A taxicab driver commits no offence under the Act of 1853 by refusing to stop when hailed and can only be required to accept anyone who chooses to hire him when his cab is on a rank or in certain circumstances is stationary in a street.
This particular case highlights the need to see things through to a positive conclusion, not giving up at the first hurdle. The Taxi driver was found guilty by a magistrate and lost an appeal to Quarter Sessions where the fine was doubled. Undeterred, he appealed to the
Divisional Court where the appeal was upheld and a precedent was set.
Hunt v Morgan
CRIMINAL; Road Traffic
KING’S BENCH DIVISION
LORD GODDARD CJ, HILBERY AND BIRKETT JJ
23 NOVEMBER, 1 DECEMBER 1948
Hackney Carriage – Taxicab – Metropolitan police district – “Plying for hire” – Obligation to accept fare while travelling along street – London Hackney Carriage Act, 1853 (c 33), ss 7, 17(2).
By the London Hackney Carriage Act, 1853, s 7: “The driver of every hackney carriage which shall ply for hire at any place within the limits of this Act shall (unless such driver have a reasonable excuse, to be allowed by the justice before whom the matter shall be brought in question), drive such hackney carriage to any place to which he shall be required by the hirer thereof to drive the same not exceeding six miles from the place where the same shall have been hired … ” and by s 17(2): “Every driver of a hackney carriage who shall refuse to drive such carriage to any place within the limits of this Act … to which he shall be required to drive any person hiring or intending to hire such carriage” shall be guilty of an offence.
On 8 July 1947, the appellant, a taxicab driver, was driving along a London street with the flag of the taximeter in the “For hire” position when he was hailed by a person wishing to hire the taxicab. The appellant, without reasonable excuse, refused to stop and accept the fare.
Held – A taxicab driver commits no offence under the Act of 1853 by refusing to stop when hailed and can only be required to accept anyone who chooses to hire him when his cab is on a rank or in certain circumstances is stationary in a street, and, therefore, the appellant was not liable to conviction under s 17(2).
Case Stated by County of London Quarter Sessions.
The appellant was convicted by a metropolitan magistrate sitting at Bow Street Magistrate’s Court of unlawfully refusing to drive a motor hackney carriage to a place within the limits of the London Hackney Carriage Act, 1853, not exceeding six miles, to which he was required to drive by a person intending to hire such carriage, contrary to s 17(2) of the London Hackney Carriage Act, 1853, and was fined 10s.
The appellant was driving a taxicab in Victoria Street, London, SW. The taxicab was not already hired and the flag of the taximeter was in the “For hire” position and not covered. A person was standing on a road “island” in Victoria Street, and, as the appellant’s taxicab approached the “island,” this person made clear signals and shouted to indicate that he desired to hire the taxicab. The appellant saw the person and realised that he wished to hire the taxicab, but did not stop on the ground that, in his view, the person was under the influence of drink.
The appellant passed the “island,” heard the person calling out “I will report you,” and still did not stop. The intending passenger was not drunk or under the influence of drink. Quarter sessions dismissed an appeal by the appellant against the magistrates’ decision and increased the fine to £1. The appellant now appealed to the Divisional Court who allowed the appeal and quashed the conviction.
Collard and Borders for the appellant.
Cassels for the respondent.
1 December 1948. The following judgment was delivered.
LORD GODDARD CJ read the following judgment of the court. The appellant in this case was convicted before a metropolitan magistrate “for that he at Victoria Street, Westminster, being the driver of a motor hackney carriage did unlawfully refuse to drive the said carriage to a place within the limits of the London Hackney Carriage Act, 1853, not exceeding six miles, to which he was required to drive by a person intending to hire such carriage, contrary to s 17(2) of the London Hackney Carriage Act, 1853.”
The appellant appealed to the appeal committee of the quarter sessions for the County of London who dismissed the appeal and increased the fine imposed by the learned magistrate, but subject to a Case stated for the opinion of this court. The facts were that at 1 am on 8 July 1947, the appellant was hailed by a person desiring to hire the cab at the corner of Victoria Street and Vauxhall Bridge Road. The appellant refused to stop and accept the fare, and the reason which he subsequently gave was that in his opinion the person hailing him was under the influence of drink.
