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Gloucestershire Business News

Gloucester driving instructor sentenced to suspended prison term

A Gloucester-based driving instructor has been sentenced to a suspended 14-month prison term and ordered to pay compensation and court costs totalling £5,575 for failing to renew his legal certification.

At Gloucester Crown Court Alan Wiltshire, 68, of Howard Street, admitted six charges of obtaining payments from four students and two companies giving driving lessons when he was not entitled to do so.

Felicity Hine, prosecuting for the Driver and Vehicles Standard Agency, told the court that Wiltshire had been approved as a driving instructor in February 2017 and his certificate expired at the end of February 2021.

"On August 4, 2020, he was sent a letter advising him that his certification was due to expire in six months and he needed to go through the process of renewing," said Ms Hine.

"Wiltshire failed to respond to this request and a letter was sent to him on March 1, 2021, stating that it was now illegal for him to provide driving tuition for reward.

"But this didn't stop Wiltshire as he still accepted payment from two companies and at least four individual students to provide driving tuition.

"Young people applied for driving lessons believing he was fully certificated, as did the two companies.

"The driving test centre manager noticed that he was still bringing candidates forward for testing, as did a driving examiner.

"When challenged he pointed to a poster on the wall stating that he could face a fine of £1,000 and replied 'What are you going to do about it? Sue me?'

"He was told that the poster information didn't apply to him and he was in a worse situation."

The court was told that the Agency had made numerous attempts to interview Wiltshire and on one occasion he withdraw and said he needed to get legal representation.

The court was told that Wiltshire was in a position of trust which only stopped when he was caught and his fraudulent activity was discovered.

Steven Young, defending, said that Wiltshire had been working in the music industry for most of his life. He was employed by Nimbus, but when the company was liquidated in 1991 following the death of Robert Maxwell's Mirror Group, he lost his job and set himself up in business buying and selling French Horns.

"However Wiltshire became involved with alcohol misuse issues and was diagnosed with a number of mental health problems throughout his life. He also dabbled in buy to let properties, but for various reasons this enterprise failed with repossession proceedings ongoing," said Mr Young.

"Wiltshire didn't renew his driving instructor certification because of his financial issues and other matters he needed to have his position checked with the Disclosure and Barring Service. But this didn't happen before the expiry of his driving instruction certification.

"Wiltshire continued to receive payment for providing tuition and was astonished to receive a summons to the magistrates' court. It was only then did he realise the position he was in and he sought legal advice and duly entered his guilty plea.

"It was a lack of understanding that led to his criminality. He did not realise the consequences of what he was doing. He was rather naïve about the whole situation."

Wiltshire admitted defrauding four students out of £3,477, £1,072, £500, and £150 by charging them for lessons after March 1, 2021. He also admitted obtaining fees fraudulently from two companies.

The judge, Recorder Malcolm Gibney, told Wiltshire: "Luckily the four students didn't lose out as they went on and passed their driving tests. Their position was not compromised by the instruction you gave them.

"But you made a conscious decision not to renew your driving instructor certification and finalise it, because of the delays in obtaining a DBS enquires.

"You knew exactly what you were doing and when you were challenged you showed a cavalier disregard for your offending.

"Driving instructors are there to set a good example and set the driving standards of the next generation so they can lawfully drive on the road. You undermined the trust the public have in driving instructors by the approach you took.

"I am at a loss to understand the lack of co-operation in this prosecution by the two companies involved and how it was they did not pick up on the fact you were no longer qualified."

In sentencing Wiltshire to a prison term of 14 months, suspended for two years, the judge ordered that he complete 100 hours of unpaid work, attend 10 rehabilitation activity requirement days and pay compensation of £1,575 to his victims and court costs of £4,000. He was given six months to pay.

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