Oxfordshire County Council: Prosecution of Bus Drivers under the Conduct Regulations

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Dear Oxfordshire County Council,

S24(2) of the Public Passengers Vehicle Act 1981 makes failure to comply with the Conduct Regulations a criminal offence "liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale" (£500) "and, in the case of an offence by a person acting as driver of a public service vehicle, the court by which he is convicted may, if it thinks fit, cause particulars of the conviction to be endorsed upon the counterpart of the licence granted to that person under Part III of the Road Traffic Act 1988 or, as the case may be, the counterpart (if any) of his Community licence".

The Conduct Regulations refer to, amongst others, The Public Service Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Inspectors, Conductors and Passengers) (Amendment) Regulations 2002. These include the following requirements:

"Where a wheelchair user wishes to board or to alight from a Schedule 1 vehicle, a driver and a conductor shall first safely deploy (subject to regulation 15(1) (duties requiring the proper functioning of equipment)) any boarding lift, boarding ramp or portable ramp in its correct operating position.

"Where a wheelchair user wishes to board or to alight from a Schedule 1 vehicle and requests assistance to do so, a driver and a conductor shall provide assistance to him."

It is therefore a criminal offence for a bus driver to fail to operate a ramp when a wheelchair user indicates he or she wishes to get off the bus.

Buses with wheelchair spaces have special buttons that indicate that a wheelchair user requires the ramp to be fitted. These make an unignorable siren noise and light a special light on the driver's dashboard. This is a clear indication that "a wheelchair user wishes to board or to alight from a Schedule 1 vehicle" and so any driver failing to deploy the ramp is committing a crime punishable by a £500 fine and an endorsement on their license.

Yet such crimes are frequent. I am aware that one London resident wheelchair user alone has recently had this happen to him on over 70 separate occasions; many of which he has supplied video evidence for - e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aU9I8mJB... . I have no reason to suppose that such incidents do not occur in your area. An occasional slip by a driver may be understandable (though I think that's debateable given the siren noise and the light!) but the frequency of this occurence makes it clear that this is a systematic failing.

I want to know please:

1) How many drivers in your area have been prosecuted for failing to operate the ramp in such situations in the past year?
2) How many complaints have you had about drivers' failure to comply with their criminal duty to operate the ramp in the past year?
3) How do you ensure that drivers' crimes in this specific are punished according to the law?
4) How many times do you give warnings to a driver before prosecuting them or instigating such prosecutions?
5) What impact does such prosecution have on a driver's career?
6) Please supply your procedure for identifying, reporting and prosecuting drivers that have committed this crime.

S11 of the same Conduct Regulations places the following criminal obligation on drivers.

"(2) If there is an unoccupied wheelchair space on the vehicle, a driver and a conductor shall allow a wheelchair user to board if—
"(a) the wheelchair is of a type or size that can be correctly and safely located in that wheelchair space, and
"(b) in so doing, neither the maximum seating nor standing capacity of the vehicle would be exceeded.
"(3) For the purpose of paragraph (2), a wheelchair space is occupied if—
"(a) there is a wheelchair user in that space; or
"(b) passengers or their effects are in that space and they or their effects cannot readily and reasonably vacate it by moving to another part of the vehicle."

I am aware of multiple occasions in which bus drivers have failed to comply with their criminal law duty to allow wheelchair users to board the bus, sometimes even failing to stop at the bus stop, when the wheelchair space is unoccupied or where the wheelchair space is occupied but the passengers and their effects could potentially readily and reasonably vacate it by moving to another part of the vehicle. This is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of £500 and an endorsement on the driver's license.

Please provide the following information in relation to this crime.

7) In the last year, how many drivers in your area have been prosecuted for failing to allow a wheelchair user to board even though the wheelchair space is physically empty?
8) In the last year, how many drivers in your area have been prosecuted for failing to allow a wheelchair user to board even though passengers and/or their effects in the wheelchair space could readily and easily move to another part of the bus?
9) In the last year, how many drivers in your area have been prosecuted for failing to allow a wheelchair user to board, without the driver investigating to determine whether passengers or their effects occupying the wheelchair space could reasily and easily vacate it by moving to another part of the vehicle?
10) How do you ensure that drivers' crimes in this area are punished according to the law?
11) How many times do you give warnings to a driver before prosecuting them or instigating such prosecutions?
12) What impact does such prosecution have on a driver's career?
13) Please supply your procedure for identifying, reporting and prosecuting drivers that have committed this crime.

As a comparator, please tell me:

14) How many bus drivers in your area have been prosecuted for other criminal offences committed whilst driving, for e.g. speeding, jumping the lights, stopping in boxed junctions and similar, in the past year?
15) What is the impact on drivers of such prosecutions?

Thankyou

Yours faithfully,

Doug Paulley

FOI - E&E, Oxfordshire County Council

Dear Mr Paulley,

 

Thank you for your request of 14 March 2017 in which you asked for
information about Oxfordshire County Councils prosecution of bus drivers
under the conduct regulations.

 

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FOI - E&E, Oxfordshire County Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Paulley,

 

Please find attached our response to your Environmental Information
Request. 

 

Kind Regards

 

E&E FOI/EIR Co-ordinators

 

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