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PSNI scraps plans not to follow up fuel pump thefts

By Chris McCullough

Published 13/08/2016

The PSNI has backtracked over a pilot scheme dealing with people who leave petrol stations without paying for fuel
The PSNI has backtracked over a pilot scheme dealing with people who leave petrol stations without paying for fuel

The PSNI has backtracked over a pilot scheme dealing with people who leave petrol stations without paying for fuel.

Following a backlash from business owners, the force said it would postpone plans to make petrol station retailers responsible for tracing such drivers.

The PSNI has now reverted to the drawing board to discuss a new way of dealing with the problem.

The pilot scheme aimed to shift the responsibility for tracing 'drive-offs' from the police to petrol retailers.

Had it been approved, it is believed that retailers would have had to send a letter to the Driver Vehicle and Licensing Agency to get the information on the car, which incurs a £2.50 fee, and inform the body that there had been a criminal act.

Business owners would then have had to write to the driver to ask them if they were in the petrol station on a certain date and to ask them to pay for the fuel.

If they the person in question refused to pay, the retailer would have had to take action in the courts to recover their losses, incurring legal and enforcement fees, which could easily exceed the value of the petrol stolen.

There was an outcry after the pilot scheme was announced in the Lisburn and Castlereagh and Ards and north Down areas.

Forecourt owners blasted the plan, with some branding the PSNI "lazy" and saying it should enforce the law.

The police, however, said that since 85% of drive-offs were accidental and genuine mistakes, it would save money.

Despite that claim, the plan was postponed yesterday.

Superintendent Brian Kee said: "Following feedback and additional consultation with stakeholders, police in these districts have postponed the introduction of a pilot scheme to deal with drive-offs from local petrol stations.

"Police will now discuss and review the introduction of this pilot project."

Ulster Unionist MLA Jenny Palmer welcomed the decision. "I am happy to hear the PSNI have decided to postpone the pilot scheme following feedback," she said. "This demonstrates that they have been listening and I hope they will now reflect on what will be the best way forward for all stakeholders."

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland described the scheme as a sign of policing to come from an "under-strength and under-resourced service".

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