The chairman of Britain’s biggest minicab firm could face criminal prosecution for instructing his drivers to drive illegally in bus lanes, The Times has learnt.
John Griffin, chairman of Addison Lee, last month instructed his drivers to break the law by driving in bus lanes, promising to indemnify them for any fines incurred and claiming that it was “discriminatory” to restrict the lane use to black cabs and not private hire vehicles.
Though the High Court forced Addison Lee to withdraw the instruction to break the law, Ian Austin, the Labour MP for Dudley, wrote to the Metropolitan Police to ask whether Mr Griffin’s original instruction broke the law.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) confirmed that Transport for London (TfL), the capital’s highways agency, had also asked whether any criminal offence had been committed in issuing the instruction.
In a written response to Mr Austin, Commander Adrian Hanstock wrote: “TfL also asked the MPS to establish whether any offences are apparent arising from Mr Griffin’s directive.
“Mr Griffin’s letter has been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration and the MPS is awaiting the outcome of this legal advice.”
Commander Hanstock also confirmed that TfL had requested that the Metropolitan Police Service Safer Transport Command “actively prosecute any contravention of bus lanes by unauthorised vehicles”, which Commander Hanstock described as a “recognised priority” of road policing units.
An expert said that prosecutors at the CPS would now be considering allegations that Mr Griffin’s instruction to his drivers could constitute criminal incitement.
Nick Freeman, a solicitor specialising in traffic and speeding offences, said: “He is inciting his employees to commit an unlawful act and yes it is unlawful.
“There is a criminal aspect, in terms of inciting someone to commit an unlawful act.”
Mr Freeman added that the letter could allegedly also be actionable under employment law by drivers wishing to sever their employment contract.
He added: “If I was working for him I would leave and say I had been constructively dismissed, because I am being told to do something unlawful by my boss.”
The Addison Lee chairman also provoked criticism last month by claiming that cyclists should expect to be hurt by drivers if they are “throwing themselves on to some of the most congested spaces on the world” and criticised those who are “up in arms about what they see as the murder of cyclists on London roads”.
Ian Austin MP, who is also the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, which has been supporting The Times’s ‘Cities fit for cycling’ campaign, said: “John Griffin might think he is funny, but the police clearly take a different view and given the number of cyclists killed and injured, many people will think it is dangerous and irresponsible for someone in his position to encourage conflict on the roads and tell his drivers to ignore the rules.”
An Addison Lee spokesman declined to comment on the allegations, but said: “It is my understanding that TfL referred [the letter] to the police who referred it to the CPS. We’ve heard nothing back from that. We have withdrawn the letter and have had the judicial review of the bus lanes law brought forward to June, so it has been a success from our point of view.
“The drivers are all self-employed. They don’t have to go through anything special to terminate their contract. It was clear in the letter that it was up to the driver whether they drove in the bus lane and that if the passenger told the driver they didn’t want to use the bus lane, they didn’t have to go in them.”
The Times has been invited to attend Addison Lee’s driver training to assess whether it complies with demands made in the ‘Cities fit for cycling’ campaign about improving drivers’ awareness of cyclists.
Source: the times