Operator wins appeal after “unfair” TC decision

HMRC

The transport tribunal has found that a decision by TC Kevin Rooney to revoke the licence of a Southampton haulage contractor and maintenance provider was “procedurally unfair and plainly wrong”.

Sheppard Commercial Services (SCS) in Marchwood had appealed against the TC’s decision made in 2018 after it had appeared at a public inquiry to discuss a maintenance investigation into connected business IPL Haulage.

In November 2017, a vehicle belonging to IPL was subjected to a roadside check and found to have an AdBlue emulator fitted.

IPL Haulage’s director, Ian Percival, was also director of SCS, having purchased 50% of the business in 2015, although he did not undertake any day-to-day functions.

This connection meant that both Percival and SCS boss Graeme Roberts appeared before the TC to discuss the emulator.

Prior to the PI, Roberts asked Percival to transfer funds to SCS so that it could demonstrate financial standing.

In his decision, Rooney claimed this amounted to a fraudulent act, as did the fitting of the emulator, and so he revoked IPL’s licence.

He also revoked SCS’ licence, as “Percival was a statutory director of the company and his conduct was directly relevant to the good repute of Sheppard” and “Sheppard sought to circumvent the financial standing analysis by transferring money between companies.”

Both companies appealed the decisions, although the tribunal noted that IPL and Percival withdrew their appeals as IPL was subsequently granted a new licence “and presumably, Mr Percival’s good repute was restored.”

In her written judgment, Judge Jacqueline Beech said the call-up letter had failed to give Roberts any real understanding of why SCS was being called to the PI.

She also said the TC had failed to put any questions to Percival about the inter-company loans and had failed to ask his solicitor to deal with them in his closing submissions.

The judge added: “The issue of the loans required further and detailed analysis of the position and it was plainly wrong to make findings of “cheating” and “cynical” conduct without that analysis and putting those allegations to Mr Roberts, if not Mr Percival.

“The TC’s order is set aside and the matter is remitted for reconsideration at a further public inquiry with a new call up letter.”

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