Illegal number-plates are being caught-out
According to research obtained by click4reg.co.uk 5,395 drivers were either fined, or prosecuted, for displaying an illegal registration plate during 2015. In my experience, the situation tends to be prevalent among car owners, who seek to personalise their standard registration numbers, by adopting spurious logos, alternative fonts and non-standard spacing, usually in an attempt to spell-out something that is meaningful to them but is not always that obvious to everybody else.
The main problem is that certain ANPR cameras have trouble deciphering the non-standard styles and, in some cases, even humans struggle to untangle the numbers. While the situation might lead to traffic offences not being traced, the move can come back to haunt the owner – should the car be stolen, the police will find it trickier to reveal its whereabouts, caused by the recognition cameras being less likely to read the number-plate.
Number-plates, therefore, have to follow a set format and any deviations are not legal for road use. A responsible MoT Tester is obliged to fail a car that wears non-compliant plates. Even if a pass certificate is granted for a car with a non-compliant ‘plate, should the vehicle be stopped by a Road Traffic Officer subsequently, the driver could be confronted with a penalty charge of up to £1,000.
In theory, it should not be possible to buy such number-plates, because all suppliers have to be registered with the DVLA. Yet, some companies sell ‘show plates’, often online, where non-road-legal registration plates change hands, often without any identity checks being made on the purchaser.
If you are considering a replacement, all new number-plates for road cars must comply with the British Standard BSAU45d (this leaflet provides most of the details), which must also be stamped on the bottom of the plate, unless they are to be fitted to a vehicle that is registered in the Historic tax class.