Both the learned magistrate and the appeal committee found that this opinion, if it was held by the appellant, was both inaccurate and unreasonable, from which it follows that he had no reasonable ground for refusing the fare if he was bound in law to drive him.
The question raised is whether a cruising taxicab driver is bound to accept anyone who hails him. It is obviously one of general importance, not only to cab drivers, but also to the members of the public, and it seems never to have been the subject of a decision.
There is, no doubt, a widely held belief that a cabman, whether on the rank or not, is bound to accept a fare unless he has a reasonable excuse for refusing, and a full examination of the statutes relating to hackney carriages in London is necessary to decide whether this belief, which, at any rate, accords with the opinion both of the learned magistrate and the appeal committee, is well-founded.
The first Act dealing with hackney carriages in London to which it is necessary to refer is the London Hackney Carriage Act, 1831, an Act to amend the laws relating to hackney carriages and other conveyances. By s 34 of that Act it was provided that:
"the driver of every hackney carriage which shall be let for hire at any place within the distance of five miles from the General Post Office 1065… shall be obliged and compellable, if required by any person hiring such hackney carriage (unless such driver shall have a reasonable excuse to be allowed by the justices … ) to drive such hackney carriage to any place to which he shall be so required to drive the same within the distance of five miles”
That Act repealed a very large number of old statutes which dealt with hackney carriages and coaches in London as well as other means of transport. In that Act no reference is made to standing places or, as they are commonly called, cab ranks. A reference to contemporary literature will, however, show that unofficial cab ranks did exist in London at that time, as it may be remembered that Mr Pickwick, on 13 May 1827, set out for the Golden Cross in a cab which was the first one on the rank at St Martins-le-Grand in order to get the coach for Rochester, but we have not been able to find any Act regulating or setting up cab ranks before the London Hackney Carriages Act, 1843.
Section 29 of that Act provided that it shall be lawful for the Commissioners of Police to appoint standings for hackney carriages at such places as they shall think convenient within the Metropolitan Police District and to make regulations concerning them, and s 33 provided that:
"every driver of a hackney carriage who shall ply for hire elsewhere than at some standing or place appointed for that purpose, or who by loitering … shall cause any obstruction in … any public street … shall for every such offence forfeit [a fine].”
It may be observed that in this Act, as in another Act dealing with the subject, it seems as though to stand and to ply for hire are used as interchangeable terms meaning the same thing. For instance, in s 31 of the 1843 Act, it is provided that nothing in the Act shall authorise any cab (which expression, for brevity, we shall use throughout to describe a hackney carriage) to stand or ply for hire opposite to the General Post Office in St Martins-le-Grand, where obviously from the reference in Pickwick there used to be a rank.
Section 33, it will be seen from the reference above, forbids a cabman to ply for hire otherwise than at a standing, so clearly for the purpose of the Act the word “ply” does not connote motion, as in common parlance it often does if one speaks of a vehicle or ferry boat plying between certain points.
We now turn to the London Hackney Carriage Act, 1853, under which the appellant was summoned. By s 7, it is provided:
“The driver of every [cab] which shall ply for hire at any place within the limits of this Act shall (unless such driver have a reasonable excuse, to be allowed by the justice before whom the matter shall be brought in question) drive such [cab] to any place to which he shall be required by the hirer thereof to drive the same, not exceeding six miles … ”
and by s 17(2) it is provided that the driver of a cab who shall commit any of the offences therein specified shall be liable to a penalty, one of such offences being thus described:
“Every driver of a [cab] who shall refuse to drive [it] to any place within the limits of this Act, not exceeding six miles, to which he shall be required to drive any person hiring or intending to hire such carriage … ”
One must, however, turn back to s 7, to which we have just referred, the section which imposes the duty on the driver and provides him with the defence of a reasonable excuse. The real question in this case is: What do the words in s 7, “which shall ply for hire at any place within the limits of this Act,” mean? Have they got the popular meaning which would certainly include a cab driving down a street with the flag up on which the words
“For hire” appear, or must they be confined to the cabman on the rank? In our opinion, 1066with one exception which we will mention hereafter, it is only the cabman on the rank who is obliged to accept a fare. The plying for hire referred to in s 7, which is the material section, must, we think, be so confined. It refers to the driver of every cab which shall ply for hire at any place within the limits of the Act and that must, in our opinion, refer to a place appointed for the standing of hackney carriages under the Act of 1843, which is to be read together with and as part of the Act of 1853. “Place” must mean a definite point, just as the same word later in the section clearly refers to a definite destination to which the driver is required to go. It cannot mean “anywhere in a street.”
