The launching of a criminal investigation without first holding a public inquiry (PI) into Commercial Vehicle Solutions (CVS) “stinks”, according to the defence counsel for two of the company’s directors.

Speaking in Leeds Crown Court, Richard Smith QC suggested that the Vosa investigation into CVS’s activities was not impartial.

The prosecution alleges that in 2009 and 2010 CVS sought O-licences as a future commodity, which it could sell or charge operators for using.  It was not financially involved in any of the companies that used its O-licences.

In November last year, CVS MD Martin Collins, sales director Richard Gosling and managers Bruce Lawrie and Tim Edwards denied this.

Smith claimed in court that someone surreptitiously prevented CVS going before a PI where the validity of the service could have been tested.  That PI was ordered to take place and the call-up letter stated that the TC was concerned that the vehicles were not being operated by the licence holder.

The court heard that at the preliminary hearing on 1 February 2012, deputy traffic commissioner Simon Evans was told by the CVS solicitor that Collins had held a telephone conversation with Beverley Bell, traffic commissioner for the North West, about the practice in July 2011. Bell said she could not recall this. It was not convenient for that evidence to be aired at a PI, suggested Smith to the court.

The Vosa investigation, which was ordered by Bell, began in February 2012 and went on for months, claimed Smith. He further claimed that a fairer way to deal with it would be to have told CVS that advice previously given at a meeting in September 2011 at Hillcrest House – that they could carry on unless they heard otherwise – was no longer valid and that if they continued they could be prosecuted.

Instead of the PI, to which the company was entitled, the full force of the criminal law had been brought down on four innocent men, Smith claimed. Collins was not interviewed until November 2012, and not charged until September 2013, some

19 months after the preliminary hearing with the TC.

By Michael Jewell