Oct 14 2008 Steve Hughes
Blind eye turned to personalised registration scandal
A blind eye is being turned to the illegal use of personalised number plates because the DVLA does not want to damage its revenue-raising cash cow.
This is the claim of the pressure group, Better Driving Please, which says that the DVLA has failed to act on more than 16,000 cases of number plate tampering reported to it by the police.
The DVLA regularly promotes the release of new registrations that it says can be made to look like words or names, which has raised an estimated £1.3 billion for the Treasury since 1989.
However, by law all letters and numbers must be of a single font, spaced correctly and not made to look like something else by the strategic positioning of screws or other modifications.
If plates are illegally altered, the police notify the DVLA, which warned drivers a few years ago that it would arbitrarily withdraw them, thereby rendering the vehicle unusable.
However, according to information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the DVLA has acted in this way just 22 times in nine years despite receiving more than 16,000 reported abuses from police.
Andrew McGavin, founder of the Better Driving Please website, says: ``The DVLA is scared to punish offenders because it is making so much money from the sale of plates.''
The DVLA says that rather than withdrawing offending plates, it writes to some drivers but according to Mr McGavin the letters are ignored.
In addition to the twice-yearly release of new registrations, the DVLA also holds regular auctions of registrations dating back many years that can be made to look like words.
The registrations are held in the DVLA bank until such time as they become topical, which enhances their value.
The most recent was the release of selected F-prefix registrations that raised almost £3.5 million in just one day.
Other recent releases include registrations aimed at specific groups, including 2 GAY and V551 NGH.
Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter and a host of other annual highlights have all been the subject of special releases plus plates aimed at sporting superstars, such as Great Britain 800-metre Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington, with the obscure plate R800 GBR.
The DVLA even cashed-in on the rugby Six-Nation's success by rushing out a batch of Welsh-themed plates including WEL 5H and CY51 MRU plus BAN 90R and MEG 44N, which could be made to look like BANGOR and MEGAN by making alterations to the numbers 9 and 4.