The Risks of "doing lifts"

The risks of “doing lifts”

The Times as recently highlighted the dangers of “doing lifts” , a social media trend where people with cars are connected to those looking for a lift somewhere - for an agreed fee. Sound familiar? Yes - it’s effectively a cab service.

The report can be found here.

The Times’ reported, that “18 Facebook groups with a total of more than 50,000 members where people advertised or sought “lifts” for cash from drivers without taxi or private hire licenses. Many lifts drivers are students and others are in their teens or twenties. They ferry people to and from clubs and house parties, taking their highest earnings on New Year’s Eve…Drivers and passengers often claim that licensed taxis are too expensive or are unavailable on busy nights but the police warn that clients risk travelling in unsafe or uninsured cars with drivers who could be sexual predators”.

There is some discourse around whether payment is for petrol and running costs, or whether it represents profits. Where a profit is made, there is a question of whether the driver is taxi touting / plying for hire. Where a driver is generating a profit from the trip this may also invalidate the car insurance policy.

But is it legal?

It is likely that the practice of “doing lifts” in the way described is unlawful. The question here is whether there is an illegal taxi service in operation.

There is no law against taking payment for fuel used - but you must be properly licensed to drive passengers in return for a fare.

The big issue here is public safety given the traveling public are getting lifts from strangers who are completely unscreened.

Drivers caught providing “lifts” in return for a fare are likely to be prosecuted and face a hefty fine and criminal record.

If you have any queries arising from this article, you can get in touch via contact@crimelawyer.co.uk.

Taxi & Private Hire Drivers - Are you fit enough?

TAXI & PRIVATE HIRE LICENSING & APPEALS

Taxi & Private Hire (“TPH”) drivers and operators are licensed by their relevant Local Authority or, in London, by Transport for London (“TfL”).

In recent years, there has been an increased focus on compliance in light of concerns surrounding public safety, and many licensing authorities have seen an increase in funding towards its enforcement functions.

Since the Mayor of London’s announcement of a “new era” for the capital’s Taxi & Private Hire market, TfL have invested in many more compliance officers across London, and with increased powers to “combat illegal taxi and private hire activity”.

With public safety in focus, and pressures on controlling the number of licensed TPH drivers, licence holders are under scrutiny more now than ever, and at risk of being subject to irrational and disproportionate decisions by licensing authorities. In light of this, it is essential to know where you stand and how such decision can be effectively challenged.

Being “Fit and Proper”

Your licence can be refused, suspended or revoked if the licensing authority considers you are not “fit and proper” to hold a licence.

Common reasons for coming to this decision include where:

  • You receive a caution or conviction for driving offences, e.g. touting for hire, driving without insurance, careless/dangerous driving etc;

  • You receive a caution or conviction for other criminal offences, e.g. offences involving violence, dishonesty and sexual offences etc;

  • Unproven criminal allegations are made;

  • Customer complaints are made;

  • Vehicle safety concerns are raised;

  • Administrative issues are identified, such as poor record keeping, signage etc.

Whatever the alleged act or omission, the licensing authority will be arguing that you are not not “fit and proper” to hold a licence because of the conduct complained of (e.g. the conviction).

Most licensing authorities adopt their own guidance when considering how they should exercise their powers in order that they are consistent and reasonable.

The fitness test will consider, amongst other things, your:

  • Character

  • Likelihood of offending

  • Health

  • Driving ability

The licensing authority will assess whether you have a tendency to behave in ways that render you unsuitable to work with the traveling public, children or vulnerable adults as a result of the matters complained of. 

Appealing a Decision

In practice, when a decision to refuse, suspend or revoke your licence is contemplated, you may receive a letter from a Licensing Manager informing you of the relevant information that has come to their attention. This could be information provided by the police of a caution having been administered. You may be offered an opportunity to make representations before a decision is made.

Once a decision is made, the Licensing Manager will write to you confirming the decision and the basis upon which it is made.

You will also be informed of whether the decision has immediate affect, or whether you are entitled to work if you appeal the decision. In most cases you can continue to work as a licensed driver pending the outcome of the appeal.

