The purchase of an Aberdeen-based haulage firm by the partner of a disqualified former haulier has been judged as an attempt to circumvent the traffic commissioner’s (TC’s) orders.
Scotland’s TC Joan Aitken (pictured) found that Judith Paterson had bought Skene Transport in an attempt to bypass a disqualification order imposed on her domestic partner, John Hendry, who is known as Ian Hendry.
Ian Hendry and his son David Hendry were disqualified from holding an O-licence for five years in May, while an application for another business, Hendry Aberdeen, was refused.
The TC said this left Paterson as the only one of the three who was not disqualified. She became sole director of Skene Transport in June.
Paterson had been involved in a string of failed operations alongside Ian Hendry since 2007, including Oakmist; Aberdeen Transport Services; and Hendry Aberdeen.
She told a public inquiry (PI) in July that she had never been given a chance to run a transport company in the way it should be done, which is why she had purchased Skene Transport. She claimed Ian Hendry was not involved in the business.
The company had no employees and no vehicles, and it intended to use an operating centre previously used by Aberdeen Transport Services. The TC noted that Ian Hendry would be entitled to be present in that yard and would be at hand to “interfere and domineer”.
The TC said Paterson had chosen to buy the company because it held an O-licence and it would allow her to continue to operate HGVs alongside Ian Hendry.
Aitken said: “I find that Mrs Judith Paterson was used by herself and Mr Ian Hendry as the person who would buy a company with an operator’s licence. There was no attempt to buy vehicles, take on a workforce or operating centre. The sole purpose of the company purchase was to obtain an operator licence without making an originating application for such with attendant publication and scrutiny.”
She said Paterson had been “at the very core” of Hendry’s operating since 2007, and had been “well aware of the material non-compliance” of the businesses under his control.
“This type of arrangement whereby a close employee and family member are put into a new entity is redolent of a fronting arrangement,” the TC added. “She still lives with Ian Hendry; she remains within his sphere of influence; there is common commercial benefit in use of the yard and getting the work; she is where she is because of her relationship with Ian Hendry.”
Aitken disqualified Paterson for an indefinite period, but noted it should at least match Ian Hendry’s five-year ban.
She found that Skene Transport had lost is repute and consequently had its O-licence revoked.
She also criticised Skene Transport’s former owners for selling the company to a person “closely entwined with non-compliance”.
Aitken warned that any operator that provides cover to or gives work to Ian Hendry, David Hendry or Judith Paterson would be called to a PI.
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