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Cloned number plates warning as cyclist injured in hit-and-run "in limbo" 10 months on

With "no further lines of inquiry" the police investigation has been closed, Stephen Mead frustrated that the driver who left him with fractures to his arm and leg has not been traced...

A cyclist seriously injured in a hit-and run and his solicitor have warned of the dangers of motorists using vehicles with cloned plates to avoid accountability, making it more difficult for the police to trace.

Stephen Mead was left with fractures to his arm and leg after a head-on collision in Stotfold in Bedfordshire in January. He was wearing a hi-vis jacket and had lights on his bike at the time, Rita Alsoof — a solicitor from Irwin Mitchell telling the BBC — it is "particularly distressing" that the driver's vehicle had cloned plates meaning he "fled the scene selfishly" and has not been traced.

The 59-year-old says he has been "stuck in limbo" for the 10 months since, Bedfordshire Police saying that the investigation into the incident had been closed due to there being "no further lines of inquiry".

Mr Mead was struck by the driver of a silver Ford Galaxy or S-Max with the cloned plates YP17 HZK, an act which involved duplicating or stealing an existing number plate in order to avoid detection from Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras or for other roads and parking offences.

The hit-and-run happened on Common Road in Stotford at around 16.30 on 2 January, Mr Mead saying he will "never forget the image of the car coming towards me".

"I thought it was going to slow down and stop for me to get past, but it didn't," he said. "I tried to get up onto the kerb but it was too late and I went flying over the bonnet. Someone who saw the crash said they thought the driver was speeding, but I can't remember.

"I'm now back at work but I find I can't do as much as I used to. It frustrates and upsets me, but thankfully I have a very supportive team."

In the "incredibly difficult" weeks after the collision, and recovering from fractures to his arm and leg, Mr Mead was reliant on his partner for basic day-to-day tasks such as washing his hair or getting dressed. 

"I'd be grateful if anyone who has any detail about that day to come forward. At the minute, I'm stuck in limbo and I need some answers to be able to properly move forward with my recovery," he added.

His solicitor is aiding a compensation claim and added: "What's particularly distressing for him is that the driver, who had cloned registration plates, fled the scene selfishly and without consideration to the trauma they've caused Stephen."

Bedfordshire Police commented: "Any investigation that has been closed can be reopened if further evidence comes to light."

In February, we reported that an 18-year-old cyclist had been seriously injured in an incident police described as an attempted murder and a "senseless act of violence", the driver using a car with cloned number plates which was later abandoned.

And in 2019, a road.cc reader told us of how they had been told by the Metropolitan Police that the driver caught on camera knocking him off his bike could not be traced due to cloned plates.

Mr Mead's appeal comes to a backdrop of calls from former Metropolitan Police chief Lord Hogan-Howe and lawyer Nick Freeman asking for cyclists to be required to display a number plate in a bid to tackle "dangerous" and "entirely unaccountable" riding.

Lord Hogan-Howe raised the issue in the House of Lords last week, while Freeman received a lukewarm reception on Jeremy Vine's Channel 5 show this morning, one panellist calling it "the worst idea anyone came up with" before a caller branded it "completely daft and impractical".

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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24 comments

Avatar
mikewood | 7 months ago
2 likes

With the number of ANPR cameras around the country it must be really easy in the current era of BIG DATA that cloned plates could be spotted really easily if the Police cared to look. Pings too far apart without time to move that distance should be really easy for AI to spot!

I would get pissed off with getting stopped every day by the Police but at least I'd know they were looking for criminals using cloned plates if they'd used mine however, even that would be easy to spot with some thought to the process.

Google knows where a lot of us are and were at any time, so proving who was where or wasn't where should be very easy with the massive amount of ANPR data generated

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HoarseMann | 7 months ago
1 like

Bedfordshire are one of these forces that hide behind the GDPR. At least in this instance they told the victim they would be doing nothing more. This is a reply I got from a recent submission (no cycling involved, it was on a motorway), which sounds like they're going to do something. But then that's what Northants said for a submission I made earlier in the year, only for me to recently find out it was 'cancelled, out of time'.

Dear Sir/Madam 
 
Thank you for the submission of your footage, we have now reviewed the footage and will be taking the most appropriate positive action, in relation to the incident you have reported.  
 
If this matter escalates to court we will be in touch, please keep your footage of this offence for 6 months. 
 
Due to the Data Protection Act 2018, we are unable to provide you further details. Further information about the Data Protection Act can be found at https://www.gov.uk/data-protection  
 
Yours Sincerely  
Digital Evidence Team 
 
DET – DIGITAL EVIDENCE TEAM 
Camera, Tickets, Collision Unit 
Operational support  
Bedfordshire Police, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Constabularies 

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cmedred | 7 months ago
7 likes

Is this how Bedfordshire Police handle things when someone is injured by a bullet from an unregistered firearm, or is there a double standard when it comes to the dangerous weapon in play on the roads?

