Suffolk: War waged on illegal drivers as nearly 3,700 cars seized

ILLEGAL drivers have had to pay more than �500,000 in the past three years to reclaim their vehicles after they were seized by Suffolk police.

Officers confiscated 3,687 cars, motorcycles, vans and lorries between January 2010 and November 26 this year, from unlicensed or uninsured motorists, according to constabulary figures.

However, only 70 per cent of the vehicles were reclaimed, leaving 1,099 to be scrapped, sold off or cannabalised.

The seizures were made as part of a crackdown codenamed Operation Admiral, which ensures those driving illegally forfeit their vehicles if they are caught without insurance or a valid driving licence.

Anyone wishing to get their property back must pay �150 to the recovery agent which tows them away, plus a �20 a day storage fee.

If a vehicle is not claimed within 14 days the agent is at liberty to get rid of them by scrapping it if the value is below �1,000, or they can sell it on, or use it for spares.

Police have the power under the Road Traffic Act to remove any vehicle from the road if it is being driven by an illegal driver.

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In addition to the cost of paying to get their property returned, the drivers also face fines, penalty points and the probability of a court appearance.

Before the Act came into being police were not empowered to seize the vehicles and there was always the concern they could illegally be driven away again once an officer had left the scene.

Sergeant Julian Ditcham, of Suffolk Roads Policing Unit, said the legislation was a powerful tool in dealing with errant motorists.

“It’s very effective. I don’t think you will find one police officer who will say it’s not. Before this, we were stopping vehicles and reporting people for summons. We were telling people they were not allowed to drive the vehicle and to leave them there. However, as soon as we were gone they could have hopped back in the vehicle and driven away.

“Operation Admiral sends a positive message that if you are driving without a licence or without insurance you know what’s coming - you will have your vehicle seized and you will be prosecuted as well.”