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Woman left with £150 bill after car was wrongly seized by police
A retired police officer has called for changes after his daughter’s car was seized leaving her with a £150 recovery bill because computer records wrongly showed she was uninsured.
Debbie Pickford, 45, was driving home in Barkerend, Bradford, with her 13-year-old daughter, Leah, after a trip to the cinema when she was stopped by a police patrol car.
An Automatic Number Plate Recognition check wrongly showed the divorcee’s 11-year-old Peugeot 206 was not insured due to a failure by her insurance company to update national records.
Despite her insisting she had a valid insurance certificate at her Cullingworth home, her car was towed away and she had to pay £150 the next day to get it back.
Her father, Brian Pickford, served for nearly 30 years as a traffic officer in Bradford.
Mr Pickford, 71, said when he was working, a driver would be given seven days to produce their documents at a police station.
He said: “I am glad we are doing something about illegal vehicles, but it should be for illegal use not legal use.
“There is a flaw in the system when this can happen to a legitimate driver.
“I am concerned this could happen to other motorists. My daughter was given no opportunity to produce her documents. This can’t be fair. She can ill-afford £150 just because the information had not got from the insurance company to the police computer.”
Miss Pickford said: “It is outrageous this has happened and my daughter has been put through that when I was legitimately insured.
“There should have been a way of knowing the car was legally insured without taking it away and leaving us stranded.
“The policeman drove us home in his patrol car and I was able to show him the insurance document. A friend had to take me to the police station the next day with my documents and then recover my car.
“I am a single mother and £150 is a lot to pay, especially when I have not broken the law. I have written a letter to West Yorkshire Police to try to get the money back, but they have replied saying the officer did the correct thing.”
Miss Pickford, who works with people with special needs, had continued her insurance cover through brokers Swinton to run from midnight on January 15, and she had received her new certificate.
Miss Pickford described the officer as “over-zealous”, but said the fault was with the system. She said the police and insurance company seemed to be blaming each other.
Chief Inspector Neil Hunter, head of roads policing at West Yorkshire Police, said: “It would appear on this occasion, Miss Pickford’s insurers had not transmitted the information to the Police National Computer enabling it to be updated accurately.
“In view of this reasonable doubt, officers have arranged for a recovery agent to attend and seize Miss Pickford’s vehicle on the basis of the information they had at that time that it was uninsured.”
But Chief Insp Hunter confirmed the Force would not reimburse the vehicle recovery fee.
He said: “Where an officer has acted lawfully in seizing a vehicle, the VRU is not able to reimburse the statutory recovery cost payable to the vehicle recovery agent.”
No-one at Swinton was available for comment at the time of going to print.
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