Ancient and Obscure Laws That Linger On

Ancient and Obscure Laws That Linger On

13,000 CRIMES AN HOUR DURING AN AVERAGE WORKING DAY IN LONDON, AS MANY AS 120,000 TECHNICAL BREACHES OF AN OLD LAW ARE BEING COMMITTED, ALWAYS IN BROAD DAYLIGHT, OFTEN UNDER THE VERY NOSE OF A POLICEMAN, by unwitting citizens and visitors. This works out at an approximate rate of over 13,000 crimes an hour if the working day is taken as 9 hours.

Nine hours is the normal shift for a London taxi driver, and in that time the average driver will pick up about 20 fares. Of the 12,800 licensed taxi drivers in the capital, some 6,000 are on the road at any given time, cruising along, keeping a sharp eye out for a raised arm or a waved umbrella and a sharp ear for a cry of ‘Taxi!’

And that is where the breach of the law comes in. According to the strict letter of the law, hailing a cab when it is in motion is illegal. Technically, if you want to hire a cab, you should go to the nearest taxi rank or ‘place appointed’.

If that law were ever strictly applied, there would be chaos in central London. Similarly, if some of the other laws governing taxis and taxi-drivers were enforced, London cabbies would find themselves in some bizarre situations.

There are 37 different Hackney Carriage Acts. Most of them date from the 19th century but some go as far back as the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14)—and none has ever been repealed.