The security company at the centre of a row about its treatment of unpaid workers was facing fresh questions last night after a minibus carrying 15 of its stewards overturned on a motorway and its driver was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving.
Close Protection UK Ltd, which apologised last week after unpaid stewards for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations were forced to sleep under London Bridge, confirmed that all the people on board the vehicle were its employees and that at least one man remained in hospital with an open fracture of the hand. The minibus, which was taking the group to Weymouth, overturned on the M40 near the Oxfordshire- Warwickshire border at about 3.15pm on Saturday, forcing the closure of the motorway while ambulances ferried all 16 CPUK workers to six different hospitals. The bus, the only vehicle involved, came to rest on its side.
Thames Valley Police said the driver, understood to be in his early 30s, was arrested on suspicion of dangerous driving and document offences. He was released on bail. It is understood that police are trying to establish whether the man held the correct classification on his licence to drive a minibus commercially. The collision and arrest of a CPUK employee will cause fresh difficulties for the Wigan-based company, which blamed a "logistics problem" for the incident which led to staff on work experience being left under London Bridge prior to their shift at the Jubilee river pageant. The company defended its record, pointing out that other stewards had praised its training.
The Independent revealed at the weekend that Molly Prince, founder of CPUK, has a conviction for perverting the course of justice in relation to an assault by two men on a man in Huddersfield in 1994. Ms Prince has said that she now regrets entering a guilty plea on the advice of her lawyer.
Lord Prescott said yesterday he would be writing to Olympics organisers to ask what due diligence was carried out on CPUK before it was awarded a contract, reportedly worth £850,000, to provide fire marshals for the Games.
Ms Prince last night said it had been reported to her that the minibus driver had obtained the relevant driving qualification in 1997, but she was awaiting confirmation from the firm's records. Two men involved in the crash suffered serious injuries while others were "very shook up, battered and bruised".
In a statement to The Independent, released through publicist Max Clifford, Ms Prince said: "Fortunately the motorway was quiet yesterday and no other vehicles were involved. The cause of the accident is yet to be determined. I am awaiting details of full incident reports to be collated. My action immediately on receipt of the news was to deploy three cars to the different hospitals to ensure the welfare of my staff, and ensure safe passage home."
The seriousness of the motorway crash had initially been unclear, she said. "When we heard there had been an incident, we had no idea of the severity... Once the extent of the accident was explained and understood, there was absolutely no question of any of [the stewards] continuing to their event."
CPUK added that procedures put in place after the Jubilee pageant meant it had enough time to send a second team of stewards.