Victorian driver trainer boss jailed over false certificates


Training manager who worked at Linfox’s Anglesea Complex gave certificates for payment over six years

Victorian driver trainer boss jailed over false certificates
The judge accepted some mitigation but a custodial sentence was preferred

 

A former heavy vehicle national operations training manager at Linfox’s Anglesea Complex has this month been jailed over the corrupt provision of driver competency certificates.

Victorian County Court judge Elizabeth Gaynor sentenced Michael Harrington, 65, who pleaded guilty to eight charges, to four months imprisonment with 17 months suspended.

Harrington faced one charge of being an agent who received secret commissions and seven of giving a false or misleading receipt or account.

The maximum penalty for each of the charges is 10 years imprisonment.

Harrington had been in charge of a number of assessors at Linfox’s Anglesea Complex, a contracted VicRoads provider and registered training organisation for heavy vehicle training and assessment services.

He was found to have pocketed $28,560 for 25 certificates, though his actions between 2006 and 2012 ultimately involved 309 certificates, with fees not received of $283,500.

He has since repaid $16,000, an amount he believed he had received.

As a result of the certificate fraud allegations, VicRoads was forced to notify and retest 784 people Harrington tested since 2005, when he attained the senior position.

The outcome was:

  • 133 passed the retest requirements
  • 144 surrendered the endorsement category
  • 267 failed to make an appointment and the endorsement was cancelled
  • 117 failed when retested and their endorsement was cancelled
  • 21 failed to attend a booked retest, their endorsement was cancelled
  • nine held an interstate licence
  • seven of those had a licence status which was not current
  • 64 were tested in a higher endorsement category by another tester
  • seven surrendered their endorsement before the investigation
  • 15 Certificates of Competence were never presented to VicRoads for the issue of endorsement.

VicRoads paid for this retesting, which was in turn reimbursed by Linfox Anglesea Complex to the value of $90,000.

The racket unravelled in April 2012, when Linfox Security Group investigators probed heavy vehicle endorsement certificates he issued and identified extreme variance to payments recorded as received over the six years.

Harrington made partial admissions at first to Linfox Internal Investigations but later admitted his role to police, though not the total number of certificates alleged.

Along with an early guilty plea, lack of prior convictions and accepted expressions of remorse, the judge noted very strong character references from Wettenhalls, which had offered Harrington a job following his dismissal.

He worked there for two years from 2012, where management found: "His attitude towards compliance and safety, both on and off the road, throughout this time was commendable."

He was invited back in 2016 when Wettenhalls gained a new contract and the company believes he is "committed to ensuring that the company is well-represented when out on the road and he has an exemplary conduct record during his employment with us".

While acknowledging that that as "an impeccable reference" the judge refused a non-custodial sentence, saying that "this court has seen too many tragic examples of appalling injury and death caused as a result of poor driving by the very vehicles that were the subject of this heavy licensing system that was in place and which you were entrusted to administer".

Despite that, the judge believes Harrington was "not a man who is, in my view, ever going to come before the courts again" an regards "prospects of rehabilitation as excellent".

The five years that the case took to be resolved was also taken into account and was "attributable to the nature of the operation that had to be investigated by police and the vast numbers of persons that needed to be interviewed".

Compensation will be dealt with separately.

The judge also notes that the co-accused in the case, Blajko Nastevski, was dealt with in the Magistrates' Court and received a community corrections order for his offending.

 

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