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DVLA Sells Off Registration Plates That Drivers Can Illegally Personalise
The DVLA has been accused of encouraging drivers to break the law after selling off vehicle registration marks that could easily be altered to spell out words.
At a three-day auction last week, the Government agency raised more than £3million from 'personalised' plates including BAR 111Y, which could be simply altered to spell BARMY, BLA 573R (BLASTER) and LOU 115A (LOUISA).
Road safety groups and motoring organisations say the value of the number plates depends on alterations being made to the numbers and letters.
But DVLA rules ban even the slightest modification to licence plates and private registration plates with offenders facing a fine and failed MoT test.
Earlier this year the DVLA and police forces even launched a crackdown on modified plates because they were being used by unscrupulous motorists to dodge speed traps and the London Congestion Charge.
Some of the highest prices fetched at the sale at the Haycock Hotel in Wansford, Cambridgeshire, were for AHM 5D (AHMED) and ARA 814N (ARABIAN) which went to telephone and internet bidders for £6,000 and £3,000 respectively.
The top price of £102,200 was paid for the plate 6 B. Buyers have to pay approximately 25 per cent on top of the hammer price in VAT and fees.
Other plates on sale included THE 571G (THE STIG - the anonymous racing driver on Top Gear), BES 780Y (BEST BOY), EA57 HAM (EAST HAM), 701 LET (TOILET) and 0007 DBS - which might appeal to Aston Martin-driving James Bond fans. About 200 people were in the hotel ballroom on Wednesday to see the first 550 lots go under the hammer.
But the only warning that altering characters on the plates was illegal was in the small print of the auction catalogue, which read: 'If you intend purchasing a registration to misrepresent it on a number plate, we would prefer you did not buy.' Sheila Rainger of the RAC Foundation said there was a 'clear inconsistency' in the DVLA's behaviour.
And Andrew McGavin, founder of the Better Driving Please website, added: 'It is ludicrous for the DVLA to be taking part in enforcement programmes one moment and then encouraging tampering the next by selling plates whose value will be immeasurably increased by slight changes to their format.'
Brian Gregory, chairman of the Association of British Drivers, said: 'The DVLA is being two-faced. Selling number plates which invite alteration is nothing more than a money-spinner.
'On the one hand they offer you the opportunity to buy a plate which spells out a favourite name or word and on the other they land you with a £1,000 fine.'
The DVLA holds around six auctions of its most valuable plates each year and the sales have raised up to £1.3billion for the Treasury since 1989.
Income so far this year is £87million, with the DVLA keeping £14million to cover the costs of the sales. A DVLA spokesman said: 'Our sale of marks scheme is very popular and generates revenue that is able to be spent on other Government services.
'DVLA makes it very clear that registration marks must be correctly displayed. There are a very small minority of motorists who misrepresent their numbers and enforcement measures are in place to tackle this.
'However, this should not spoil the enjoyment of the majority of motorists who abide by the laws.'