Director disqualified indefinitely from the industry

TC has disqualified Michael Hazell from working in any part of the industry after a number of offences

Michael Hazell, former Director of Exeter-based CM Coaches, has been disqualified indefinitely from holding a PSV O-Licence and from acting as a Transport Manager (TM) by Traffic Commissioner (TC) Nick Jones.

The TC extended the disqualification to prevent Mr Hazell being a Director, shareholder, consultant, manager or employee of any entity holding a PSV O-Licence.

In revoking the 12-vehicle international O-Licence held by CM Coaches with effect from 1 February, the TC said that he would entertain an application to postpone the date to allow time for the grant of a licence to Greenslade Tours (Exeter), a company formed by Alastair Gray, the current Director of CM Coaches.

O-Licences revoked

Mr Hazell had been a Director of Carmel Coaches, whose O-Licence was revoked in June 2014 along with his sole trader licence, and he and his father Anthony were disqualified for 18 months – decisions that were upheld on appeal [routeone/Court Report/12 November 2014].

There was an unsatisfactory maintenance investigation in June 2018 following reports of an undeclared fire on a bus carrying children. In December CM Coaches cancelled its registered bus services in favour of Carmel Coaches.

On 10 December 2018 Mr Hazell, as sole Director and TM, was removed from the O-Licence. A new TM and Director, Alastair Gray, was to be appointed by the purchasers.

Mr Gray was a Director of Hookways from 2006 until the company entered insolvent liquidation in August 2011. He was a director of Hamilton Grays (Devon) from August to November 2011 when its O-Licence was revoked on financial grounds [routeone/Court Report/22 August 2018].

The revocation of CM Coaches’ O-Licence and the three year disqualification of Mr Hazell from acting as a TM by TC Kevin Rooney [routeone/Court Report/7 August 2019], were quashed by the Upper Tribunal on appeal, who directed that the cases be reconsidered by a different TC.

In its decision, the Tribunal said that it did not consider that there was anything wrong in a company with an O-Licence being purchased without physical assets.

There was value in a business registration and in the name of a company which, in the normal course of events, would have goodwill attached to it. In this instance, there was a likelihood of two significant contracts transferring with the sale.

Mr Gray was being advised and was assisted by an officer of CPT. It could not be suggested that there was anything underhand in the acquisition of the company by Mr Gray. It clearly was not a “front” and he had been encouraged to apply for another O-Licence [routeone/Court Report/2 October 2019].

‘Michael Hazell had made some appalling errors of judgement’

Making the disqualification and revocation orders, the TC said that Mr Hazell had made some appalling errors of judgement. It was not clear to him to what extent that was due to what he might have learnt from his father.

He grasped at straws to deflect criticism. While he had demonstrated tenacity, his consistent failure to accept personal responsibility was a concern.

Blaming others did not absolve him from his responsibilities as a TM in a regime whereby he allowed for PMIs to be spread across two different sites and without proper facilities.

Instead of actively listening to DVSA examiners and taking on board constructive and valid criticisms, he had resorted to unjustified personal attacks questioning professionalism and integrity. The way he went about that illustrated his lack of any personal responsibility.

Unfortunately, the instinctive reaction of Mr Hazell appeared to be to appeal, complain or make personal attacks if an adverse suggestion was put to him.

Maintenance regime

The use of a chaotic dual PMI system with inadequate partial checks on different dates did not amount to a satisfactory maintenance regime. For that reason alone Mr Hazell should both lose his repute as a TM and be disqualified as a Director.

He also merited that the unjustified and sustained personal attack on the integrity of an experienced Vehicle Examiner which had patently caused very real harm. The personal impact on others appeared to be of little or no consequence to Mr Hazell.

Ironically the TC referred to a recent case involving a complaint where the Court of Appeal emphasised the need for Operator Licensing to be based on trust.

He did not trust Mr Hazell and his inability to listen to and engage with examiners was such that DVSA examiners might need specialist training and counselling before engaging with him.

His behaviour was incompatible with a licensing regime which required trust and a proper appreciation of road safety. He failed on both counts and merited disqualification on both those grounds.

Retire at ‘first opportunity’

Anthony Hazell was a danger to the PSV industry as he was so grossly incompetent. It was deeply worrying that he was both a Director and a TM for other entities.

The TC was unable to make any order in relation to Anthony Hazell’s position as a TM or make any finding under the Act as no notice was served on him that those were considerations. Nevertheless, it was clear to him that he should retire from the industry at the first opportunity.

The interests of road safety and fair competition justified him asking the DVSA to investigate any entity where Anthony Hazell had an existing involvement.

Mr Gray came across as a credible and truthful witness. He did not make any adverse finding in respect of Mr Gray and he retained his good repute as a TM.

He did not have an issue with Mr Gray being a Director of Greenslade Tours (Exeter) and with that company making an application for a PSV O-Licence.

Due to the history of CM Coaches he would very much prefer that any O-Licence involving Mr Gray be with that new entity without associations with the Hazell family.

Subject to the paperwork and finances having been in place for the necessary period of time, he saw no reason why an application by Greenslade Tours (Exeter) should not be granted as applied for, although he respected that that was a matter for a different TC.