Belfast Telegraph

Over 3,000 Northern Ireland petrol station drive-offs but only 37 prosecutions

More than 3,000 petrol station drive-offs were reported to the PSNI in a year
More than 3,000 petrol station drive-offs were reported to the PSNI in a year
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

More than 3,000 petrol station drive-offs were reported to the PSNI in a year.

Thousands of pounds worth of fuel was taken in the incidents in the 12 months to June.

A total of 3,151 forecourt robberies - nearly nine a day - were reported to police, with £32,565 in petrol and diesel taken without payment.

In that time only 37 successful prosecutions were made.

Belfast tops the list for reported drive-offs, with 726 during the 12-month period - almost three every day.

Only the Fermanagh and Omagh district had under 100 reported incidents.

Police said most drive-offs are the result of someone forgetting to pay, and not deliberate theft.

The figures emerged after a Freedom of Information request by this newspaper.

Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, believes the true figures should be much higher, and said many retailers are put off reporting incidents.

"I have held several meetings with the PSNI over the past year on the issue," he said.

Petrol station drive offs in Northern Ireland
Petrol station drive offs in Northern Ireland

"The figures reported seem very low to me and I can only think that a lot of retailers are not bothering to report incidents as they feel there is little police interest or little likelihood of a successful prosecution.

"With only 37 prosecutions, this could be because retailers are not in a position to provide evidence or that the police are not bothering to progress to court."

There have been no successful prosecutions in the Fermanagh and Omagh, Mid Ulster, and Derry City and Strabane districts.

In 2016 a PSNI scheme aimed at shifting the responsibility for tracing drive-offs from police to retailers was postponed after an outcry from business owners.

Under these plans, the retailer would have had to pursue the case in the civil courts.

Police have previously estimated that 85% of drive-offs are accidental, genuine mistakes.

Superintendent Brian Kee said the PSNI recognises the impact of making off without paying for fuel. But he added: "We also recognise that this particular demand on policing is largely preventable and, as with any organisation, our resources are finite. The routine attendance of police at all drive-offs, and particularly at those where a crime is not suspected, has in the past placed a substantial but preventable burden on local police resourcing and budget.

"Where there is evidence that a crime has been committed, police investigate."

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