You should also be given information about your appeal rights.

If you are not happy with the decision to refuse, suspend or revoke your licence, you can appeal to the Magistrates’ Court on that basis that you remain fit an proper to hold a licence and/or that the decision is irrational or disproportionate to the alleged offence.

Such an appeal must be lodged within 21 days of the relevant decision.

The Appeal Hearing

At the appeal hearing itself, the Court will consider whether you are in fact “fit and proper” to hold a licence. Every case will be different and should be considered on its own particular merits.

When hearing an appeal, the Court will consider the issues of public safety and an individual’s Human Rights.

The role of the Court on hearing an appeal is to form their own independent judgment of the issue at hand, and not simply to review the decision of the licensing decision (as per McCool v Rushcliffe Borough Council [1998] EWHC Admin 695).

In reaching such a decision, the Court is entitled to rely on any evidential material which might reasonably and properly influence the making of a responsible judgment in good faith on the question in issue; including hearsay evidence.  It is for the Appellant to show that he is a "fit and proper” person to hold a licence on the balance on probabilities.

If an appeal to the Magistrates’ Court is unsuccessful, it is also possible to appeal further to the Crown Court.

It should be noted that, where an appeal fails, it is likely that a costs order will be awarded against you and in favour of the relevant licensing authority.

How can I assist?

I can assist with drafting written representations to the licensing authority, prior to a formal suspension or revocation decision being made, as well as providing advice on the preparation of your appeal, and representation at the appeal hearing itself.

If you are a private hire driver or operator requiring advice and assistance, please contact me on 07766001774 or via email (contact@crimelawyer.co.uk). 

A Genuine Fake!

It’s a Genuine Fake!

Unauthorised use of a registered trademark is a criminal offence - so selling fake goods at a car boot sale or on internet selling sites can get you into serious trouble.

Few people appreciate the offences that can be committed, and ignorance is usually no defence. This article seeks to explain the background to some offences in respect of trademarks.

What is a trademark?

A trademark is a badge of origin, any sign capable of being represented graphically, which is capable of distinguishing goods; they may consist of words, personal names, designs, letters, numerals or the shape of goods.

What are the offences?

The offence is to apply the mark (that is the copied trademark), sell goods with it on, or have goods in your possession in the course of a business.

There are also offences covering the copying of a symbol or sign on labelling, packaging or advertising. The law covers all goods from baseball caps and handbags to wheel trims and counterfeit drugs.

Is there any defence?

It is a defence to show that you believed, on reasonable grounds, that the use of the sign was not an infringement of the registered trademark.

You need to demonstrate that not only did you honestly believe that the sign did not infringe registered trademarks but that you also had reasonable grounds to believe that.

If you believed that the goods were genuine, that is also a defence.

For the offence to be committed the trademark has to be one that is registered and also one that has a reputation in the UK.

If the fake is terrible quality that is no excuse; the fact that no one would believe it was genuine does not matter as the use of the trademark is still an offence.

What can happen?

The offences are serious, possession of a few items can lead to a community order while a central role in a large operation can mean a sentence of up to ten years imprisonment.

A conviction for this type of offence can also lead to confiscation proceedings being brought against you. These proceedings involve an assessment of the benefit or profit made from the offence, and if there has been a benefit, you can be ordered to pay that back from your assets. Even if you did not have any assets an order can be re-visited in the future should you come into any money.

How can I help?

If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact name on 07766001774 or via email (contact@crimelawyer.co.uk).

Will the Court Know About My Previous Convictions?

Will the Court Know About My Previous Convictions?

If you are being sentenced for an offence, the court will be aware of, and may take into account, any convictions you have. Whether this has any impact upon the sentence passed will very much depend on the date of those convictions and the relevance of any to the more recent offending.

If you plead not guilty, the court or jury can only be made aware of any convictions in certain circumstances. The relevant law is known as the ‘bad character provisions”.

What are the circumstances?

