The first prosecutions for drivers who attempted to evade prosecution for speeding and red light offences linked to so-called NIP-farms have made it to the courts.
In July, Greater Manchester Police announced that a simple two-bed terraced house in Oldham had become one of many sites where a prolific nationwide “scam” was taking place, where driving offences were being pinned on fictitious people in an attempt to make the tickets “go away”.
After eight months on investigation into the NIP farms, so called for the Notices of Intended Prosecution issued to drivers suspected of speeding or running red lights, the registered keepers of the involved vehicles have been hauled before the courts to answer for failing to provide information to the police – a charge which carries a statutory six penalty point punishment, enough to see new drivers have their licence revoked.
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Greater Manchester police started prosecuting 126 vehicle keepers in phase one of the action against those who had allegedly used the service, with hundreds of NIPs coming back from the same address, listing fictitious people as the driver of a vehicle so the real driver could evade justice for their actions.
Of these, 78 admitted or were found guilty of the offence, with the remaining 48 cases, including 15 businesses, needing to come back to court for case management hearings. Several people had initially pleaded not-guilty, but after being faced with the evidence against them, many changed their plea to guilty.
Police prosecutors Mike Arden and Claire Cleary were at Stockport Magistrates Court to prosecute a number of cases against people who are believed to have used the NIP farms today, August 19, with a number of businesses handed hefty fines for failing to provide the police with the correct information. Although several people admitted to handing the NIPs over to someone who told them they could make the prosecution “go away”, some insisted they had not intended to do anything wrong.
Muhammed Shahid, 22, of Kearsley Street, Oldham, told the court that he had sold the Peugeot 208 which had run a red light on January 24 of this year just two days before the offence, and had sent the log book off through the post to notify the DVLA of the change in keeper. When he received the letter relating to the offence, he “naively” passed it to the new registered owner instead of filling it in himself.
The NIP was returned to police listing an address which had used on 139 previous forms in the two years prior to the offence, and police determined the nominated driver was a fictitious person and pursued Shahid for failing to provide details of a driver. He was fined £472, ordered to pay a £47 surcharge, and £90 in costs before being given six points – enough to have his new licence revoked by the DVLA.
Andy Yates, appearing on behalf of Andy Yates Solutions Ltd., told the court that one of his former sub-contractors, whom the company had since parted ways with, was driving the Ford Transit spotted doing 37 in the 30mph Princess Road on February 22 this year, and he had passed the form onto the ex-employee to fill out. However, Yates claims the former employee filled it out incorrectly, listing a fictitious person living at the same address as the fictitious driver of Shahid’s old car.
When the new prosecution letter came through, Yates stepped up to take responsibility for failing to ensure the form was filled out correctly, in what chair of the bench Rachel Medcalf described as a “foolish decision”, and he was fined £400 and ordered to pay a £40 surcharge and £90 in costs.
Ansar Mahmood, director of NXT Gen Retail, a vape shop in Hyde, admitted he had handed the notice to someone that “lived near my house” who told him that they knew someone who would “sort it out for you”. The NIP was sent back to police with the name of a fake driver on it, and Mahmood was brought to court for failing to provide the information, where he was fined £667 pounds, ordered to pay a £66 surcharge, and £90 in costs.
Samrun Rehman, 24, of Manley Road, Oldham, initially told the court he had “no comment” about his behaviour, before opening up and explaining that he passed his speeding prosecution for driving too fast on the A62 Oldham Road in his Seat Leon to somebody who said they could “get rid of it”, as he had already completed a speed awareness course and didn’t want to mar his clean driving licence, which he’s held since 2017. He was fined £228 and ordered to pay a £34 surcharge and £150 of costs before being given six penalty points, opposed to the three he would have gotten for speeding. When asked whether it was worth it by the chair of the bench, Ms Medcalf, he said: “no, not really.”
BS Taxi Cars, a firm registered in Stoke-on-Trent, did not appear in court, and had not responded to any requests for a plea, and the matter was proved in their absence, after an NIP for a VW registered to the firm spotted speeding on Princess Road on December 3 was returned listing a fictitious driver living in the two-bed terrace in Oldham – where 134 other fictitious drivers have been recorded as living according to other NIPs returned in the last two years. The firm was handed the maximum fine of £1,000, and ordered to pay a surcharge of £100 and costs of £150.
Longside Mini Mart Ltd., a convenience store in Royton, also did not appear in court and did not respond to any requests for a plea. The firm faced two counts of failing to provide information, after a Mercedes Sprinter was spotted speeding on Hyde Road twice in two days, travelling at 38 on the 30mph road on March 22, and 40mph on the same road the next day, March 23 of this year. Both of the firm’s NIPs were returned listing a false driver. The matter was proven in their absence and the firm was fined the maximum amount of £1,000 and ordered to pay a surcharge of £100 and costs of £150 for both offences, putting their total at £2,500.
Steptoes Yard Ltd, an Accrington firm that reclaims stone, were not represented in court, but Glenn Smith from Steele Smith LLP solicitors in Colne sent a letter to the court confirming their client had pleaded guilty and apologised for their actions, stating that processes had been put in place to ensure the event never occurred again. The firm had a similar explanation to Yates, stating that the VW Caddy going 48mph down the 40mph limit East Lancs Road was being driven by an employee, whom the firm trusted, and the NIP had been passed to him to complete when it arrived.
However, the details on the form were not those of the employee in question, but instead ANOTHER made-up driver listed as living at the same address as four other cases heard this afternoon. In the letter from their lawyer, the firm stated they had given the employee a “strong verbal warning” and were very sorry they hadn’t done the necessary statutory duty to inform police of the identity of the driver. They were fined £667 and ordered to pay a £66 surcharge and £90 in costs.
The prosecutions continue, with another round of cases set to be heard on September 9, and trials taking place on October 14 at Stockport Magistrates Court.
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