No question over maintenance standards but Leicester-based operator found to have falsified reports on 74 occasions
Maintenance records for coach operator Ausden-Clark had apparently been falsified and then signed as accurate by company director Paul Ausden Clark. Mr Clark was arrested with the assistance of local police officers on Tuesday July 10, 2012.
The VOSA-led investigation centred upon examining the veracity of the information contained in the Planned Maintenance Inspections (PMI) records required to be kept for inspection by enforcement officers with the authority to carry out such inspections. It was found the odometer readings recorded on the PMI sheets did not correspond with the odometer readings recorded on the tachograph records and fuel log sheets bearing the same date as that on the PMI sheet.
One coach was in Rome on July 19 last year, but paperwork indicated it had a maintenance inspection in Leicester.
Paul Ausden Clark, who appeared at Leicester Crown Court on Thursday (September 20), entered a plea of guilty to 10 counts of making a false instrument with intent that it be accepted as genuine, contrary to Sections 1 and 6 of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act, 1981. He asked for 64 similar counts to be taken into consideration (making 74 in all).
The matter was heard before Judge Hammond and following mitigation by his counsel, Mr Ausden Clark was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £17,800. He was allowed 12 months to pay.
In addition, Junior Director Daniel Smith, 43, and employee Matthew Chester, 45, were facing similar charges, but the case against them was dropped by the prosecution in light of Mr Smith accepting responsibility. Mr Smith has resigned his directorship and undertaken not to work in the transport industry for five years.
Ausden-Clark had no previous convictions but the firm was fined in 2010 in relation to tachograph offences. Anthony Cross, representing Ausden-Clark, said it was “highly likely” the firm’s O-licence would be revoked.
Mr Cross said: “He fears for the jeopardy he has placed his staff in. These were minor transgressions. There’s no suggestion the vehicles have been anything other than highly maintained. Inspections occurred but documentation was faulty. The fleet has a 98% first time MOT pass rate, compared with the average of 89%.”
Heather Cruickshank, VOSA’s Operations Director, said: “The falsification of these records may well have compromised road safety in the event of a crucial component failure in relation to the brakes, steering and suspension. VOSA is committed to detecting and prosecuting this type of offence, especially by those who are at Director level.”
As this issue went to press it remained to be confirmed whether the case would be brought before the Eastern Traffic Commissioner (TC) Richard Turfitt.
A spokesman for the Office of the Traffic Commissioner told CBW: “The TC does not comment on individual cases unless they are brought before him at a PI.
“With respect to the work of VOSA as a prosecuting authority, the TC receives regular reports from VOSA detailing O-licence holders who have been convicted of offences under the relevant road traffic legislation.
“However, in respect of any prosecution, licence holders are required to notify the TC within 28 days of conviction. The TC will then consider whether to take action against the operator, including calling them to a PI. O-licence holders who fail to report such matters to the TC may face disciplinary action on additional grounds.”