Prior to these provisions being introduced the court could be made aware of any bad character by way of similar fact evidence. So, for example, if a burglar had a particular or unusual way of committing offences, a Modus Operandi (“MO”) the detail could be given to the trial court. Whilst there were other ways in which evidence of bad character could be admitted, the general presumption was against evidence of previous convictions being used.

The new provisions expanded on the old law.

 A defendant’s previous convictions may be admitted in court in the following circumstances:

 •    all parties agree

•    a defendant introduces them himself

•    it is relevant to an important matter in issue between the defendant and the prosecution

•    it has substantial probative value in relation to an important matter in issue between the defendant and a co-defendant

•    it is necessary to correct a false impression given by the defendant

•    the defendant has made an attack on another person’s character

If you said in evidence when charged with theft, that you would never steal anything, and you had convictions for theft, it would mean the court is likely to be told about them.

 If you called the prosecution witness a liar, you might find your convictions before the court.

As with the old law, any convictions based on your ‘MO’ could also be introduced. So, if you have previous convictions for burglary and are now charged with burglary, the prosecution may apply to admit this evidence.

 Does this only apply to defendants?

You can also make an application for the bad character of a non-defendant or witness to be out before the court in certain circumstances.

The introduction, or otherwise, of any convictions may play a crucial part in the outcome of any trial. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact name on 07766001774 or via email (contact@crimelawyer.co.uk).

Drugs Importation

Drugs Importation

It is common for officers at airports and other ports of entry to intercept people carrying controlled drugs in their luggage, clothing or inside their bodies on behalf of suppliers in foreign jurisdictions. The colloquial term for such people is ‘mule’. They may have been pressured into carrying the drugs or have done so for a fee, or both.

On occasion large quantities are found, but sometimes it is merely the leftovers from a holiday or business trip abroad, maybe at a location where drug use is more widely tolerated by law enforcement.

Committing this offence can, however, result in severe consequences.

The Crime

Drugs are brought into the jurisdiction in a number of supposedly ingenious ways. Cocaine may be moved in its liquid form while disguised as something else. Human carriers may swallow a number of pellets containing drugs of different kinds. Naturally, the police and associated organisations are frequently uncovering these methods as they arise, resulting in those who run the gauntlet being charged and sent to prison for a significant term, despite initially thinking they have outwitted the authorities.

The Law

The underlying offence is breaching the prohibition on the importation and exportation of controlled drugs created by section 3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. This prohibition is paired with the substantive offence which is contained in section 170 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979.

Sentencing

Various factors will alter the sentence imposed upon someone who either pleads guilty or is found guilty of this offence. These include the role played by the individual in the activity, the amount and character of the substance in question and (as with almost every offence) their level of co-operation with the police.

The sentences here are generally heavy, prison almost always follows for even the smallest quantity of drug, and sentences of 10 – 20 years, or more, are common where the quantity is large.

There are however a large number of factors that might reduce the seriousness of the offence or provide valuable mitigation – it is essential that a solicitor explore these on your behalf.

Penalties

The maximum penalties for this offence vary depending on the type of drugs in question:

-    Class A, life imprisonment;

-    Class B and C, 14 years’ imprisonment;

Case Studies

In Gregory [2012] EWCA Crim 649, the appellant’s sentence of imprisonment was reduced from 8 years to 6 years as the original sentence did not sufficiently reflect the appellant’s relatively minor role and the fact that he believed he was carrying cannabis rather than cocaine.

Conversely, the appellant in Burns [2009] EWCA Crim 1123 received an increased sentence upon a reference by the Attorney-General, from 8 years to 14 years’ imprisonment, to better reflect the fact that he had abused his professional role as a distribution supervisor by allowing cocaine importations.

There is a comprehensive sentencing guideline that Judges use in order to decide sentence.

How I can help

If you want to discuss alleged offences relating to the importation of controlled drugs, please contact me on 07766001774 or email me via contact@crimelawyer.co.uk. 

Such offences are always serious, and expert representation at the earliest stage is highly desirable, particularly if you may have acted under duress and have the basis of a defence in law.