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'Driving instructor' who had failed exams avoids jail

The prosecution said learner drivers were duped by an unqualified instructor Photo: PA WIRES

A woman who touted her services as an officially qualified driving instructor despite having failed some of the relevant examinations to be fully qualified as one, has been spared jail time.

Tina Cloke, aged 47, from St John's Road in New Romney, had 'quite a high failure rate' among her pupils. The mother-of-four took payment for the lessons although she had repeatedly failed to pass all the elements of the three-part approved instructor test - her 'trainee licence' subsequently expired.

One of her student drivers had handed over £2,000 for lessons.

Cloke admitted six charges of fraud at a hearing at Maidstone Crown Court last month, involving a sum of £3,740. On Thursday 8th June when appearing for sentencing at the same court she was given a sentence of 32 weeks in prison suspended for 18 months. The judge also decided not to ban Cloke from driving.

In addition to the suspended sentence Cloke must carry out 75 hours of unpaid work, and do a rehabilitation activity - as instructed by the probation service.

"Miss Cloke made herself out to be a qualified driving instructor entitled to charge money for driving lessons when, in fact, she was not qualified because she failed to meet the required standard,"

– Prosecutor Catherine Donnelly at a previous hearing

Cloke applied to be an approved instructor in October 2011, but failed various sections of the three part test. She successfully took some parts. However, prosecutor Catherine Donnelly said that Cloke failed exams three times in January, March and September 2013 - meaning she had to start the whole process again.

She resat and passed part one of the examinations at the third attempt. She passed part two in July 2014. However according to Miss Donnelly, after that Cloke did not submit another application for a trainee licence, nor was one issued.

“... But she was taking young people out giving them driving lessons when she was not authorised to do so. Some gained valid licences, some didn’t. She had quite a high failure rate.

“The gravity of this offence was that she was charging money. If you hold yourself out as a driving instructor and charge money, there is a presumption you know what you are doing.

“Parents of the young need to know they are safe. That is paramount. It is a breach of trust. They thought they were employing somebody who was qualified.”

– Prosecutor, Catherine Donnelly

Although she admitted six counts of fraud, Miss Cloke denied participating in a fraudulent business. The prosecution accepted that denial and that single charge was ordered to be left on the court's files.