A County Down-based business will have its O-licence application reconsidered after a judge found the head of the Transport Regulation Unit (TRU) was wrong to have concluded it was a front for the director’s son.
Director Sean McGivern told the TRU that his aggregates haulage firm, Rockmount Services, would be run by his son, Connor McGivern.
The head of the TRU, Donna Knowles, found that based on the evidence McGivern senior supplied, his son would be the “controlling mind” of the business and should ultimately be held responsible for compliance with the O-licensing regime on its behalf.
She also found that McGivern senior “would quickly abdicate his responsibilities and obligations as a director to Connor McGivern”.
In his appeal to the Upper Tribunal, McGivern senior said he intended to set up Rockmount Services to create a family business, which would later be passed on to his son when he was ready. McGivern junior would drive one of the two trucks operated by the company, until he had the required experience to be an operator.
McGivern senior said he intended to act as director and transport manager at the business until his son had enough experience to apply in his own name for an O-licence, and would remain in control of the company until that time.
Upper Tribunal judge Kenneth Mullan found that the head of the TRU had misapplied the law surrounding fronting when she came to her decision.
The judge said: “Through his responses to the requests for clarification… he has been overenthusiastic in reporting his ambitions and hopes for his son’s future participation in the new family business.
“It may be that the [head of the TRU] has, in turn, been too cautious about what was the real picture and has been too quick to identify concerns where none have existed.”
The judge said that if all else seemed satisfactory, the O-licence should have been granted and concerns about fronting could have been looked into after a period of time.
He said that a public inquiry would have helped to resolve the situation.