Police told me I must pay to remove crashed car from garden, says woman
A Co Down woman who has seen dozens of vehicles crashing into her garden over the years was left stunned when police refused to move the latest car wreck in order to save money.
Olive Gilliland has lived beside a treacherous bend on the Comber Road in Newtownards for nearly 40 years.
She said crashes are a regular occurrence, with at least two cars having ploughed into her field every winter since 1980.
Four cars have ended up in a heap this winter alone.
"It's a very bad bend and a lot of cars end up in the ditch, but most of them only stay there for a day or two," she said.
"The owners are usually prompt in having them removed."
Ms Gilliland wasn't overly surprised at the beginning of last week when she noticed another vehicle abandoned in a ditch at the edge of her land, which is adjacent to the busy carriageway.
However, she was very surprised to see that the vehicle was still there almost a week later.
Police confirmed multiple reports were received about the "runabout" vehicle which had no insurance, tax or MoT.
The landowner was shocked to learn that she was responsible for the wrecked car because the culprit who crashed it could not be traced.
"I have had no contact from the police, but they told my neighbour that the landowner is liable for the cost of having a vehicle removed in such circumstances," Olive said.
"I was very surprised by that, it doesn't seem right to me."
Next door neighbour and owner of Ards Allotments, Maurice Patton is also angry over recurring damage to his property.
"Like many other landowners, this is a subject I get very cross about," he said.
"It used to be that the police would have agreed not to prosecute the drivers, as long as no one was seriously injured, provided they fixed damaged fences or hedges," he said.
"But now you are just left high and dry; the only way to get compensation is to employ a solicitor which costs money - with no guarantee you will be successful."
The farmer said if he isn't on the scene quickly enough, drivers have their vehicles removed before he notices the damage, leaving him out of pocket.
Following the latest incident, Olive was relieved when someone eventually offered to remove the car to trade it as scrap.
"I'm very grateful, if they hadn't done that the car would still be there - I've managed to save myself a few pennies," Olive added.
Rosie Leech of the PSNI's Roads Policing Unit said that, under the Road Traffic Regulation NI Order 1997, police are only permitted to reclaim costs from the owner or the insurer of the vehicle.
"Legislation permitting police to remove vehicles located 'off road' does not permit costs to be recovered and as such, there is a cost to the public purse when police remove vehicles in these circumstances," she explained.
"Police are custodians of the public purse and therefore when dealing with a vehicle located off road, officers must decide if there is a proportionate justification for the expense to be incurred."
Ms Leech said if there is no such justification, then it becomes a private matter between the land owner and the vehicle owner - even if the owner is untraceable.
The roads officer also said that in such circumstances the local council "may" exercise their powers of removal under the Pollution Control and Local Government (NI) Order 1978.
A statement on the PSNI Ards Facebook page said that police have been seizing a considerable number of uninsured cars in the area.
It warned that anyone involved in a collision with such a vehicle "can look forward to a really awful time getting your own car sorted or even worse if there are personal injuries".