Northumberland coach firm’s name ‘dragged through the mud’ during trial

Howard Snaith school transport buses parked outside the Duchess's High School in Alnwick.
Howard Snaith school transport buses parked outside the Duchess's High School in Alnwick.

The Northumberland coach company at the centre of a conspiracy trial, which ended last week, has thanked its customers and suppliers who have stood by them throughout the four-year ordeal.

As reported by the Gazette, 12 were cleared of conspiracy charges as the company director pleaded guilty to perverting course of justice.

Alison Snaith, 59, of Brierley Gardens, Otterburn, pleaded guilty to the charge last Monday during a trial at Newcastle Crown Court which began in January after she, together with the company and 11 employees, were accused of conspiring to falsify drivers’ records.

Driver Stephen Clark, 41, of Spital House Farm, Newbiggin-by-the Sea, was cleared of perverting the course of justice.

During the hearing, the coach firm (Howard Snaith and Partners), Clark, Snaith, her sister Jessie Hickie, 56, of The Follions, Otterburn; John David Cameron, 63, of Long Causeway, Barnsley; Iain Condy, 39, of First Row, Linton; Alan Dunkerly, 56, of Thompson Street, Bedlington; Gerard Fox, 59, of Wilderhaugh, Galashiels; Mark William Hogg, 41, of Grieve Avenue, Jedburgh; Kenneth Andrew James, 66, of Hollywell Crescent, Amble; James Joseph Phelan, 65, of Duke Street, Alnwick; Gary Tweddle, 34, of Ravensworth Court, Bedlington; and David John Wilkinson, 53, of Brierley Gardens, Otterburn, were cleared of allegations of conspiracy made against them.

But Clark, Hogg and Tweddle each admitted three counts of the lesser charge of knowingly making a false record.

A statement from the company read: “On March 18, 2011, DVSA officers, with the assistance of the local police, executed a search warrant at the business premises of Howard Snaith and Partners of Otterburn. That search began an investigation which has taken four years to conclude. During that time, the lives and the good business name of Howard Snaith’s has been dragged through the mud.

“Both Alison Snaith and the business have always vehemently denied the offence of conspiracy to falsify tachograph records. On March 23, 2015, at Newcastle Crown Court, Howard Snaith and Partners and Alison Snaith along with a number of employees were found not guilty of these allegations, which were without any foundation.

“During the course of an investigation, Alison Snaith foolishly produced four tachograph records to replace four which had been lost. To that extent, Mrs Snaith pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.

“Snaith’s have been completely exonerated of the conspiracy allegations made against them. It has taken four years for the truth to come out. That the truth has come out is due to my legal team of Tony Cross QC, Kathryn Johnson, Daniel Thomas of Lincoln House Chambers, Scott Bell of Backhouse Jones Solicitors, Brian Hegarty of David Gray Solicitors and Gordon Humphreys of Foster Tachographs.

“The sentencing hearing has been adjourned with the date yet to be confirmed.

“Snaith’s would also like to thank our customers and suppliers who have stood by us throughout this period.”

Judge Deborah Sherwin indicated in court that the maximum sentence she was considering was a suspended sentence. The jury was discharged and the case was adjourned until Tuesday, April 21.