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Met Police say they can’t act on hit-and run driver due to cloned plates

Incident on King’s Road was captured on dashcam with footage submitted to police

A road.cc reader who obtained dashcam footage of an incident in which he was left with cuts and bruises after he was knocked off his bike in South West London by a hit and run driver has been told by police that they cannot take action against the motorist because the vehicle involved had cloned registration plates.

The cyclist, Phil, told us: “I was knocked off my bike while commuting home on 12 August, on King’s Road where it crosses Beaufort Street, heading westbound.

“There are two lanes for westbound traffic, the left is for left turn and straight ahead, the right is straight ahead only.

“I was in the left hand lane, heading straight over with a green light and a clear road ahead. As I approached the junction the car which was in the right lane suddenly indicated left as he began to move but rather than turning left, he stopped diagonally across the left hand lane immediately in front of me leaving me no time to react and I went straight into the side of the car, smashing the wing mirror with my arm and going over the bonnet onto my side in the road.

“The driver then turned and fled the scene. The driver in the white van behind me followed the car and took the photo of the number plate then came back to see me.

“The video is from a driver who was in eastbound traffic, I can be seen approaching on the right side of the screen.”

Phil told road.cc that he had decided to submit the footage to us “the police have come back saying that they have come to the conclusion that the number plates have been cloned and therefore aren't pursuing it any further.

“It seems all you need to do is use someone else's registration plate and you can go around freely running people over,” he added.

“Perhaps with some media attention, they may look into it further.”

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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27 comments

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Bmblbzzz | 4 years ago
3 likes

That and the absence of roads policing, of course. 

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Bmblbzzz | 4 years ago
5 likes

The root of the cloned plates problem is IMO that it's so easy to make UK-style registration plates. It's just a bit of plastic with letters and numbers that can be made by anyone. Unlike most countres, which restrict the production of (proper) plates to a government source and incorporate anti-fraud devices such as holograms. 

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OldRidgeback replied to Bmblbzzz | 4 years ago
1 like

Bmblbzzz wrote:

The root of the cloned plates problem is IMO that it's so easy to make UK-style registration plates. It's just a bit of plastic with letters and numbers that can be made by anyone. Unlike most countres, which restrict the production of (proper) plates to a government source and incorporate anti-fraud devices such as holograms. 

It's fairly easy to make fake UK plates. You can tell if you look closely quite often but not from standard CCTV equipment.

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Paul J replied to Bmblbzzz | 6 months ago
0 likes

Hmm, I don't know of any country myself that has hard-to-produce plates.

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Sriracha replied to Paul J | 6 months ago
1 like
Paul J wrote:

Hmm, I don't know of any country myself that has hard-to-produce plates.

Number plates (UK) are not like bank notes, difficult to forge. As far as I know, there is no law against manufacturing your own plate if you have the skills and facilities, but whoever makes the plate it must conform to spec, and you are on a Scout's Promise that it's your number.

Given that so many motorists sport obviously non-conforming plates, or even no plate at all, and yet the Police don't trouble them, it's no surprise that they are emboldened to do what ever they like with regards number plates. The Police are effectively complicit, so it is galling when they then shrug their shoulders and say the can not pursue the criminal.

In Germany, once you have your number plate made you must return to the vehicle inspection authority with the paperwork to prove your entitlement to the number, whereupon they issue a validation sticker to attach to the plate - I understand that bit is difficult to DIY.

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ktache | 4 years ago
7 likes

The broadly law abiding drivers who for example have no insurance?

Or VED?

Apparently a lot more drivers "forget" to renew the VED now that there is no in car disc.  A wheze by Osbourne to save a bit of money that has cost millions.

 

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Rick_Rude | 4 years ago
6 likes

What's the problem here Mr. Police? 

Flag the number up for ANPR, establish where the real owner lives and then get the clone when it appears on the roads elsewhere. 

But.....can't be arsed?

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Jetmans Dad replied to Rick_Rude | 4 years ago
6 likes

Rick_Rude wrote:

What's the problem here Mr. Police? 

Flag the number up for ANPR, establish where the real owner lives and then get the clone when it appears on the roads elsewhere. 

But.....can't be arsed?

How widespread do you think ANPR is?

And the clone is not always elsewhere ... I had a car (same make and model as mine) driving around with my registration number earlier this year, in the same city where I live. Came to light when I started getting parking tickets through the door for times the car was sitting in the school car park outside my classroom window. The local council meter maid took a dozen very clear high-res photos as evidence of one instance of illegal parking, which made clear it wasn't mine as it was black where mine is blue. 

If the city was covered with ANPR cameras there might have been half a chance of finding the car (or me of course), but it isn't, and as a result it has never been  traced. 

And, given that in the midst of all that, whoever was driving had an "accident" which the victim reported to my insurers, I imagine the plates were quickly switched. 

Policiing in this country leaves a lot to be desired, especially on the road, but let's not oversimplify what they are up against just to throw around cheap shots. 

