case. Mohammed also gave evidence. He, in turn, was cross examined by the council’s lawyer.

The Outcome

The Magistrates retired to consider the evidence and the submissions made by both lawyers. After an agonising wait they returned to court to acquit Mohammed. An order for costs to be taxed in favour of the defence was made. Mohammed was absolutely thrilled as losing the case would have been unthinkable to him given that his taxi licence was the sole source of income for his family. He said, ‘You prepared the case in a very detailed way and used your skill and experience to cast doubt on the prosecution case. I realise that there is no way I could have achieved this outcome without you.’ For my part I left court with the satisfaction of knowing that my client had not lost his career as a cab driver. If you are a cab driver and are accused of plying for hire your livelihood will be at risk. Don’t hesitate to call for an initial discussion without obligation (just as Mohammed did).

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