At Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on October 25, Gloucester MP Richard Graham (Conservative) called for a change in the law to place ADIs under the same restrictions on sexual relationships with students as currently exists for school and college teachers.
He asked the Prime Minister Theresa May:
“It is a criminal offence for those, such as teachers, who are in a position of trust, to have sexual relationships with young people under 18. However, a constituent came to me recently distressed about exactly such a relationship between his 17-year-old daughter and a middle-aged driving instructor.
‘While – if consensual – that is not illegal, I am concerned about the possibility that young drivers might be at risk of being groomed by predatory instructors.
‘Does the Prime Minister agree that driving instructors are, by the nature of their work, in a position of trust, and should be covered by the same rules as teachers? If so, will she ask the relevant Minister to work with me on the issue?’
The Prime Minister Teresa May responded
“I am concerned to hear about the constituency case that my hon. Friend has raised. I recognise the position, and the role that driving instructors play. I will ask the appropriate Department to look into the matter, and to get in touch with my hon. Friend to obtain further details of that case.”
Mr Graham’s question was a good one (somewhat unusually for PMQs, in my opinion!) Does this mean an early change to legislation to criminalise sexual relationships between ADIs and pupils under 18?
I think that is highly unlikely, considering that simply changing the Part 3 exam contents has been caught up in all sorts of legislative red tape and that the Driving Instructors (Registration) Act 2016, which received the Royal Assent some 18 months ago (this is the legislation that would allow re-entry to the register within four years of removal subject to passing a fitness test [Standards Check] rather than having to re-take Parts 1-3 again from scratch) shows no sign whatsoever of being enacted anytime soon.
Perhaps, rather than bogging down parliament with another piece of legislation, the ADI Registrar will take a stronger line on what is considered ‘inappropriate’ conduct for a driver trainer.
While the ADI Code of Practice, agreed by the ADI organisations in NASP with the DVSA, is not compulsory for ADIs, its contents clearly set out what is best practice.
The section on personal conduct includes these clauses that the instructor agrees to:
- at all times behave in a professional manner towards clients in line with the standards in the National standard for driver and rider training [Create a climate that promotes learning – how to set clear guidelines for acceptable behaviour within the learning environment.]
- avoid inappropriate physical contact with clients
- avoid the use of inappropriate language to client
- not initiate inappropriate discussions about their own personal relationships and take care to avoid becoming involved in a client’s personal affairs or discussions about a client’s personal relationships, unless safeguarding concerns are raised
- avoid circumstances and situations which are or could be perceived to be of an inappropriate nature
The exact nature of what is acceptable behaviour and what might be described as inappropriate in the case of the question raised by Richard Graham MP would be simply resolved if the driving instructor were a school teacher; in such a case he/she would very likely end up barred from teaching for life.
As that legislation does not apply might the ADI Registrar, in cases such as the one highlighted by Richard Graham MP, decide that a middle-aged trainer having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student is inappropriate behaviour and remove the ADI from the register on the basis that they have ceased to be ‘fit and proper.’