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There have recently been a number of news reports about taxi passengers being left stranded by licensed drivers who refused to take them on short journeys.

When does the law permit a taxi driver to refuse a fare?

In taxi licensing law, there are essentially two options available to drivers:

1. Taxi journeys that start and end in the area where that driver is licensed (controlled district) cannot be refused without reasonable excuse.

2. Taxi journeys that start in the controlled district but end outside of that area can be refused as there is no statutory duty on the driver to accept a booking outside of the controlled district.

Short journeys

S.53 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 states:

“A driver of a hackney carriage standing at any of the stands for hackney carriages appointed by the commissioners, or in any street, who refuses or neglects, without reasonable excuse, to drive such carriage to any place within the prescribed distance, or the distance to be appointed by any byelaw of the commissioners, not exceeding the prescribed distance to which he is directed to drive by the person hiring or wishing to hire such carriage, shall for every such offence be liable to a penalty not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.”

A driver of a taxi (or hackney carriage) can only refuse to carry passengers within a controlled district if he has reasonable excuse to do so. What constitutes “reasonable excuse” is ultimately a matter for a court of law to determine.

What is certain however is, that refusing a fare based on the fact that the journey is too short will not pass the reasonable excuse test. Drivers of taxis are under a duty to provide local public transport services. To this end, every person who wish to undertake a journey in a taxi (provided it is within the controlled distance) is entitled to do so and this right is protected in law.

Taxi drivers face the possibility of a criminal conviction, a fine and the possibility of losing their taxi licence if they are found guilty of an offence under section 53 as stated above.

Stephen McCaffrey

Regulatory defence barrister specialising in taxi and private hire licensing law, appeals and defence.

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