The former owner of a Lincolnshire coach company has been given a suspended jail sentence after investigators uncovered discrepancies in records kept of hours worked by drivers, Lincoln Crown Court was told.
The check on Pointon-based Prestige Coaches revealed that a driver recorded as undertaking journeys could not have been behind the wheel as she was actually working for a different company in the UK at the same time.
Teresa Hay, prosecuting, said the records showed that the tachograph card for the daughter of the company’s owner, Leigh Robbins, had been used for up to 30 journeys when she could not have been driving.
Miss Hay said: “On a significant number of these journeys apparently done by her she was actually at work with her employer Trent Barton as a bus driver.
“She holds a PCV licence to drive automatic vehicles. She recalled that she had driven for her father but always in an automatic vehicle. The 30 or so journeys attributed to her were on a manual vehicle.”
Miss Hay said that the tachograph card was most often used immediately after the card of one of the drivers, Bevin Beckley, during journeys made by him to the continent.
The prosecutor told the court that Leigh Robbins, as owner of the company, had a legal duty to check the records and should have spotted the discrepancies.
Miss Hay said: “This case involves the falsification of drivers’ work records. These are records required by law to be made by drivers and kept by operators of public service vehicles to maintain compliance with EU regulations regarding drivers’ hours.”
She said the purpose of the regulations was to ensure that drivers did not work excessive hours and so create a safety issue.
Leigh Robbins, 52, trading as Prestige Coaches, of Pethley Lane, Pointon, near Sleaford, admitted eight breaches of regulations on dates between 2011 and 2012. He was given a nine-month jail sentence suspended for two years. Bevin Beckley, 42, of Sluice Road, Saracens Head, near Holbeach, admitted five breaches of regulations and was given a six-month jail sentence suspended for two years. They were ordered to pay £500 costs each.
Stewart Neale, for Robbins, said the offences arose at a time when he was ill and he had trusted another person to take charge of his business.
“He has spent his life since he was 18 in the coach industry and built up a business of which he was justifiably proud.
“He was assiduous in ensuring all of his vehicles were maintained. Until he fell ill he was equally assiduous in ensuring his drivers’ were well turned out and the hours were properly adhered to.
“He isn’t a man who is cavalier or cowboy about his duties. He does take them seriously but he has been let down. He perceives that he was betrayed. It leaves, as far as he is concerned, a nasty taste in the mouth.
“The business had to be sold. Effectively he and his wife have come out of this with no money. They have got rid of the business and got rid of the debts. There is nothing left.”
Faye Mellor, for Beckley, said her client accepted the regulations were not adhered to. She described him as a hard-working man who had a previous exemplary record.