Is the taxi honeytrap in the public interest…?

THE Sunday Life reports that that female enforcement officers are posing as late night revellers outside pubs and clubs in Belfast to flag down private hire taxis, thus catching them breaking the law. Although on-street hiring is a widespread practice, only public hire (ie black, London-style hackney) taxis can be legally obtained on the street, while public hire cabs must be pre-booked. However, it’s likely this law will be done away with in the near future. On Saturday night, I despaired as me and my pregnant companion could not get a taxi (of either type) for love nor money, and both of us had to walk a couple of freezing miles home in driving rain and high winds. With many people afraid of crime, and with horrific stuff like this happening, you’d think the DoE might have a bit more consideration for what is actually in the public’s best interest. Now that the public is more aware of how to avoid illegal taxi drivers, it must be asked; what is more important to the Government – that women get home safe on a Saturday night or enforcing a law that’s about to disappear?

  • Dec


    While I don’t disagree with the general thrust of your post (that given the choice with actually tackling real crime or engaging in ultimately pointless, headline-grabbing publicity exercises ) the report doesn’t mention ‘police officers’ but rather DOE ‘Enforcement officers’ (whatever they are). Personally, I’d prefer if the DoE concentrated their resources on removing the traffic cones which have been blocking one lane of the Dunbar link for no apparent purpose for the last 6 months.

  • Dec


    (that given the choice with actually tackling real crime or engaging in ultimately pointless, headline-grabbing publicity exercises, they’ll usually choose the latter )

  • Doctor Who

    A couple of years back a former work colleague of mine had his taxi license suspended when caught this way.

    Two young ladies standing on their tod on the Golden Mile flag down a cab….Northern Ireland is one of the few places where chivalry still remains with some folk. No sooner where these ladies in the cab when the rights where read.

    The reply which went on record was…”Listen I thought I was doing the right thing by not leaving two ladies by themselves in the city late at night. I mean you looked like a couple of well beaten tarts. Why don´t you fuck off and catch some proper fucking criminals.”


  • Belfast Gonzo


    Thanks, I’ve made the correction.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    “female police officers are posing as late night revellers outside pubs and clubs in Belfast to flag down private hire taxis, thus catching them breaking the law”.

    Is that not entrapment?

    As someone who lives in the Coleraine Triangle/North Coast area, I would spend most of my weekends and week-nites out in Portrush or sometimes Portstewart, where the lack of taxis is also a concern, even though drivers travel from the West: Londonderry (usually Protestants from the Waterside who would make themselves a soft target taxiing revellers to republican parts of the City-side) and Limavady;
    and from the South-East: Ballymoney, Ballymena, Antrim and even Belfast itself!

    In otherwards it’s not just a problem for Belfast – we don’t even have black cabs in East Londonderry/North Antrim!

    I would be out in the city once a month or so as I have a lot of good friends in the Shankill/Ballysillan area and the East and South of the city and have been on the receiving end of taxis not turning up for me at the Odyssey in particular, probably due to the fact some drunken skunk has got to the billboards before us and jumped into our taxi!
    However, I still believe the law is out-of-date and is hard to enforce. I can’t really complain about people stealing my taxi home when I’m at it myself almost every time I’m out in Portrush or Belfast. The law should be scrapped and black cabbies should not have to pay the premium they currently do that enables them to pick up non-booked clients. The D.O.E. might be out of pocket but it’s the only viable solution…

  • Crataegus

    Stupid laws are enforced by even more stupid people.

  • tc

    I think part of the problem is that Taxi licences are more expensive for public hire so they are afforded the right to stop and pick up anyone. They are also more regulated

    Simple solution is do away with the restrictions and regulate everyone the same and have one type of licence.

    I think that a solution to the taxi problem is to have more taxi ranks instead of a free for all outside the main night spots.

  • Bugbear

    I use taxis rarely – and public transport never! Both are unreliable. If I’m out for a night I get a friend to collect me and in return I do it for them – even to the extent of getting out of my bed to do so when they ring (by prior arrangement).

    It seems unfair that there is 2 or more different levels or type of taxi and I would like to know the reason. Does anyone know why?

  • taxirank

    Bugbear.. I was going to reply to you but realised i would end up in a pete bakeresque essay! So will try and be brief.

    As simply as i can ..with a single fixed chucking out time from the entertainment establishments demand will always exceed supply for taxis which you have no doubt noticed. It becomes particularly more entertainly out of synch at this time of year.

    Public transport is variable but generally poor and would suit another thread as this one refers explicitly to late night cabs. Two issues I have always taken issue with follow:

    1. There is a bias towards the bus over the train by Translink.

    2. DOE/DRD/DFP whilst paying lip service to the likes of bus lanes and corridors have never gone far enough or been radical enough in terms of their polices to get cars to f*** out of Belfast city centre. ie a Luas type system which even if decided upon now will not appear for 10-15 years but given its not even being discussed properly yet goodness knows when one would arrive. (Arrives ironic!)

    This is a digression but has anyone been in belfast city centre at 5 O’Clock (Fridays are gridlock) in the evening recently ..I rest my case. No proper planning for the closing of the Grosvenor Road access to the Westlink. Where were the cars going to go..oh I get it..Nowhere!

    Back to your point. Whilst I admire your altruism at getting up out of bed to drive friends home..It’s not a perfect solution though is it? You know its not but i commend you for it.

    As far as the two types of taxi licences are concerned it would take me all night to explain to you the nuances of it and why still there is probably a need for a certain distinction between the black cabs and the ordinary workaday cabs.

    Firstly and I dont know how long your memory is but people didn’t use to ever go out in belfast city centre hence there was a much lesser need for the ordinary cabs and there would have been a greater risk for the drivers if they had stopped off and got a hammer on the head or something worse given that there cabs would have been easily identifiable as to which location they come from with obvious ramifactions for the drivers. thus the need to phone a depot for one.

    Secondly the W/B black cabs performed an essential and imaginative service to areas that often had the buses withdrawn for periods of time due to unrest. They were also were more bus-like as passengers shared and were cheap as they charged a flat rate per passenger.

    I could explain in much greater detail about the development incrementally of taxi licencing and how we have got to where we are now and where we are going but would not wish to bore both yorself and others but i think i have covered most of the points you have raised.

  • The Devil

    I had the misfortune to work with one of the knuckle-headed pen pushing waste of DNA that masquerade as uncivil servants responsible for this grotesque nonsense.
    He was a mindless buffoon then and I see that his department and he are every wheel and turn of each other, all to ready to preach from the pulpet about how they were in the vanguard of public consultation of the matter and became bureacratically defensive when reminded that all the important decisions were taken behind semi-closed doors in the Europa hotel (if any of you that know how this things work) know what I mean.
    Any other country in Europe would sack the lot of them immediately and confiscate their pensions as punishment for the wanton waste of millions from public funds

  • taxirank


    Your anger is well placed but think of the frustrated individuals within those departments with ideas and getting “Satisfactory” (Damned by faint praise) annual reports from the mindless buffoons.

    Oh and its not fair to call the decision makers pen-pushers..they have people to do that for them!

  • Bugbear

    Thanks for the explanation Taxirank. Would it help if all taxis were equal? And as for me being altruistic? Well, no – they do the same for me when I’m out so it works both ways.