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Sriracha replied to Jetmans Dad | 4 years ago
3 likes
Jetmans Dad wrote:

Rick_Rude wrote:

What's the problem here Mr. Police? 

Flag the number up for ANPR, establish where the real owner lives and then get the clone when it appears on the roads elsewhere. 

But.....can't be arsed?

How widespread do you think ANPR is?

And the clone is not always elsewhere ... I had a car (same make and model as mine) driving around with my registration number earlier this year, in the same city where I live. Came to light when I started getting parking tickets through the door for times the car was sitting in the school car park outside my classroom window. The local council meter maid took a dozen very clear high-res photos as evidence of one instance of illegal parking, which made clear it wasn't mine as it was black where mine is blue. 

If the city was covered with ANPR cameras there might have been half a chance of finding the car (or me of course), but it isn't, and as a result it has never been  traced. 

And, given that in the midst of all that, whoever was driving had an "accident" which the victim reported to my insurers, I imagine the plates were quickly switched. 

Policiing in this country leaves a lot to be desired, especially on the road, but let's not oversimplify what they are up against just to throw around cheap shots. 

Since you didn't answer the question you posed:

"Police ANPR cameras 

"The police’s ANPR cameras are certainly busy: constabularies are required by national guidelines to erase ANPR data after storing it for 12 months, and the 6,094 cameras operated by the 31 police forces that provided data following our requests (some declined on security grounds) carried out 10.1 billion number-plate scans in 2018, with those scans resulting in 201 million hits on vehicles of interest."

https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/car-news/106295/exclusive-the-uk-s-anpr-ca...

So dividing the 10 billion scans by the approx 40 million registered vehicles gives 250 scans per vehicle/year (roughly 5 every week). Obviously there is a distribution curve, but even so, I think the police could have a shot at finding the perp. Or, how is all the investment in surveillance justified?

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quiff replied to Rick_Rude | 4 years ago
0 likes

Rick_Rude wrote:

What's the problem here Mr. Police? 

Flag the number up for ANPR, establish where the real owner lives and then get the clone when it appears on the roads elsewhere. 

But.....can't be arsed?

I have a lot of sympathy for the cyclist, and it is of course frustrating when you are a victim of crime that little seems to be done. My plates were cloned last year, but in my case they actually stole the plates off my car, so while I had an annoying bill and the inconvenience of having new plates made, at least I was able to report the theft before my plates were involved in any offences. But if there are no serious offences (mine for example were involved in one traffic contravention), how much resource do you think the police can reasonably expend? Yes, in theory it's as simple as flagging the number on ANPR, but you still need someone to respond when ANPR 'pings'. There is also of course the likelihood that those using cloned plates know they're on borrowed time before the owner realises and reports the clone, and so they use them for a matter of days before ditching them, making it very difficult for police to find them, even if the offences warrant it.        

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burtthebike | 4 years ago
0 likes

Phil, it's your own fault the police won't act; you should have been an important person, like a pedestrian for instance.

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Mybike replied to burtthebike | 4 years ago
0 likes
burtthebike wrote:

Phil, it's your own fault the police won't act; you should have been an important person, like a pedestrian for instance.

Or another motorist

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Mybike replied to burtthebike | 4 years ago
0 likes
burtthebike wrote:

Phil, it's your own fault the police won't act; you should have been an important person, like a pedestrian for instance.

Or another motorist

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Mybike replied to burtthebike | 4 years ago
0 likes
burtthebike wrote:

Phil, it's your own fault the police won't act; you should have been an important person, like a pedestrian for instance.

Or another motorist

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StraelGuy | 4 years ago
2 likes

It does happen. My late grandmother (who lived in the north-west as the rest of the family do), in her mid-80s at the time,  once got a visit from the police to see if she'd committed an armed robbery in London .

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burtthebike replied to StraelGuy | 4 years ago
13 likes

StraelGuy wrote:

It does happen. My late grandmother (who lived in the north-west as the rest of the family do), in her mid-80s at the time,  once got a visit from the police to see if she'd committed an armed robbery in London .

I bet she never let you borrow the car again.yes

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Sriracha | 4 years ago
0 likes

How do the police know the plates are cloned? Only by having contacted the real registered owner and having ascertained that it could not have been them (because they can prove they were elsewhere, probably live miles away anyhow, etc).

At which point the duped driver will be telling them of all the other traffic infractions that they keep getting accused of, the unpaid congestion charges, parking tickets, etc. And the police response to them must be the same; suck it up.

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Ratfink | 4 years ago
0 likes

Surely since that's a box junction TFL must have a camera there, were they contacted to see if you can get an image of the driver?

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Sriracha | 4 years ago
4 likes

Oh, no wonder there are so many cloned plates! Had the driver been otherwise law abiding, but transgressed here by accident, he might have been prosecuted. But having, malice aforethought, set out to flout the law, he gets immunity from police attention. Tough choice!