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eburtthebike | 7 months ago
7 likes

That's funny, I was expecting a comment from Nick Freeman about how drivers are always accountable: unlike cyclists.

I've had two incidents with cloned/false plates, and had witnesses for  both, but both times, the case was dropped.

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Jimmy Ray Will | 7 months ago
5 likes

It's a surprising approach by the rozzers, simply closing the case. 

As already commented, here we have someone on the loose, guilty of committing two serious criminal offences. 

Now the Police know the plates are cloned, you get the legal plate owner new plates and you leave an active alert on the old cloned plate. 

To be fair, you can't prove that a cloned plate owner drove the vehicle that hit the cyclist, but you can prove that they are driving on illegal plates should they turn up on one of those number recognition thingies. 

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mitsky replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 7 months ago
5 likes

Agreed, You can't prove the cloned plate owner drove the vehicle at the time of an incident.
But the same system should apply: "give the details of the driver at the time or face prosecution yourself".
And that would be on top of having a vehicle with cloned plates, of course.

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chrisonabike replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 7 months ago
3 likes

Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

It's a surprising approach by the rozzers, simply closing the case.

Surprising to whom?  Not to cyclists in Scotland ("We asked the driver, but they said they couldn't remember").  Nor those served by WMP (was it - per the one yesterday about not pursuing electric scooters because "they were on the road illegally anyway, so ... (shrug)".  Nor those in Lancashire - apart from a case being opened in the first place.

TBH finding the police taking an interest in anything to do with road law would seem to be the exception, going on what appears here / the behaviour seen on the roads?  And indeed any theft up to and including a motor vehicle.

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grOg replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 7 months ago
1 like

Highly unlikely that the driver of the vehicle using cloned plates would continue to use those plates after the accident; far more likely that the cloned plates were disposed of, maybe with different cloned plates being used now.

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Jimmy Ray Will replied to grOg | 7 months ago
1 like

Whilst I don't doubt you are right, I can't help but think that rather than disposing of the plates, the plates will simply be sold on to some other unsuspecting low level criminal. 

Therefore still valid to keep active in the database. I should imagine the reason that the rozzers don't do this is that the sheer numbers would choke the system and effectively stop them apprehending more serious offenders. 

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wtjs replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 7 months ago
1 like

It's a surprising approach by the rozzers, simply closing the case

Not surprising to Lancashire cyclists. OpSnap Lancs just ignores everything, but doesn't seem to be able to stop the report being given a reference number, so you just never hear anything about any of them. The Lancashire Constabulary DoItOnline portal allows you to pass information to the police about absent MOT/insurance/VED for years- there's no special section for moving traffic offences because they expect all those to go to OSL. They don't seem to be able to just ignore reports at DoItOnline- presumably they're flagged as 'in progress', so they have to 'close' them. In practice, an un-named officer closes them immediately.

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mitsky | 7 months ago
8 likes

I had this close pass which the Met police issued an NIP for:
https://youtu.be/eLZItGi5xuA(link is external)

They then found that the plate was cloned so closed the case saying they couldn't trace the vehicle/driver.
I queried why they did so given they had TWO reasons (close pass AND illegal use of vehicle) to want to nab the criminal but got no response.

As almost all motor vehicles (except EVs) need fuel, I have often suggested that all petrol station CCTV systems should be linked to a police database.
That way any wanted vehicles could be flagged at the petrol station when the driver pays, nowadays with a card rather than cash.

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Secret_squirrel replied to mitsky | 7 months ago
7 likes

mitsky wrote:

As almost all motor vehicles (except EVs) need fuel, I have often suggested that all petrol station CCTV systems should be linked to a police database.
That way any wanted vehicles could be flagged at the petrol station when the driver pays, nowadays with a card rather than cash.

The problem is false positives.  By definition the poor clonee will show up just as often as the cloner.   The solution is to have the clonee's number plate re-issued by the DVLA but that would require a joined up process.  I suspect it would also uncover lots of associated criminality too however...

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mitsky replied to Secret_squirrel | 7 months ago
1 like

The false positives would be cancelled as the legal owner would be able to prove they are who they are.
The criminal is the one who will get flagged up by the system.

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Rendel Harris replied to Secret_squirrel | 7 months ago
3 likes

Secret_squirrel wrote:

The problem is false positives.  By definition the poor clonee will show up just as often as the cloner.   The solution is to have the clonee's number plate re-issued by the DVLA but that would require a joined up process.  I suspect it would also uncover lots of associated criminality too however...

