Miles Kington: Mum's the word - confessions of a driving examiner

She drew me aside in an agitated manner, opened her handbag and said that what she was about to propose was very irregular
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The Independent Online

There is a very curious court case going on in London at the moment, in which attempted corruption is alleged to have taken place during a driving test. How can a driving test be corrupt? Well, let us join the trial with the cross-examination of the driving examiner, Mr Oscar Train, and find out.

Counsel: Mr Train, you have conducted many driving tests.

Train: I have indeed.

Counsel: Have you ever been offered a bribe?

Train: Yes, often.

Counsel: How does this happen?

Train: People offer me money.

Counsel: Yes, I know what a bribe is. What form does this take?

Train: Sterling, normally. I was once offered a cheque. I have also been offered euros, but I don't take euros.

Counsel: Do you take sterling?

Train: No. I take nothing.

Counsel: How do people try to bribe you?

Train: What normally happens is that when the pupil hands me his documents, I find a £20 note or two nestling in the pages.

Counsel: What do you do then?

Train: I hand the money back and cancel the test. It would be impossible for me to conduct a fair test, knowing that the person taking the test had offered me money to pass.

Counsel: What do driving examiners call those taking tests?

Train: Smarmy little bastards, generally.

Counsel: Officially, though?

Train: Officially they are candidates.

Counsel: Thank you. So, if a candidate takes the test, unaware that someone else had tried to bribe you, would you cancel the test then?

Train: Well, it would depend...

Counsel: That brings us to the case of Queen v. Mrs Clandon.

Train: I think it does.

Counsel: To the events of 5 July last, at 4 pm, when young Lionel Clandon was due to take his test. Will you tell us of your encounter with his mother?

Train: Certainly. Ten minutes before the test was to start, the other examiners and I were in our office, when a woman who I now know to be Mrs Clandon entered and asked which of us was to test her son Lionel. I signalled that it was I. She then drew me aside in an agitated manner, and said she had heard that many young men failed their first test. I said this was so, though many did not. She opened her handbag and said what she was about to propose was very irregular. I told her if she had any idea of bribing me to let her son pass, she should stop immediately. She said nothing was further from her mind, and that she wanted to ensure that he failed.

Counsel: To fail? But that seems extraordinary...

Train: Quite so. I asked her why she wanted him to fail. She said she had a dreadful presentiment that as soon as he was allowed to drive solo, he would come back home late, having drunk too much, crash and die. I asked her if he was that sort of youth. She burst into tears and said he was her only boy and her treasure and she did not want him to mix with the wrong sort, and then she dried her tears and took three £20 notes out of her handbag.

Counsel: What did you do then?

Train: I said I wished to have no further conversation with her and went to give her son a test.

Counsel: So, was it an uneventful test?

Train: No. The candidate often found himself in a difficult position when a car cut in front of him or pulled out without signalling, very dangerously.

Counsel: You make it sound as if it was always the same car.

Train: It was.

Counsel: Did you recognise the driver of this car?

Train: Yes. It was his mother. Luckily, young Mr Clandon handled the car superbly and there was no accident. Later, we nearly had a nasty moment when a pedestrian ran out on a zebra crossing in front of him.

Counsel: Did you identify the...?

Train: It was his mother. Fortunately, due to the quick reactions of Mr Clandon...

Counsel: Thank you.

The case continues. I am sure I speak for parents everywhere when I wish Mrs Clandon all the very best of luck.