Bilking - or making off without payment - is unfortunately one of those oc- cupational hazards of being a cab driver and is not very nice at the best of times.

So when you are in the worst of times such as now with that damn virus and doing ten hours and earning a pittance being bumped and getting knocked for even £3 is demoralising.

I am very disappointed to say that here in Brighton & Hove, bilking has increased to the extent that this subject was on the agenda of a Trade Forum Council meeting earlier this year. The main reason was that we felt that the police were not fully aware that bilking is in fact a criminal offence and drivers at times have been told that it is a civil matter. How- ever you and I know that deliberately making off without payment is very different to a dispute on the cost of a fare.

On a side note we have all read of the stories in other areas where the police have been oblivious to bilking being a crim- inal offence which when called upon for assistance puts the cab driver not only in a helpless situation but also gives very little faith in those who are supposed to uphold the law.

We have regular Trade Forum meetings here where all the trade reps, licensing, councillors and sometimes the police attend and over the years we have to repeat the whole pro- cess of airing our views on the lack of support from the police when bilking is reported. We then get assurances that this would be fixed and we all go on our merry way. The trouble is that over time people in the force move on and others take their place and we go back to square one where either bilk- ing is considered as being unimportant - especially where the fare is a tenner or so - or it is completely forgotten as being a criminal offence.

So earlier this year we had two Sussex police reps attend a Trade Forum meeting where we were able to raise the sub- ject of bilking and the apparent lack of interest given. We took the opportunity to make the point that the local cab trade has been able to assist the police whenever we are called upon to look out for the little old lady or missing per- son and emphasised that those ‘Ilk’s who Bilk’ are usually up to no good generally and more than likely are already known to the police. We have an infamous lady (and I am being polite here) who is well known to the trade who I encoun- tered and was very surprised when I very politely told her to get her arse out of my cab. Always dressing in a Pepper Pig pink coloured onesie does help spotting her, but she is prob- ably too thick to realise this. We have been able to identify some of these bilkers via our local taxi social media hubs of Facebook and Whatsapp and we are not afraid to share the intelligence on these unintelligent thieves.


I am pleased to say that that meeting was very useful and we were able to reach an understanding on what is required and what transpired was a ‘Bilking Report Pack’ produced by the police for drivers to use. This was a major step forward and was made available to the local cab companies. I also made this available as a download to print out, as and when needed. Once the form is completed it is then provided to the police.

Now we have to be realistic in that we know that not all reports will end up as a conviction. However what we now have is a system where it is easy to report bilking and to build up a case against persistent offenders. The other great point is seeing the local trade and the police working together.

With this now all in place I asked Alex Evans, one of our licens- ing officers, what he thinks of this new reporting system: “Brighton & Hove City Council’s Taxi Licensing Team enjoys a good working relationship with operators, drivers and propri- etors across the city. We’re grateful Sussex Police can support us as a licensing authority and the trade to ensure drivers can continue to provide invaluable transport to our residents and visitors. This helps to keep taxi drivers and the public safe whilst ensuring that the small minority of people that try to target taxi drivers for criminal gain are brought to justice.”

I also invited Sussex Police for a comment: “Sussex Police is committed to work with the taxi trade across the Brighton & Hove area. Our primary focus is to ensure that taxi drivers are kept safe in their working environment and to enable clear and effective sharing of information to ensure vulnerable persons are safeguarded from harm, and to allow for the prevention and detection of crime.

The effective working relationship with the taxi trade and partner agencies allows us to continuously identify areas of interest, so that we work together to find solutions to achieve the best end result whether that be to prevent or investigate crime (such as bilking), safeguard vulnerable persons, protect lives, prevent damage to property and be the important eyes and ears within our workplace to help feed the intelligence cycle.”

We really hope that cab drivers in other areas can use this as a good example of how the trade, the licensing authority and the local police force can work together.

With the positive news I am very sad to end on a negative note. Recently two long standing Brighton & Hove taxi drivers passed away due to Covid-19 and our deepest condolences go to their families.

Andy Peters Secretary GMB Brighton & Hove Taxi Section


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