Being a taxi driver, especially in London, carries with it particular pressures and requires one to take a special care when dealing with customers. It is a task that cabbies carry out successfully day in and day out but how many stop to consider that it is not just the customers that need care but also what they carry, more particularly perhaps what customers may leave behind. Most items left inadvertently by passengers are umbrellas, shopping or documents of some kind but some customers might leave wallets, personal paraphernalia or even knives. If a driver is caught with a customer’s umbrella in their car that is not much of a problem but what if he is caught with a customer’s knife? The answer is he may find himself on the wrong end of a charge of possession of a bladed article – a nasty little offence that can carry with it a lengthy period of imprisonment upon conviction.
In a recent case I dealt with my client found at the end of his evening shift a pink handled knife – the kind of knife used by fisherman to cut bait, etc. It must have been left in his cab by a passenger and, intending to hand the knife in the following day and wanting to make sure that it was kept safe and out of sight he locked it away in the glove compartment of the vehicle. Fast forward several weeks and my client was stopped by the police on a routine stop check and upon searching the vehicle the knife was found and my client was charged with an offence of possession of a bladed article. He had forgotten to hand the knife in the following morning and had completely forgotten about the knife being present in the glove compartment – out of sight really can be out of mind.
My client told the police this but the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, took the view that forgetfulness was no defence. My client was in possession of the knife and that was all there was to it. Fortunately we were able to argue at Court that although forgetfulness is not a defence in itself it can be considered part of a wider set of circumstances which can amount to a defence of reasonableness. Fortunately the Jury agreed and my client was acquitted receiving all of his costs back however it took several months to get to trial, months during which my client was under the most extreme anxiety and pressure and which were in his own words “five months of hell”. It could so easily have gone the other way.
When clearing out your vehicle last thing at night always take care to note what may have been left behind and deal with it without delay particularly if there is any kind of prohibited object. Even a day’s delay could result in a prosecution.
This article was written by Jeremy Sirrell.