Hey! It’s Only OK When We Do This To The Public!

Debbie Pickford, 45, was driving home, along Leeds Road, Barkerend, Bradford, with her 13-year-old daughter Leah after a trip to the cinema when she was stopped by a police patrol car.

An Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) check showed that the divorcee’s 11-year-old Peugeot 206 was not insured due to a failure by her insurance company to update national records.

Despite her insisting she had a valid insurance certificate at her home in Cullingworth, her car was towed away and she had to pay £150 the next day to get it back.

Her father, as any good father would be, is incensed:

Mr Pickford, 71, said that when he was working, a driver would be given seven days to produce their documents at a police station.

He said: “I am glad we are doing something about illegal vehicles, but it should be for illegal use not legal use. There is a flaw in the system when this can happen to a legitimate driver who has insured their vehicle when it is due and has a new certificate.

I am concerned this could happen to other motorists and I have asked West Yorkshire Police whether they are advising drivers to have their insurance documents with them in their vehicle.”

“It is not something I recommended to motorists as an officer because, if the car is stolen, the thief has all the documents.”

Whoa! Wait! When you were an officer? Yes. Mr Pickford is an ex-traffic cop!

“My daughter was given no opportunity to produce her documents. This can’t be fair. She can ill-afford £150 just because the information had not got from the insurance company to the police computer.”

Why not? You, as a police officer, didn’t exactly speak out about this at the time, did you? You are only fuming now because it’s happened to your family.

Nor are the police in the slightest bit bothered about this:

Chief Inspector Neil Hunter, head of roads policing at West Yorkshire Police, said it was the responsibility of each vehicle insurer to ensure that their records are transmitted to the Police National Computer in good time to enable the police to take effective action in relation to uninsured vehicles.

“It would appear that on this occasion Miss Pickford’s insurers had not transmitted this information to the Police National Computer enabling it to be updated accurately,” said Chief Insp Hunter.

“In view of this reasonable doubt the officers have arranged for a recovery agent to attend and seize Miss Pickford’s vehicle on the basis of the information that they had at that time that it was uninsured.”

And no, she can’t have the money back. She’ll have to get it from someone else:

Chief Insp Hunter confirmed the Force would not reimburse the vehicle recovery fee.

He said: “Miss Pickford was advised that in these circumstances that she may be able to claim for the cost of the vehicle recovery from her insurance company under the provisions of the Data Protection Act, 1988.

“Where an officer has acted lawfully in seizing a vehicle, the VRU are not able to reimburse the statutory recovery cost that is payable to the vehicle recovery agent.”

Gosh. And they wonder why they are increasingly loathed by the law-abiding public as well as by the criminal scum.

11 comments for “Hey! It’s Only OK When We Do This To The Public!

  1. Uncle Nick
    February 12, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    A byline in the T+A (local rag) article, on the day after the main story ran, said that her insurance company had stumped up the £150 and given her another £150 compensation.

    I’m on both sides of this though – I live in BD3 and have to suffer the cost (sky high, let me tell you) of our local population’s attitude towards car insurance, so I can sort of support action against uninsured vehicles on my patch. But the high-handed attitude of plod when it turns out they had a false positive is reprehensible…

  2. February 12, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Familiar story. It doesn’t matter if you have your insurance documents on you. If the database says you are not insured then you are not insured. There’s nothing you can do about it apart from walk home and pay up in the morning.

  3. DP
    February 12, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Dear Miss M

    At the tender age of 71, it may well be that the new ‘fine ’em if they move, fine ’em if they don’t’ and ‘our databases are perfect’ system of instant injustice was not in place while Mr Pickford was a police officer – I think they retire at 55. Possibly he was still serving when the new ‘tougher’ rules started. There is nothing to indicate that he didn’t say anything to his superiors at the time. If he did, someone wasn’t listening between him and the top.

    Situation normal.

    Time we changed the system back to common sense. And sacked every single police officer who has ever abused the system, of which this case appears to be a prime example.

    If Miss Pickford was insured, the officer did not act lawfully because no offence was committed. But the police now routinely kill unarmed men and effectively get away with murder.

