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No hiding place for overseas penalty dodgers

Date: 20 November 2007   |   Author: Hugh Hunston

Drivers from overseas are to be tracked down and compelled to pay parking, bus lane and congestion charge fines as the Government seeks a solution to "invisible" car, van and lorry drivers who run up 700,000 unpaid penalties annually.

The DVLA, through new legislation under the Local Transport Bill, will be able to contact foreign agency counterparts to gain names and addresses of registered owners of non-UK registered vehicles.

Local authorities currently have to abandon prosecutions against foreign drivers with the result that 350,000 fines, valued at nearly £13 million, go unpaid in London each year with roughly the same volume outside the capital.

Bill Blakemore, head of Sparks, the Cross Border Civil Traffic Enforcement organisation, warned that councils would still have difficulty enforcing penalties even if they identify the drivers.

His group is advocating a pan-European system of enforcement orders under which officials could be authorised in one country to collect fines levied in another.

He described a "hard core of foreign drivers who deliberately flout the law largely because they are invisible to the system. This provision is welcome because it makes it much easier to trace them and recover the penalty".

Blakemore calculates that one-third of persistent evaders drive foreign-registered vehicles and claims that one in eight of foreign vehicle owners entering the London congestion charge area do not pay the levy. His organisation maintains that 8% of HGVs on UK roads are foreign registered and that category of traffic has trebled in recent years.