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Addison Lee boss John Griffin could face charges for telling his minicab drivers to use London bus lanes

21/05/2012

The boss of London’s biggest minicab firm could face prosecution for telling his drivers to use bus lanes illegally, it emerged today.

Chairman of Addison Lee, John Griffin, 69, last month told his drivers to deliberately break the law by driving in bus lanes, claiming that it was “discriminatory” to restrict bus lane use to black cabs and not private hire vehicles.

He promised to indemnify his drivers for any fines incurred.

The High Court forced Addison Lee to withdraw the instruction to break the law.

But Labour MP for Dudley, Ian Austin, wrote to the Metropolitan Police to ask whether Mr Griffin’s original instruction broke the law.

Transport for London (TfL) also asked whether any criminal offence had been committed in issuing the instruction, according to the Metropolitan Police.

In a written response to Mr Austin seen by The Times, Met 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 are 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 will now be considering allegations that Mr Griffin’s instruction to his drivers could constitute criminal incitement.

Nick Freeman, the solicitor specialising in traffic and speeding offences known as ‘Mr Loophole’, 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 onto 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, told The Times: “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.”

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