This view is reinforced by the fact that it is actually made an offence for a cab driver to ply for hire elsewhere than at one of those places. No doubt, the cabman who has set down a fare and is proceeding to one of those places can accept a fare if he is hailed, and it could not, we think, be held, unless he was soliciting fares as he drove along the street, that he was committing an offence against s 33 of the Act of 1843.
That it is the standing cab and not the moving cab that must accept a fare seems to be shown also by s 35 of the Act of 1831. As we have already said, that Act contained no provision with regard to cab ranks or standing places, but it does provide that:
“Every [cab] … found standing in any street or place … shall, unless actually hired, be deemed to be plying for hire, although such [cab] shall not be on any standing or place usually appropriated for the purpose of [cabs] standing or plying for hire … ”
The onus of proving that he was actually hired at the time of his refusal is laid on the driver. This section is unrepealed, and it would, therefore, appear that, if a cab is standing in the street, having, for instance, just set down a passenger, the driver is bound to accept as a fare any person who desires to be driven, provided that person so informs the driver while he is still stationary and not engaged. At any rate, it seems to us clear that a cab driver commits no offence under the Act of 1853 by refusing to stop when hailed, and that he can only be required to accept anyone who chooses to hire him when he is actually on a rank or is stationary in a street.
It may not be inappropriate to hope that this matter will receive the attention of the appropriate authority which, in relation to cabs, is the Home Secretary. Conditions in 1948 are very different from what they were in 1853, when taxicabs were unknown. At present, every taxicab which is not actually hired must be driven with the flag of the taximeter in the upward position, and the words “For hire” appear on it. Modern taxicabs are now fitted with devices illuminated at night which show on the front of the roof the words “Taxi” or “For hire,” and the public may well believe that in those circumstances it is open to them to demand to be driven in any cab which is not actually conveying a passenger.
It is evident that in the middle of the last century when all cabs were horse-drawn, the legislature desired to discourage the crawling cab, which might easily cause obstruction in the street, for the horse would naturally be allowed to proceed at a walking pace if the cab was not actually hired. Therefore, it may well have seemed to the legislature in those days that it was desirable so far as possible to ensure that the hiring of cabs should take place at recognised ranks and not casually in the streets.
Under modern conditions, the cruising taxicab is one of the commonest sights in London streets. We have, however, to deal with the law as it stands and must see that the existing statutes are not strained so as to make a man guilty of an offence unless the words of the section clearly apply to his case. A full consideration of those sections shows that the expression “Like the cabman on the rank,” so often applied with regard to people bound to accept employment if offered, for instance, members of the Bar, is well-founded. It is also1067 to be remembered that there are no fewer than six Acts on the statute book dealing with cabs in London, Acts of 1831, 1843, 1850, 1853, 1869 and 1907.
Some of the sections in these numerous statutes are obsolete. Many are obscure, as may be seen from the judgment of this court in Goodman v Serle, and others, as this case shows, are out of date. It is, therefore, not surprising that cab drivers, the police, and magistrates, to say nothing of the general public, have difficulty in ascertaining the law on this subject and make mistakes about it. It would seem that an Act consolidating and amending, and, if possible, simplifying, the law with regard to cabs, is very desirable. The appeal is allowed with costs here and before the appeal committee.
Appeal allowed with costs.
Solicitors: Seifert, Sedley & Co (for the appellant); Solicitor for the Metropolitan Police (for the respondent).