‘I left coach firm with depression’ says former driver

A former driver of an Otterburn coach company which is at the centre of a crown-court trial has said that conditions were so bad at the firm, he had to leave.

Howard Snaith and Partners as a company, along with company director Alison Snaith (59) of Brierley Garden, Otterburn, and Jessie Hickie (56) of The Follions, Otterburn, and 10 other defendants who were employed as drivers by the firm, have all denied conspiracy to falsify drivers’ records. It relates to a period from June 2010 to May 2013.

Snaith and one of the drivers, Stephen Clark (41) of Spital House Farm, Newbiggin by the Sea, also deny perverting the course of justice amid accusations that they created false records with the intention of misleading officers investigating the business.

The other drivers are: 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.

Speaking at the trial on Tuesday, witness Jonathan Cox, said: “I left Snaiths in 2010 as I couldn’t stand any more of the working environment. I was suffering from severe depression.”

Fellow witness Scott Campbell – also an ex-Snaiths employee – said Smailes could lose her temper, but she was also caring.

During his evidence, the court heard that driver error could result in tachograph readings showing a driver was working, when in fact they were resting.

The jury also heard that scanning equipment could give a misleading impression of start and finish times, which would then require data to be changed. Defending, Tony Cross QC said there was nothing sinister in this and it was the scanner painting a false picture, instead of drivers.

The trial started at the end of January and is set to run for around two months.