Three girls get into a pre-booked minicab and take a £20 journey. During the course of that journey, one of them (Linda) throws up inside the taxi. At the end of the journey the driver points to the notice in his cab stipulating a £30 fee for cleaning the cab and asks the girls to pay it. However, the girls just give him a £20 note and run off into a bar.
The driver approaches you with this story and based on his description you promptly find the girls hiding in the toilets of the bar. Linda admits to having been sick in the taxi, but the girls claim to have given the driver an extra £50 to clean it. You strongly doubt that the girls paid the soiling fee. They refuse to pay the driver "another" £30, or to give the driver their details.
What are the options here?
If they had run off paying less than £20 then it would have been a straightforward making off without payment. However, I think it is very tenuous whether the soiling fee is for "goods received or service done". I'm more inclined to think that the non-payment is a breach of contract (it is quite analogous to parking next to a sign warning that your car will be clamped), however since the girls have refused to give their details to the driver there's no way for him to start civil proceedings against them.
Even if you could arrest for making off, it isn't clear to me whether it was only Linda who would have committed the offence, or if the other girls were equally liable for the soiling charge simply by riding in the taxi at the time when it was soiled.
One of my colleagues suggested that you could require Linda's details under S.50 of the Police Reform Act on the basis that she was behaving antisocially by throwing up over someone's taxi, and that there is an exception to the Data Protection Act that would allow you to provide these to the taxi driver on the basis that they are necessary for legal proceedings. However, I'm not sure if that's a real solution or a speculative attempt at cooking up a way round the legislation.
As it happens, I was able to mediate and the girls ended up paying the extra £30. However, what would have been the options if they hadn't?
Edit: corrected typo
Edited by Prolixia, 16 February 2012 - 09:59 AM.