    It may have been Miss Pickford’s lucky day.


  4. February 12, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    To be legal on the road you tax, insure and MOT your vehicle, and you pay. When the Insurance company screws up, you pay. When the police screw up, you pay. When the banks screw up, you pay. When service providers screw up, you pay. When Energy providers screw up, you pay. When local authorities screw up, you pay. When ANY government department screws up, you pay!

    I for one am sick of paying for the incompetence of others. Laws are supposed to protect the innocent and law abiding. No longer, for in today’s Britain they are simply to protect the establishment and raise revenue.

    Time for change.

  5. Derek
    February 12, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    This is all part of Blair’s anti car crusade. The enthusiastic way that the police persue drivers shows how much they were politicised during the Blair years. It will take a generation to undo the damage.

  6. Greg Tingey
    February 12, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Too late, now that the Insurance Co has paid out.
    But surely, this action by plod is, erm THEFT?
    And fraud, come to that – it’s obtaining monies by deception, after all.

  7. Stonyground
    February 12, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    What Greg said, theft. Because the insurance company picked up the tab, they got away with it.

    I once got caught out because a works van that was registered to me was caught speeding. I sent a letter explaining that the van is often used by other drivers to run local errands and that there was no way of knowing who was driving. I understand that saying this is a common ruse, but in this case it was genuinely true. There then followed several letters using threats and intimidation to try to persuade me to pay up or to finger someone else. Eventually of course they backed down, but with a very preachy letter and, as Greg says, what they did was attempted theft.

    There have also been cases where people who weren’t speeding have received tickets and have successfully disputed them. How many people have been innocent but just paid up? In a village near to where I live, a mobile speed camera has frequently been deployed when speed limit signs have been obscured by hedges. This is both illegal and immoral.

  8. Mudplugger
    February 12, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    The £150 will have been paid to the recovery operator company, not the Police. (And we won’t look for any kick-backs there, will we ?)

    What the innocent victim should have done was issued a Small Claims Court case – she would certainly win, along with a shed-load of costs and, ideally, some monumental defence cost and embarrasment for Plod, the recoverers and the snivelling insurers.

    If they never feel the ‘pain’ of cost and public humiliation, they will never change their systems. Getting away with just giving her the money back and a bit of extra will change nothing.

  9. February 13, 2013 at 10:36 am

    “Why not? You, as a police officer, didn’t exactly speak out about this at the time, did you? You are only fuming now because it’s happened to your family.”

    Probably because automation happened after he retired.

    Non story



  10. alastair harris
    February 13, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    she was insured. she had a valid contract with an insurance company. Thus removing the car was at best unlawful. Why lie down and take it?

  11. Matt
    February 13, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    A similar thing happened to me about 10 years ago. I presume this was before the days of large-scale ANPR so I can only assume I was pulled over because I was driving an old car (the reasons given were along the lines of “I want to check over your vehicle”). After asking all the usual questions about licence, insurance etc. the policeman got on his radio to “confirm” these details.

    He then told me I was coming up as uninsured. Fortunately he was the more reasonable type of cop and had presumably already come to the conclusion that I wasn’t a troublemaker. I told him I definitely was insured, asking him whether he’d like me to show the certificate at a police station. His reply was along the lines of “No, I believe you. Not everything shows up on the computer system.”

    From the way he said this I got a strong impression it happened regularly. Given the general nature of government IT systems it’s unlikely the situation has improved since.

    A friend recently had to go to court to defend a bogus “driving without insurance” case. The policeman had written down one letter of his registration wrong, so all subsequent checks failed. The magistrate was reasonable and said there was basically no case to answer, however the ensuing bureaucracy resulted in my friend having to take several days leave from work (he’s a contractor so doesn’t get paid leave) for trips between the court and the police station. It seems their system cannot handle the simple case of “someone made a mistake” so nobody knew what to do.

    I said he should be pursuing them for lost earnings and travelling expenses, however he’s one of those people who just wants a quiet life and can’t really be bothered so they’ll probably get away with it.

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