A County Tyrone-based company’s O-licence application has been remitted back to the Head of the Transport Regulation Unit (TRU), after a judge found allegations of fronting required further investigation.
The Upper Tribunal found that Easy Go Transport was not given sufficient reasoning why its application for three vehicles and five trailers was refused by the TRU earlier this year.
It was denied an O-licence after links with revoked operator Sperrin Building Services and its director, Ashlene Carlin came to light. Ashlene Carlin, who is the wife of Easy Go Transport director Steven Carlin, was disqualified from holding an O-licence for three years.
Steven Carlin had also been Sperrin Building Services’ maintenance provider, and its vehicles had achieved a 0% first-time pass rate at annual test. The TRU was therefore unsatisfied that Easy Go Transport had adequate vehicle maintenance arrangements in place.
Appealing the decision, Steven Carlin said he had attended Sperrin Building Services’ public inquiry (PI) in January, during which the deputy head of the TRU said there was no reason why he could not apply for his own O-licence if he wanted to run trucks himself.
Steven Carlin also claimed that he was happy to appoint a new transport manager if Easy Go Transport Services was granted an O-licence, as Ashlene Carlin was originally named in the role.
The Upper Tribunal agreed that Steven Carlin had not been given sufficient information about why the TRU came to its decision until the appeal process begun.
TRU case management records presented at the appeal hearing showed that it had concerns about Ashlene Carlin’s role in the business after she responded to letters addressed to Easy Go Transport. It said this implied she was more involved in the business than just its transport manager.
Judge Kenneth Mullan found that it was clear that nothing contained in the case management records relating to Easy Go Transport’s application was ever disclosed to Steven Carlin.
He said it was “wholly understandable” why the TRU would want to make additional enquiries before granting the firm an O-licence, but Easy Go Transport should have been given more information about the TRU’s decision.
“Had the appellant not sought to appeal against the decision of the deputy Head of the TRU then he never would have had access to the internal case management records and would have been unaware of how the reasoning and analysis therein fed into the decision to refuse the application for the licence,” said Mullan.
He said Steven Carlin would have been entitled to question why the maintenance arrangements specified in his application were not assessed further.
The judge said: “What was required, and what is absent here, is a rigorous investigation of those apprehensions, a consequent meticulous fact-finding exercise to which the relevant legal principles could be applied and a thorough decision-making exercise supported by adequate reasoning.
“We are of the view that this was an application which, given the underlying issues which it raised, was crying out for a public inquiry."
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