High Court Ruling Reveals HGV Impounding Was Wrong
A recent High Court decision possibly shines a tiny chink of light on the working relationship between North Wales police and Vosa.
Situated at the gateway of most of the freight traffic coming into the country from Ireland, you can imagine the force has probably seen its fair share of less than scrupulous hauliers sending knackered vehicles and even more knackered drivers across the sea.
And for that reason it probably jumped at the chance to impound four vehicles belonging to operator O’Leary International after officers discovered drivers were in possession of false letters of attestation, duplicate tacho cards and a mouth full of fibs.
Two of the drivers subsequently went to prison for producing false attestations, fraud and failing to keep tacho records.
According to the High Court judgment, three of the men told police that the company knew of the deception and even helped facilitate it (the fourth said he worked alone).
O’Leary then wrote to Magistrates requesting the return of its lorries.
Appeals were heard, a district judge was brought in – who “found that the evidence called by the appellant was not to be relied on; that it was an inescapable conclusion that the appellant knew what was going on.” and then finally it went to the High Court, which has found in favour of O’Leary International.
Well, the full written judgment can be found here, but in simple terms the police relied on the wrong law to impound the vehicles.
The company was able to successfully argue that as it had not been prosecuted it was entitled to the return of its lorries.
As the judgment makes clear: “It would in any event plainly be contrary to fundamental principles for an owner to be deprived of any of his rights in proceedings to which he was not a party; the appellants were not party to the proceedings.”
What should have happened was that Vosa was given the opportunity to impound the HGVs using its own tried and tested powers that have robustly stood the test of time.
However, local media reports quoting an MP suggesting that this ruling enables anyone to trundle over to the UK with no fear of impounding are wide of the mark.
Adequate laws exist to deal with this situation, it’s just that someone needs to use the correct law in the first place.
As James Hookham at the Freight Transport Association says: “We know that there are much more reliable ways of removing vehicles from operators. What we want is much closer cooperation between police and Vosa. As the primary enforcement agency for O-licensing and road worthiness the police need to work with them more and let them take the lead in future.”
For further information contact Anton Balkitis or Lucy Wood on 0800 046 3066 or visit the website if you are looking for motoring solicitors.