Parnham Coaches of Wiltshire closes

Drivers were in tears after it was announced Parnham Coaches of Ludgershall, Wiltshire, is to enter voluntary liquidation.

Director, Ray Parnham, made the decision after suffering a considerable loss of business as a result of a driver found to be secretly videoing up school children’s skirts using a hidden camera onboard one of Parnham Coaches’ vehicles.

The offending person in question was employed by the operator on two separate occasions. The first round of employment saw him work on school services, before driving for another company. When he returned, he did tour work. It was not until he departed the company for a second time that Hampshire County Council flagged its suspicions of abuse and made investigations. Ray explained to the Council the driver no longer worked for him. The police then made contact to notify Ray that the legal entity of Parnham Coaches was under investigation in relation to the council’s investigation into the driver.

Following this, Hampshire Council withdrew all of the operator’s school contracts. Wiltshire County Council followed suit. Hampshire County Council also wrote to other education establishments and private schools, warning them not to make use of Parnham Coaches.

The driver found to be recording inappropriate footage of children received a custodial sentence for his actions.

Ray said: “The situation left us in an untenable position.” In the first year following the loss of contracts, Ray reported the business had to lay-off 18 drivers.

Ray said: “We lost around £100,000 of revenue through it and I’ve spent a lot on lawyers to get nowhere with it. We have struggled to keep our head above water for the last two years. I’m 67 and just don’t want to do it anymore; it’s my time to pack-up. Everyone I have spoken to has told us we have been treated terribly. But once you have lost your repute, it’s an up-hill struggle. It’s 45 years of hard graft basically nobbled by one individual driver.

“I’ve had drivers that were with me for up to 27 years. Drivers were in tears basically when I told them we were closing. They were shocked, they didn’t want to leave. They said if I started up again they would come back.”

Ray has now got planning permission to build a housing estate on the land his depot occupies.

Assisting Ray in the case was CPT’s South Western Regional Manager, John Burch, who said: “I’ve known Ray a long time and know Parnham to be a fine operation. To hear these DBS issues, I was absolutely flabbergasted. I know Ray was absolutely stunned.”

He continued: “The problem occurred because the DBS check is only as good as the day it was conducted. Almost as soon as they are checked, almost anything can happen. Local authorities work on a three-year basis with DBS. But when CRD morphed into DBS a number of things changed, one of which was a new facility, a new updating service. The system adds applicants to the database and automatically notifies their employer if there is any change to their records in relation to DBS. It works a bit like the OCRS system.

“I would advise it is important to make it a condition of employment to subscribe to the update service. Ray did not know the service existed. I have discussed this with others in my South Western area and very few knew it existed either.

“CPT got involved with Parnham with this in late 2016. We took over their DBS checking and took on the up-dating service for them, putting Ray’s drivers all through their contracts again to make it mandatory they participate in the updates.”

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