contact point to register illegal number plates

richard czaplinski made this Freedom of Information request to Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was successful.

richard czaplinski

Dear Sir or Madam,
some drivers amend their number plates so that they resemble their name or a favoured topic. we know that this is illegal.
therefore, why hasn't the DVLA a contact point either via the internet or phone whereby we the public can report any incidents of this crime so that action may be taken against these law breakers.

Yours faithfully,

FOI FOI, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency

Dear Mr Czaplinski,

Thank you for your e-mail of 7 August requesting information about a DVLA contact point for reporting illegal number plates. This was requested under the Freedom of Information Act but is being dealt with under business as usual.

The main purpose of the registration number plate is to enable a vehicle to be readily identified. It is an offence to alter, re-arrange or misrepresent the characters in a way that makes it difficult to distinguish the registration number. Offenders are liable to a maximum fine of £1,000. To provide the police with a practical and effective means of enforcement, number plate offences are included within the fixed penalty system. DVLA does not accept reports of illegal number plates from the public, as the vehicle must be seen by the police on the public highway to establish that an offence has been committed.


FOI Team

show quoted sections

Dear Sir or Madam, some drivers amend their number plates so that
they resemble their name or a favoured topic. we know that this is
illegal. therefore, why hasn't the DVLA a contact point either via
the internet or phone whereby we the public can report any
incidents of this crime so that action may be taken against these
law breakers.

Yours faithfully, richard

Disclaimer: This message and any reply that you make will be
published on the internet. Our privacy and copyright policies:

Is [DVLA request email] the wrong address for Freedom of Information
requests to Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency? If so please let
us know by emailing [WhatDoTheyKnow contact email] - we'll make sure
future ones go to the right place.

show quoted sections

Michael McCarthy left an annotation ()

Thanks Richard for raising this issue. I've often thought that accident victims might be very puzzled to decode number plates with inverted, reversed, fragmentary or oddly-spaced characters, especially in cases where motorists fail to stop.
It might be worth following this up by asking the police to disclose how many prosecutions for semi-illegible numberplates they have brought since more personalised plates became available, and how many more vehicles they estimate are still driving around with hard-to-decode registration plates.

Peter Grant left an annotation ()

Strange that they would not accept photo-evidence - their other departments are quite happy to accept photos as proof of illegal activity.

RTW left an annotation ()

Also very strange that the DVLa, Police and Ebay seem happy to allow people to advertise number plates on ebay asking for £10,000 for a plate that only says what the seller is advertising if it is diplayed illegally.

Eric Coates left an annotation ()

*I am as surprised as Richard Czaplinski that the very straightforward procedure of reporting licence plate abuse is not readily welcomed by DVLA and police alike.
Many drivers must be avoiding traffic enforcement cameras both intentionally and consequentially by doing this. The black false, usually unnecessary, fixing screw between to 1s to make an H is a common abuse) Do enforcement cameras pick this up? How is that even rogue parking enforcers and private individuals can obtain owner details from DVLA and issue often legally unenforceable penalty notices that frighten victims into paying yet the DVLA will not pass on reported licence plate abuse to the police?

Mr Greensmith left an annotation ()

It's also the case that illegal number plates relate to vehicles that have other illegal activity happening around them, like no insurance and other more serious crimes like burglaries. It's not right that the police will not take this information, let alone the DVLA. Especially in circumstances when the vehicle is parked up and the driver sat within it. All seems a bit backwards sometimes.

Norman Palmer left an annotation ()

Hi Richard

This is a practice that has irritated me for a long time now .I think that one solution after reading through previous annotations and answer's to them would be for
1) the DVLA to allow the public to report these illegal number plates
2) "flag" these up on their system.
3) This "flag" would automatically trigger in police vehicles fitted with vehicle numberplate recognition systems ( just as uninsured vehicles are )
This would give the police a heads up on these illegally plated vehicles and may lead to further vehicular transgressions

Mr Greensmith left an annotation ()

I am wondering how they would verify such reports? You wouldn't like to be stopped on your way to work just because "someone" said you have an illegal number plate.

Mr Parker left an annotation ()

Some illegal vehicle registrations plates are obvious even to the untrained eye, especially with regards to outrageous spacing. But there are those who appear to be quite genuine like J70 JN but in fact it should read J7 OJN. These lists are endless, I just hope in the case of accidents the Police step-up a gear and prosecute. After all, the law is the law and it's not even time consuming and a bounty of up to £1000 for doing what?

tracy sears left an annotation ()

Quick note for all,

The number plate or the vehicle registration number is owned by the dvl a, if you abuse the numbering and lettering system then they have the right to recall it.

