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Police operation nets schoolbus driver who lost licence six years ago
AN Oxfordshire schoolbus driver has been transporting children around the county despite losing his licence for speeding six years ago.
The man was caught during a road safety operation yesterday.
He has been removed from driving duties with immediate effect.
Another schoolbus was also taken off the road after it failed a safety check during the same exercise.
The Oxford Mail accompanied Thames Valley Police on Operation Coachman to check drivers and vehicles carrying students, including schoolbuses, coaches and minibuses.
After taking students and pupils to schools and colleges, the vehicles were trailed and shepherded into Marcham weigh station, off the A34 near Abingdon.
Of the 12 vehicles checked, one driver had a revoked licence and three drivers were warned about failing to display child safety signs at front and rear. One vehicle had a fault with the emergency door which was rectified on site, one driver had an incorrect date of birth on his driving licence, and one schoolbus had a faulty gearbox and had to be towed away.
The county council refused to issue an apology when questioned but said the man with the revoked licence was recruited “late” last year. He had been driving schoolchilden to schools in the Abingdon area.
County council spokesman Paul Smith said: “The driver’s licence had been revoked in 2007 because he had failed to send it off for speeding points. “The police reported to the council that the driver had said he knew nothing about this and was genuinely shocked to be told. The police also reported that they believed this to be a genuine mistake.
“Licences have previously been physically checked either by the council or the agency which had recruited a driver on joining.
“However, that check did not reveal that the licence was invalid. “We have, however, recently introduced an electronic checking system that would be much better at revealing circumstances such as these when new drivers join.
“In this particular case, invalidity of the licence related to an incident in 2007. “DVLA have said that no fine or penalty points will be applied as any that were due have now expired.”
Pc Mark Pilling, who co-ordinated the operation, explained: “We wait until they drop the children off and tail them before bringing them in and giving the bus a going over.
“We look at seatbelts, check the engine and all aspects of safety of the vehicles. It’s a once-a-year thing – we want to make sure our children and students are being safely transported.”
In December a man who admitted perfoming a sex act while driving a bus from Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital to Summertown was then able to get a new job driving schoolchildren.
The county council said Hetherington had an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check dating from 2011 from a previous employer, but it did not carry out a new check which could have flagged up his arrest.