A Northumberland-based coach company, which appeared in court this week charged with falsifying driver records as part of a conspiracy, has denied the allegations.
Howard Snaith Coach Travel, which is based in Otterburn, runs a number of school and public bus services across the county. Recently Northumberland County Council said that it ran 60 school contracts and six public services.
It is alleged that between June 1, 2010, and May 13, 2013, HJ Snaith and Partners, trading as HJ Snaith, as well as a number of members of staff, knowingly made false driver records in contravention to EC regulations as part of a conspiracy.
Yesterday, the company posted a statement on the Gazette’s Facebook page.
It reads: “These allegations are denied, and always have been. We are a very compliant bus operator and our own audits prove that. Our drivers are fully trained and we believe are of the highest quality. We put passenger safety and the safety of the public and our drivers at the very top of our agenda. Our records showing that are open and transparent, and we have nothing to hide. We are being wrongly judged by rumour and all it is doing is damaging our business and putting a lot of jobs at risk. To all of those parents out there whose children we carry; you have our assurance that they are in safe hands. Any concerns or queries, please feel free to contact us via email at email@example.com”
Summonses were issued following an investigation by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA), which brought the prosecution, and the charges relate to tachograph charts, which record drivers’ working hours.
All of the accused appeared at Newcastle Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday morning, but the nature of the conspiracy charge means that the case must be dealt with at the crown court.
None of the 20 defendants entered a plea and the case was adjourned to Tuesday, March 18, at 10am, when a plea and case management hearing will take place at Newcastle Crown Court. All 20 are on unconditional bail.
Those charged are HJ Snaith and Partners, Alison Snaith, John Cameron, Stephen Clark, Iain Comdy, Byron Dodd, Alan Dunkerley, Terrence Foreman, Gerrard Fox, Jessie Hickie, Mark Hogg, Kenneth James, Tony Jordan, Craig McKenna, James Phelan, Martin Robinson, Gary Tweddle, Maurice White, David Wilkinson and Stewart Wood.
The partnership HJ Snaith and Partners consists of Howard Snaith, Alison Snaith and Howard Snaith Limited. Only Alison Snaith is charged as an individual.