Unlawful action or citizen’s right? A very tough call

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People feel sympathy for taxi driver but are uneasy over doing police job

Allan French sits in his taxi cab in a parking lot in Charlottetown. French says police could charge him with kidnapping because he would not let two people who refused to pay their fare leave his cab.

At first blush, most Islanders can sympathize with the plight of taxi driver Allan French, who some 10 days ago picked up two young men in downtown Charlottetown for a trip across town. Upon reaching their destination, the two informed Mr. French they had no intention of paying.

The driver locked the car doors, called his dispatcher to inform City Police Services and said he was going to take the two to the police station for non-payment of funds. Along the way, the driver claims one of the men struck him on the head and jumped out of the vehicle. After police questioned all three, Mr. French was informed he may be the one facing charges for unlawful confinement. One of the two young men even showed up at the police station to complain.

To Mr. French, it’s the world turned upside down. He went from victim to alleged criminal in a matter of moments. The case raises some obvious questions. How does this differ from an alleged shoplifter being chased down by store security and held until police arrive?

Should passengers pay all or part of the fare up front? There are no meters in Island taxis and the cost of going from Point A to Point B, especially inside the city, should be easy to establish.

Many have an issue with vigilant justice, or citizens taking the law into their own hands. It should be the job of police to arrest and charge anyone. For citizens to take over that duty is seen as the start of a slippery slope. Once citizens start to take the law into their own hands, who knows what might happen next and who might get seriously injured over a $10 cab fare?

Taxi drivers see themselves as constant victims, with such incidents much more common than anyone thinks. This is their livelihood, yet many people see it as little more then a prank.

And then we have the Citizen’s Arrest and Self Defence amendment to Bill C-26 passed by Parliament in March 2013, which gives more latitude to individuals who wish to take the law into their own hands in the absence of police authority. The amendment enables someone ‘to arrest a person within a reasonable time after the offence is committed.’

The bottom line is, there is no excuse for not paying a taxi fare.

We’re glad that’s over

Hopefully, when you read this, a warm rain Sunday will have cleared icy sidewalks from most of Charlottetown’s streets so pedestrians can walk in some degree of safety. And that any flooding is kept to a minimum.

For the past week we have seen residents walk like timid penguins with little stutter steps to avoid falling. Without question it was extremely dangerous to walk anywhere when businesses or residents failed to clear away the snow before the flash freeze last weekend.  

And hopefully we can look forward to a stretch of moderate seasonal weather for a change. It was quite a start to winter with a series of storms in December, and then several bitterly cold stretches. Throw in one brief mild stretch, lots of slush, a flash freeze and wham, the entire Island was turned into a giant skating rink.

We’ve all had our fill of winter already, thank you. There were numerous accidents because of weather, school closures, treacherous intersections, furnace breakdowns, frozen and broken pipes, barn roof collapses that killed livestock and damaged potato storage, and many people had to do some exhausting and dangerous shoveling to clear roofs.

Mother Nature can be very cantankerous when she wants. The forecast this week is for a return to more normal conditions, thank goodness.

Organizations: City Police Services

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Iceland

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