Issue driving licences with a chip containing details of vehicles registered to that licence holder, has to be swiped before any fuel can be pumped. Not only would that mean people with cloned plates wouldn't be able to get fuel, it could also hold details that would stop unlicensed, uninsured and disqualified drivers being able to get any either. If lending a vehicle to someone else a temporary permission for them to buy fuel for that vehicle could be added to their licence through a simple online system, in much the same way as one can purchase visitor parking permits in CPZs.

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hawkinspeter replied to Rendel Harris | 7 months ago
4 likes

Rendel Harris wrote:

Issue driving licences with a chip containing details of vehicles registered to that licence holder, has to be swiped before any fuel can be pumped. Not only would that mean people with cloned plates wouldn't be able to get fuel, it could also hold details that would stop unlicensed, uninsured and disqualified drivers being able to get any either. If lending a vehicle to someone else a temporary permission for them to buy fuel for that vehicle could be added to their licence through a simple online system, in much the same way as one can purchase visitor parking permits in CPZs.

That's going to be tricky to implement for company vehicles that can be driven around by any number of people. It also shifts the legal compliance issue onto petrol stations who have absolutely no interest in whether car drivers have the right vehicle or not - they just want to sell fuel and that system would involve them selling less fuel.

The best answer is for traffic police to do the job they get paid for. They could set up one position with ANPR and vehicle database (possibly with some AI to determine matches or not) and a position further down the road to stop and question the flagged vehicles. It's not a difficult problem - it just requires the political will.

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NOtotheEU replied to hawkinspeter | 7 months ago
2 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

 

The best answer is for traffic police to do the job they get paid for. They could set up one position with ANPR and vehicle database (possibly with some AI to determine matches or not) and a position further down the road to stop and question the flagged vehicles. It's not a difficult problem - it just requires the political will.

They always seem to manage to track, chase and stop cloned vehicles successfully when the Police Interceptors cameras are there. I guess it keeps the public believing they actually care when unfortunately we know they really don't.

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momove replied to hawkinspeter | 7 months ago
0 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

It also shifts the legal compliance issue onto petrol stations who have absolutely no interest in whether car drivers have the right vehicle or not - they just want to sell fuel and that system would involve them selling less fuel.

We make banks and landlords check the immigration status and the right to work of every one of their customers.

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hawkinspeter replied to momove | 7 months ago
1 like

momove wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:

It also shifts the legal compliance issue onto petrol stations who have absolutely no interest in whether car drivers have the right vehicle or not - they just want to sell fuel and that system would involve them selling less fuel.

We make banks and landlords check the immigration status and the right to work of every one of their customers.

So, how's that working out?

Does it ensure that unscrupulous landlords can cram loads of immigrants into single rooms and also that the immigrants have to get cash-in-hand jobs and so end up not paying tax? Seems like it encourages abuse.

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wycombewheeler replied to Rendel Harris | 7 months ago
1 like

Rendel Harris wrote:

Secret_squirrel wrote:

The problem is false positives.  By definition the poor clonee will show up just as often as the cloner.   The solution is to have the clonee's number plate re-issued by the DVLA but that would require a joined up process.  I suspect it would also uncover lots of associated criminality too however...

Issue driving licences with a chip containing details of vehicles registered to that licence holder, has to be swiped before any fuel can be pumped. Not only would that mean people with cloned plates wouldn't be able to get fuel, it could also hold details that would stop unlicensed, uninsured and disqualified drivers being able to get any either. If lending a vehicle to someone else a temporary permission for them to buy fuel for that vehicle could be added to their licence through a simple online system, in much the same way as one can purchase visitor parking permits in CPZs.

go further, a chip reader in all new cars, engine will not start without the driving licence being presented, car remembers who was driving for 28 days if required.

disqualified drivers, can't drive, unlicenced? can't drive.

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ooblyboo | 7 months ago
1 like

This is becoming a real issue. Recently bought replacement plates for my car online and the security checks seemed relatively comprehensive but when I had them fitted at the local garage, the owner handed the old plates back and asked me to dispose of them because the local garages have a problem with being broken into and having old sets of plates they have taken off cars being stolen and then presumably either sold or used for nefarious purposes.

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Backladder replied to ooblyboo | 7 months ago
3 likes

You can still buy blank plates and stick on numbers, they are not legal for road use but if you're cloning a plate would that really bother you?

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ooblyboo replied to Backladder | 7 months ago
1 like

Didn't know that was possible but most likely not, no. Too many loopholes in the current system it seems. Number plates aren't fallible after all. Who knew? Still, cyclists should have them etc...

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NOtotheEU replied to Backladder | 7 months ago
1 like

Saw this the other day and Googled it when I got home. Could be from Guernsey but thats not a symbol they use so not 100% sure.

EDIT; On first reading it I thought you'd written 'black' not 'blank' . . . Oh well. 😂

 

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brooksby | 7 months ago
11 likes

But that can't be right?  Haven't we been told over and over again that registration plates are The Answer??

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