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‘Overwhelming’ evidence of fronting results in disqualification
A waste operator has had its licence revoked and its director disqualified for four years after a traffic commissioner found that it had been acting as a front for another company that had lost its O-licence.
London and South East TC Sarah Bell said the evidence before her “overwhelmingly supports the conclusion” that director John O’Rourke lent his licence for Malbay Waste Disposal to director Roy Goodman and/or Quick Skips London Recycling.
At an Eastbourne public inquiry, called due to concerns raised by the Environment Agency and the Metropolitan police, the director claimed he was paying for wages, fuel and vehicle hire at Malbay and therefore fronting was not taking place.
Sole trader Goodman had lost his O-licence in May 2019 and his limited business Quick Skips surrendered its O-licence in September 2018 and yet when Malbay’s drivers were stopped by police in May, June and July this year they claimed to be working for Goodman and Quick Skips.
O’Rourke’s solicitor told the TC his client was “honest and unsophisticated” and had simply taken his eye off the ball, but in a written decision TC Bell disagreed, saying that the director spent most of the time trying not to get caught out:
“Mr O’Rourke’s evidence was punctuated by long silences when considering the most straightforward questions,” she said.
“On the evidence before me, he simply cannot be trusted.
“It should be noted that professional drivers’ vocational entitlements have been put in jeopardy by the conduct of Mr Goodman and Mr O’Rourke.
“There are three separate police prosecution referrals for no insurance, two to the same driver.”
She added: “It follows that I formally find there has been ‘fronting’ in its truest sense.
“I had removed Roy Goodman from the O-licensing regime from 3 May 2019 for good reason – unlawful operation and an unacceptable maintenance regime.
“Mr O’Rourke permitted that unlawful operation to continue virtually uninterrupted.
“Disqualification is necessary to deter those foolish enough to work in ways that prevent transparent regulation. Accordingly, I disqualify Malbay and Mr O’Rourke for a period commensurate with their wrongdoing.
“Fronting itself and the inherent risks caused by it are serious but the self-serving approach by Mr O’Rourke to his evidence at the hearing is an aggravating feature.”