Cloned Plates, a Warning!

police car

I recently represented a client facing a speeding allegation; following a referral by a solicitor specialising in speeding work. His car had allegedly been photographed (by a Gatso) speeding in a 30 mph zone. The solicitor said the client denied speeding there on that day or any other day: indeed he’d never been to that part of the country! It followed that the number plate must have been “cloned” by a criminal. A criminal will “clone” a plate (i.e. have it copied and put on his car) to avoid identification. The first thing you might know is when you start to receive NIP’s (Notices of Intended Prosecution) from parts of the country you’ve never heard of, let alone driven through!

If a criminal is going to “clone” your plate he will make sure his car is the same make, model, and colour as yours. However, the criminal forgets that your plate is likely to have, in small lettering, the name of the garage. It is unlikely that he will have gone as far as to ensure that the name of the garage is on the “cloned plate! This is important because the photographs from Gatso’s are often of staggeringly good quality. In the speeding case I dealt, with for my solicitor, the police had gone to the trouble of blowing up the images, on the advice of the prosecuting solicitor dealing with the case. However, the garage name had been obscured by mud. In addition, the police had travelled to the other side of the country to interview my client and, at the same time, take the opportunity to photograph his car!

This case makes clear that sometimes, and quite properly, a prosecuting solicitor is prepared to go to these sort of lengths to attempt to secure a conviction. It should be borne in mind that better images might show other features of the car consistent with the prosecuting solicitor’s case that this was not a “cloned” number plate on an unknown car but the actual car being driven by the person in the dock!

Now my client was telling the truth but some people, of course, make up stories about their number plates being “cloned”. They may not get away with it in court as the magistrates’ don’t believe their story.”So what” you might say “somebody tried it on and didn’t get away with it. That’s true but if a person runs this speeding defence and is caught out lying then he also runs the risk of the prosecuting solicitor taking steps to have him arrested and interviewed under caution on suspicion of attempting to pervert the course of justice. If there should be sufficient evidence, in the view of the prosecuting solicitor, then he will be charged and sent to the Crown Court. If he pleads guilty there or is found guilty, then he is very likely to be imprisoned, even if a man of previous good character!

QUESTION: What would any sensible person prefer, 3 to 6 penalty points or three to six months in prison? A bit of a “no-brainer” really!

My advice, as ever, to any client, is always tell the truth. Making up a story and telling lies just isn’t worth the risk!