Vehicle ‘wrongly seized’ over insurance cover

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A VAN driver whose vehicle was wrongly seized by police during a crackdown on scrap metal thieves has claimed “white van men don’t stand a chance”.

Police impounded Long Sutton man Simon Hutchinson’s white Ford Transit as part of an operation to tackle a rise in scrap metal thefts.

The van was pulled over for a roadside check, and although no metal was involved, the driver – Mr Hutchinson’s stepson Sam Patten (21) – was issued with a £200 fixed penalty notice by police who believed his insurance was invalid.

The van was then seized, leaving Mr Hutchinson with a £170 release fee – despite there being insurance in place.

Mr Hutchinson said: “What’s annoyed me most is that a quick call would have confirmed Sam was insured but the officer wasn’t interested in listening.

“No doubt with the theft of scrap metal going up, police will be targeting people in white vans once more. They don’t stand a chance.”

Police say the officer was told the driver was not insured by Mr Hutchinson’s insurance company when they pulled him over in Hunstanton.

However, since confirming Mr Patten was covered they have cancelled the fixed penalty.

Mr Hutchinson will have to wait for the result of a review by the force’s legal team to find out whether the £170 impound bill will be refunded.

Mr Patten was helping his mum, a manager for YMCA Norfolk, with deliveries for the charity.

Mr Hutchinson said: “Their van driver had let her down. Essentially the work was voluntary on Sam’s part.”

The officer who pulled the van over said Mr Patten was working and as he was only insured for social, domestic and pleasure, his insurance was invalid.

Mr Hutchinson added: “Even if he had been using the van for paid work – which he wasn’t – we had fully comprehensive insurance.

“That means in the event of a claim they would have still insured it for third party, which means in no way was he driving illegally.”

Mr Hutchinson said he had to take time off work to collect Mr Patten from Hunstanton, and spend time sorting things out at the police station and recovery yard.

He also said he had 20 days of stress waiting for the formal decision that the fixed penalty would be cancelled and further red tape to try to get the £170 refunded.

A police spokesman said the force’s legal team has two weeks to acknowledge Mr Hutchinson’s complaint and 30 days to review the case.

He said: “Our officer was informed by the insurance company that the driver was not insured.

“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.”