Last week my lawyer neighbour told me how mortified he was when he got out of the taxi which had been ordered for him and walked towards a client`s office. He felt a strong hand on his shoulder and a not very happy voice demanding the £9.00 fare. My neighbour had thought that the fare had been paid for by or put on his client`s account. With some little embarrassment he dutifully gave the driver £10 with his apologies.
AGMs of the Magistrates` Association are as “enjoyable” for the exchange of colleagues` stories on the bench as they are for the official business….probably more so. One such chat over a pint or two a few years ago at such a gathering flew straight back to my short term memory as my neighbour completed his tale of woe.
As my fellow member of the M.A recounted it, a cab driver had behaved in a situation exactly as had the driver with whom my neighbour had had his recent experience. A major difference was that he [my neighbour] is mid forties and a former Counties level rugby prop forward and the non paying cab passenger in the matter before my colleague was a slightly built thirteen year old schoolboy. The brief facts as I can recollect the tale were that he left the taxi in an anxious state without paying the fare caused, he had asserted, by the driver`s intimidating attitude and bad driving. The long and the short of it all was that the driver admitted chasing after him and that his hand reached out to his shoulder to indicate that he should stop and pay the fare. The scene had been observed by a third party who, noting the boy`s apparent distress, had dialled 999. Defendant`s counsel offered the defence against the charge of common assault by citing s3(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1967 which provides that: "A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime”. It seems that during his time in the witness box the defendant did not fully or adequately explain whether he knew or believed before the incident that the non paying of a taxi fare was a crime or a civil matter. The bench did not accept the defence argument and he was convicted. It was subsequently revealed that he had had two convictions in the previous four or five years for common assault.
I cannot recollect ever having had that defence put before any bench in any case remotely similar I`ve been involved with but I certainly will ensure I pay any cab fare promptly without having to be reminded by an irate taxi driver tapping on my shoulder.