School bus firm Ausden Clark at risk after boss is fined £10,000 at Leicester court
The managing director of a coach firm has been prosecuted for forging paperwork – leaving its future in the balance.
Paul Ausden-Clark (56), managing director of Ausden Clark, was ordered to pay almost £28,000 in fines and costs after admitting 74 offences of forging reports of coach inspections and maintenance work during a hearing at Leicester Crown Court yesterday.
The conviction means the business could lose its operator's licence – and puts 100 jobs at risk.
The company has numerous contracts with schools and also provides coaches to hire for UK and European travel.
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Fining Ausden-Clark £10,000 and ordering him to pay £17,815 in costs, Judge Simon Hammond said the offences were serious.
However, he said: "There's no suggestion the vehicles were anything other than perfectly roadworthy.
"Inspections had taken place, but the records were wrong.
"The defendant employs 100 people and he risks losing everything. If his licence is revoked it would close the business, that's how serious it is."
The fate of the firm, which was started by Ausden-Clark 30 years ago, will be decided by the Department of Transport.
Niall Quinn, prosecuting, said the offences related to documentation of compulsory two-monthly service inspections of vehicles.
Maintenance was carried out at the firm's garage, in Dysart Way, Leicester.
Ausden-Clark countersigned as genuine reports falsely confirming inspections and repairs on specific dates.
One coach was in Rome on July 19 last year, but paperwork indicated it had a maintenance inspection in Leicester.
Mr Quinn said on 54 occasions inspections were delayed, by between one and 22 days. The remainder were carried out earlier than the dates on reports.
Mr Quinn said it was not known why the company had deviated from the rules.
The discrepancies were discovered by an inspector as vehicle mileage on the reports did not match the company's diesel log or tachographs.
Anthony Cross, representing Ausden-Clark, said it was "highly likely" the company's licence would be revoked.
Mr Cross said: "He fears for the jeopardy he has placed his employees in.
"These were minor transgressions. There's no suggestion the vehicles have been anything other than highly maintained. Inspections occurred but documentation was faulty.
"The fleet has a 98 per cent MoT pass rate, compared with the average of 89 per cent."
Ausden-Clark, of Cropston, admitted 10 counts of forgery and asked for 64 similar offences to be considered.
Mr Cross said: "He's not operated a perfect system but the business compares favourably to any other privately-owned coach company."
Junior director Daniel Smith, 43, and employee Matthew Chester, 45, were facing similar charges, but the case against them was dropped by the prosecution in light of their boss accepting responsibility.
Mr Smith has resigned his directorship and undertaken not to work in the transport industry for five years.
Ausden-Clark had no previous convictions but the business was fined in 2010 in relation to tachograph offences.