A man who had his van seized incorrectly by police has claimed “white van men don‘t stand a chance”. The seizure was a result of a police crackdown on scrap metal thieves after a recent increase in this type of crime.
Simon Hutchinson‘s white Ford Transit van was impounded by police in Hunstanton as part of the operation causing a roadside row to erupt.
Mr Hutchinson‘s van was stopped for a roadside check and whilst no scrap metal was found, the driver, Mr Hutchinson‘s stepson Sam Patten, felt that he had been treated like a criminal.
The police officer involved issued Mr Patten with a fixed penalty notice for £200 after he suspected his van insurance was not valid. Mr Patten was also warned that he would also be facing six points on his driving license.
Mr Hutchinson watched as his van was seized leaving him with a bill for £170 to arrange its release, all despite valid van insurance being in place.
Mr Hutchinson said: “What has annoyed me the most is that a quick phone call to my insurer would have confirmed he had insurance.”
“But the officer wasn‘t interested in listening or checking things properly, he was just intent on terrorising Sam.”
“No doubt with the theft of scrap metal going up, Norfolk police will be targeting people in white vans once more. They don‘t stand a chance.”
A police spokesman said that the officer in question was informed at the roadside by Mr Hutchinson‘s van insurance company that Mr Patten was in fact not insured to drive the van, and that he had acted on this information by seizing the vehicle.
The fixed penalty notice was cancelled as soon as it was established wrong information had been obtained and that Mr Patten was in fact insured to drive the van.
As for a refund of the £170 vehicle impound bill, Mr Hutchinson will have to wait for the results of an internal review by the police force legal team.
Mr Hutchinson, a resident of Long Sutton, said his stepson is listed as a named driver on the van insurance policy and is insured to drive for social, domestic or pleasure purposes.
Mr Patten was driving the vehicle as a favour to his mum, an area manager at YMCA Norfolk, and had been helping with deliveries to a Hunstanton charity.
Mrs Hutchinson said: “Their usual van driver had let her down. My wife would have likely given him something for his time, but essentially it was voluntary on his part.”
However, the officer who pulled Mr Patten over thought different and believed him to be working and that his van insurance policy didn‘t cover that purpose.
Mr Hutchinson added “Even if he had been undertaking paid work using the van, which he wasn‘t, we had fully comprehensive van insurance.”
“That means in the event of a claim they would have still insured it for third party, which in no way means he was driving illegally.”
Mr Hutchinson also said that he had been required to take leave from work in order to pick Mr Patten up from Hunstanton and then spent a lot of time sorting out the situation at the police station and vehicle recovery yard.
Adding to this, he said that 20 days of stress had also been caused in awaiting a formal decision about the fixed penalty notice and the further bureaucracy involved with the refund of the £170.
When asked about this, a police spokesman explained that the legal team has a period of two weeks to acknowledge any complaint and 30 days to review each case.
He said: “Our officer was informed by then van insurance company, at the roadside, that the driver was not insured to drive the vehicle.
“Acting on the information provided, the vehicle was subsequently seized.”
“The matter is currently being reviewed by our legal team and the vehicle owner will be contacted once the review has been carried out.”
“A refund will only be issued if the officer was acting unlawfully or if the officer did not have reasonable grounds to seize the vehicle.”
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