And to say it's too difficult to police numberplates - they don't even try. Every day on my short commute I see at least one "smoked" obscured set of number plates. They are all but impossible to read other than right close up. I can only wonder at their purpose and the attitude they bespeak of the driver.

And yet they are a doddle to spot, could not be easier for the police to prosecute - just pull 'em over and impound the vehicle until the owner calls to collect bearing the correct legal plates. Revist the registered address at random a few more times thereafter. Not interested.

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srchar replied to Sriracha | 4 years ago
2 likes

Sriracha wrote:

Oh, no wonder there are so many cloned plates! Had the driver been otherwise law abiding, but transgressed here by accident, he might have been prosecuted. But having, malice aforethought, set out to flout the law, he gets immunity from police attention. Tough choice! And to say it's too difficult to police numberplates - they don't even try. Every day on my short commute I see at least one "smoked" obscured set of number plates. They are all but impossible to read other than right close up. I can only wonder at their purpose and the attitude they bespeak of the driver. And yet they are a doddle to spot, could not be easier for the police to prosecute - just pull 'em over and impound the vehicle until the owner calls to collect bearing the correct legal plates. Revist the registered address at random a few more times thereafter. Not interested.

It's becoming increasingly common for cars to either not have plates fitted at all, or have non-GB plates despite the car being right hand drive. Why would you fit Bulgarian or Romanian plates to a right hand drive car, except to make it harder to identify the vehicle?

And regarding the ANPR network, it seems to me that it is only really effective against broadly law abiding drivers whose cars wear the correct plates. It can't tell if a car is being driven dangerously, if the occupants just look a bit slaggy or if the plates are cloned.

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Xenophon2 replied to srchar | 4 years ago
3 likes

srchar wrote:

It's becoming increasingly common for cars to either not have plates fitted at all, or have non-GB plates despite the car being right hand drive. Why would you fit Bulgarian or Romanian plates to a right hand drive car, except to make it harder to identify the vehicle?

And regarding the ANPR network, it seems to me that it is only really effective against broadly law abiding drivers whose cars wear the correct plates. It can't tell if a car is being driven dangerously, if the occupants just look a bit slaggy or if the plates are cloned.

 

I don't know about the UK but over here for the countries mentioned (BG and RO) it doesn't take long at all to identify to whom such a car is registered, the process is more or less automated.  Of course, the request needs to be initiated, that's a different matter.  Finding the person in the UK is, again, a different matter.   In Belgium, ANPR is widely used for enforcement purposes:  ANPR-vans with a couple of police/customs patrol down the road.  If you get flagged (e.g. if there is a suspicion of cloned license plates due to complaints from the legitimate owner of the plates or if there are any outstanding fines) you get pulled over by a customs/police motorcycle and then it's a matter of paying up on the spot or the car is seized and auctioned off 2 weeks later.  Getting caught with cloned plates =  to traffic court with a probable outcome = car confiscated and sold, one year driving ban, psychological assessment and new driving tests,  a fine of multiple 1000 + 3-6 months watching the telly at home with an ankle band and never venturing out or you get to serve the time in the big house.  But it all starts with enforcement, if nobody checks then nothing will help.

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iandusud | 4 years ago
0 likes

It's a shame that the car behind didn't follow the perp and tell the police where he parked up.

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cdamian | 4 years ago
2 likes

Certainly weakens the argument for license plates on bikes.

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Hirsute | 4 years ago
3 likes

But how was the bike ?

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ktache | 4 years ago
1 like

According to John "catching wrong'uns" Thompson, the Police Interceptors have told him that there are an estimated 1 million cloned vehicles out there.

That and 1 in 10 uninsured.

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brooksby replied to ktache | 4 years ago
6 likes

ktache wrote:

According to John "catching wrong'uns" Thompson, the Police Interceptors have told him that there are an estimated 1 million cloned vehicles out there.

That and 1 in 10 uninsured.

But that can't be right...

We are constantly hearing how cyclists should all be registered and insured and pay road tax, just like motorists all do, so we're all accountable and the world will become a utopia filled with kittens and care bears and unicorns.

And yet stories like this, and stats like the one you've quoted, imply that may not actually be the case. Hmm.

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giff77 replied to ktache | 4 years ago
5 likes

ktache wrote:

According to John "catching wrong'uns" Thompson, the Police Interceptors have told him that there are an estimated 1 million cloned vehicles out there.

That and 1 in 10 uninsured.

Once caught up in a discussion regards cyclists and insurance I casually commented that the police reckon there is over 1million uninsured vehicles whic logically means a similar number of unregistered (non duty paid); non MOT’d vehicles on the road. Not to mention the sheer numbers of unlicensed drivers.

I then delivered the coup de grâce and pointed out that there were less than 1million per day regular cyclists most of whom were licensed drivers who also owned cars which were totally and legally covered. 

I’m still waiting for a response that goes beyond but but but. 

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