Are PHV drivers capable of doing a good turn? Earlier today we were art Derby Magistrates Court defending a PHV driver who had been accused of plying for hire. Two police officers we’re undertaking a covert operation and had approached our client in the city centre when parked up. They were told no prior booking no ride. They said they would walk to the station.
Shortly afterwards our client received a job that would take him past the station. As he drove off he saw the plain clothes officers looking lost. He stopped and said he would give them a lift. No money was sought, offered or demanded. Our client’s meter was not turned on. 150 yards after the journey started the officers identified themselves, told our client to stop and reported him for plying for hire.
Derby Council brought charges of plying for hire and no insurance. It was their case taxi and PHV drivers are incapable of doing a good turn or offering a lift.
Experience might suggest otherwise. History tells us that the good taxi drivers of France ferried troops to the front line. Taxi and PHV drivers in Liverpool responded magnificently to the evacuation in 1997 without charge as did hackney and PHV drivers throughout the North West tithe Ariana Grande concert bombing in 2017.
Whilst Derby Council might have a dim view of its drivers, that City’s magistrates might not. They found our client credible and clear and were satisfied he was only offering a lift to the officers and dismissed the case against him.
What of the costs? Well the several thousand pounds the council spent on this case falls to be shared amongst the city’s hackney and PHV trade as the costs of enforcement must be recovered from a ring fenced budget. Our client will only be able to recover his costs at legal aid rates (even though he was ineligible for legal aid thanks to Chris Grayling a onetime failed Lord Chancellor and now Minister of Transport) and will be out of pocket.
Prosecutions of this type are justified on public safety grounds. The argument goes that the general public should only be carried about by licensed drivers. PHV drivers go through exactly the same vetting as hackney drivers so you might think it would be better for councils to focus their attention on private unlicensed drivers masquerading as Hackneys or PHVs, but that’s politics.