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Licence sharing leads to directors being banned

  • 11 October 2012
  • By Roger Brown

Five directors from Tooting-based shopfitting firm Goodman Hichens have been disqualified from holding an O-licence for a year after they allowed another business to use the firm’s licence illegally.

In a written decision, following a public inquiry (PI) in Eastbourne in August, Nick Denton, traffic commissioner (TC) for London and the South East, banned company directors Guy Nickalls, John Tomlin, Nicholas Gardner, Anthony Higgins and Andrew Mackie until September 2013.

Denton heard how in 2004 the company entered into a transport arrangement with one of its longstanding subcontractors,  Peter Jeeves. Nickalls – who had little knowledge of the transport industry – authorised a Goodman Hichens O-licence application form given to him by Jeeves without checking it or understanding what he was signing.

However, Jeeves, who had been trusted to run the transport side of the company’s business, wrongly used the licence to transport goods for other people.

In 2007, the company terminated its relationship with Jeeves but failed to surrender its O-licence and vehicle discs. This meant that Jeeves – by this stage operating as PJ Services – was able to continue to use Goodman Hichens’ licence to run his vehicles.

Nickalls accepted that when the company worked with Jeeves it should have managed him more effectively, particularly in checking tachograph charts.

Denton determined that the firm’s directors had allowed themselves to be manipulated by Jeeves. He said: “The directors were negligent in their duties as directors of a company holding a goods vehicle O-licence. They were clearly aware by 2007 that Mr Jeeves was not a satisfactory or reliable business partner.

“But even though they knew this, they still did not see fit to acquaint themselves in more detail with a licence holder’s responsibility and check that the transfer of the transport operation to PJ Services was carried out properly.

“The consequence of this failure was that PJ Services was able to operate vehicles for several more years in
what proved to be a non-compliant and dangerous fashion, under the cloak of a legitimate operator’s licence.”

But TC Denton concluded that there was no “malign intent” on the part of Nickalls and his fellow directors. “Mr Nickalls appeared to me to be a decent, reliable and truthful witness who fully accepted that Goodman Hichens’ supervision of Jeeves had been inadequate,” he said.

At an earlier PI in January, deputy TC Miles Dorrington revoked Goodman Hichens’ O-licence.

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