My advice to anybody who has an issue with these plates is very simple, you will dial non emergency police number 101 and report the plate as "illegible" this will be marked on the vehicles index, and when the police have any reason other than the number plate being incorrectly spaced to stop someone, it would automatically flag up on the police computers, especially traffic units.

C W Critchley left an annotation ()

The DVLA's response says that the offence has to be witnessed by a police officer...

What? What does that mean?

That if a crime has been committed and not witnessed by a police officer, then no crime has been committed!

Ok everybody, simply fill your boots.

Mal Nicholls left an annotation ()

One reason why DVLA will not take action is that they make millions by selling these numbers. I clocked an illegal number this morning took the details and paid a visit to my local police station. I was told to contact the DVLA and report it.
Then I realised that I have a camera in my car continually recording all action. I told the police this and they said that this could not be used as it violates personal privacy. The police do not have time and no one else seems to be interested. Probably a lot of MP's or their wives have number plates displayed illegally hence no action.

Lewis left an annotation ()

Whichever Police officer indicated it was a Privacy Policy issue is incorrect. The law in the UK permits the taking of photos of anything and anyone that can be seen from a public place. IE: you can stand on a road anywhere and take a photograph and nobody can do a thing about it, unless you are specifically taking photographs of children. Several cases reported in the National press of Police officers getting into trouble, by attempting to stop photography, has made this fact more open to the public.

Andrew Watson left an annotation ()

Absolutely agree about everyone's right to take photos in public places - except there's no general exception for photographing children. Provided you are not causing a nuisance, you are free to take a photo of anyone or anything in a public place, and that includes any child.

Two specific exceptions are (a) if you are on private land, and the owner has specifically forbidden photography or (b) if the photo of a child is indecent.




Ken Wightman left an annotation ()

I appreciate that some "personalized" plates have characters altered to resemble letters, eg 7 being modified to look like the letter I, and bolts are used to make 11 appear to be H, and that these changes can make it difficult to determine what the actual plate number really is.
I have a neighbour, however, that has the registration
M1 KET and he has moved the space two places to the right so the plate reads MIKE T. Although illegal, the alteration has made the plate eminently more memorable - in a "hit and run" scenario, an eye-witness would be more likely to recall that the plate read "mike t" rather than "M1 K something... I think it was an F or an R or it could have been an E... I don't really remember..."
I suspect (and hope) that police on patrol would use their common sense and discretion and not bother chasing down illegally spaced numbers that are still clearly readable, as in the example above, and focus their attention on those in which the characters have been obviously modified.
In my opinion, personalized number plates are displayed by most drivers as an innocent way of personalizing their motor cars, and not to elude detection in the commissioning of a more serious crime...
Thanks to Richard Czaplinski

C W Critchley left an annotation ()

Why would you want to 'personalise' your vehicle?

Normanl54 left an annotation ()

Just seen a vehicle that has added another letter and it read A55 5AAB the car was a a Saab checked it out on the "is it taxed site " no such number exists - but drop one of 5's and hey presto it does , surely this must have been spotted at some time by police , etc ?

myles left an annotation ()

I completely agree with the person who said personalised number plates become easily memorable. Someone I know has edited their number plate with black bolts to go from Dr 11 msd and Dr 11 msh (two pretty unmemorable plates) to drums h and drums d. I'll never forget your plates now. I just wish I could report you.

Mel left an annotation ()

There's a car near us that belches out so much black smoke that you can't read the numberplate unless you're right up close (and then you're choking!). Anyone know if that's something illegal? Apparently the environmental agency don't accept reports of private vehicles emissions, but I wondered about the 'can't read the numberplate' issue as an alternative way of reporting it.

I M Bennett left an annotation ()

A vehicle in Ellesmere Port has a misrepresented plate, including a stylised, irregular font for the first two characters (and illegal spacing) so that E3 ENN appears as BENN. This plate is being used illegally on a Cheshire West and Chester licensed taxi (licence number 1053) that therefore does not correspond with the description on the taxi plate. I see this as further evidence of the local council's poor regulatory enforcement and the DVLA's "see no evil" policy whilst making a fast buck... (The police DO have more important things to do!)

k a sampson left an annotation ()

With regard to this being nothing more than personalising your car, it is still an offence. Why do people think it's ok to disregard the laws as they see fit, when other people don't.
In that case why not bother not wearing a seatbelt, as it's only myself who will come unstuck if I go through the windscreen, or not bother paying car tax etc.
Yes I do have a personalised number plate that conforms to the law !

