The Court of Appeal has given judgment in what will be the leading case on the statutory test to qualify as a fit and proper person to be registered as an approved driving instructor.
The case of Harris v Registrar of Approved Driving Instructors  EWCA Civ 808 concerned an appeal from the decision of the Transport Tribunal to uphold the decision of the Registrar that the appellant was not a fit and proper person to be registered as an approved driving instructor under the Road Traffic Act 1988. The decision was based on the appellant's undeclared previous convictions, including for a public order offence arising out of his participation in a Fathers 4 Justice protest on the roof of the house of the Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP.
The Court of Appeal concluded that the maintenance of public confidence in the register was important and that if an applicant or registered driving instructor failed to disclose convictions or made a false declaration that he had no convictions, it struck at the heart of the registration process and the reliability of the register. The Court held that in applying the statutory fit and proper person condition the Tribunal did not err in having regard to the appellant's personal qualities including his character, behaviour and standards of conduct.
A second ground of appeal was also dismissed, in relation to which the Court of Appeal held that there was no procedural unfairness in the Tribunal reaching conclusions which were not part of the parties' pleaded cases. It was for the tribunal to make its own assessment of compliance with the statutory condition, irrespective of how precisely the case had been put. Where the general issue on which the Tribunal's decision was founded had been debated at the hearing, fairness did not require the Tribunal's findings to be put in draft to the appellant.
Richard Honey appeared for the Registrar of Approved Driving Instructors in the Court of Appeal, instructed by the Treasury Solicitor.