John Grafham left an annotation ()

Interesting thread, as I agree that number plates should aways confirm. My main annoyance is that an illegal font or incorrect spacing may not be readable by ANPR or speed cameras. This would mean that the driver may escape prosecution for speeding or other offences. Or do the cameras still recognise them?

Paul Evans left an annotation ()

The act of altering number plates by individuals in order to satisfy egos or other unknown purpose seems to be epidemic.
This issue has caused me concern for some time particularly because the enforcers of the law seem to be ignoring the issue.
Over the last six weeks when going about my business I have photographed any number plate that crossed my path that appeared to flaunt the law.
Today I saw three, and tonight checked them against the DVLA' website 'check if a vehicle is taxed'.
Guess what? Two of the three plates have no records held by DVLA.
As it appears the authorities dismiss concerns from members of the public in relation to these illegal acts, I'll carry on keeping records until I have accumulated a reasonably large number to prove the point of the effort when I use the FOI process. It is certainly unacceptable.
Thanks Richard.

Tony left an annotation ()


I was a Traffic Police Officer for 20 yrs. The act of deliberately altering, moving spaces,inserting wrong colour screw fixings changing fonts that are not standard is illegal full stop.

I used to work in a section where the DVLA contacted us to go and speak to owners of dodgy plates and get them to have them re-done in the correct format OR risk losing them with no compensation or payment from the DVLA.
The DVLA OWN all registration marks. member of the public only have the right to display one when the vehicles registration details (vin numbers etc) have been submitted for registration.

The DVLA in extreme cases would re-coke the registration number and prosecute the car owner. So basically I suspect unless the law has changed dramatically that the DVLA respondent was once again protecting their investment of millions of pounds in plate sales as we all remember them advertising them misspelt back 20 yrs ago (hmm they do not do that now do they? )

The DVLA DO have the power to follow up on such complaints and it does not ned to be reported to the police much like Vehicles Excise Duty is all covered under a specific act relating to DVLA procedure and requirements on motorists The number plate marking is NOT covered under the Road Traffic Act 1988 or any amendments it is in effect an Excise related offence.

Writers are quite correct in their ideas that those displaying such wantonly altered plates are very likely to have faults with their vehicles, no insurance, no mot's etc, bald tyres. The very act of doing something which they all know is illegal (I have never stopped and spoken to someone with an illegal plate who claimed he thought it was legal) seems to have an attraction all of its own.

A point to note is that it is illegal for a garage who these days are regulated by the DVLA themselves to knowingly produce a plate that they would know has the incorrect spacing or italics etc, etc, often you with find that these so called "show plate" do not have the applicable BS AU number stamped on the plate. However you can imagine someone buying a £59 K range Rover and driving it away from the dealers with dodgy plates must have had the co-operation of the main dealer to put on his dodgy plates.

A widespread abuse of simply regulations. Not entirely criminal but you can see what it leads up to?

Mr Parker left an annotation ()

As a law-abiding motorist with a non-date registration plate I find it frustrating to say the least, how some individuals miss-represent their car registration plate. I have reported numerous such sightings with known addresses to both the DVLA and the Police. Neither are interested in bringing these individuals to task, even with a bounty of up to £1000. What makes matters worse, now with the advent of digital road tax, you can't even check the tax disc to note the correct registration. I've given up

I am the agent for the fictional strawman that was created with the name Kenneth Heskin left an annotation ()

Tony. Please quote us the "Law" that you refer to. I don't want acts or statutes. If something is "Illegal" then a "Law" must have been broken.

I am the agent for the fictional strawman that was created with the name Kenneth Heskin left an annotation ()

Tony. Typical ex copper response..."those displaying such wantonly altered plates are very likely to have faults with their vehicles, no insurance, no mot's etc, bald tyres"
Lets see some evidence of your wildly innacurate claims.
Or is it just pure nonsense?

Colin L. Hughes left an annotation ()

You would hope that ANPR cameras would sound an alarm if the number plate was not deciphered by the camera.