A retired police officer last night called for changes after his daughter’s car was seized leaving her with a £150 recovery bill because police computer records wrongly showed she was uninsured.
Debbie Pickford, 45, was driving home, along Leeds Road, Barkerend, Bradford, with her 13-year-old daughter Leah after a trip to the cinema when she was stopped by a police patrol car.
An Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) check showed that the divorcee’s 11-year-old Peugeot 206 was not insured due to a failure by her insurance company to update national records.
Despite her insisting she had a valid insurance certificate at her home in Cullingworth, her car was towed away and she had to pay £150 the next day to get it back.
Her father, Brian Pickford, served for nearly 30 years as a police traffic officer in Bradford.
Mr Pickford, 71, said that when he was working, a driver would be given seven days to produce their documents at a police station.
He said: “I am glad we are doing something about illegal vehicles, but it should be for illegal use not legal use. There is a flaw in the system when this can happen to a legitimate driver who has insured their vehicle when it is due and has a new certificate.
“I am concerned this could happen to other motorists and I have asked West Yorkshire Police whether they are advising drivers to have their insurance documents with them in their vehicle.
“It is not something I recommended to motorists as an officer because, if the car is stolen, the thief has all the documents.
“My daughter was given no opportunity to produce her documents. This can’t be fair. She can ill-afford £150 just because the information had not got from the insurance company to the police computer.”
The patrol officer drove Miss Pickford and her daughter home, but she has complained to West Yorkshire Police’s vehicle recovery unit and asked to be reimbursed.
She said: “It is outrageous that this has happened, and my daughter has been put through that, when I was legitimately insured.
“There should have been a way of knowing the car was legally insured without taking it away and leaving us stranded.
“The policeman drove us home in his patrol car and I was able to show him the insurance document. A friend had to take me to the police station the next day with my documents and then recover my car.
“I am a single mother and £150 is a lot to pay, especially when I have not broken the law. I have written a letter to West Yorkshire Police to try to get the money back, but they have replied saying the officer did the correct thing.”
Miss Pickford, who works with people with special needs, had continued her insurance cover through her brokers, Swinton, to run from midnight on January 15, and she had received her new certificate.
Miss Pickford described the officer as “over zealous” but said the fault was with the system. She said the police and insurance company seemed to be blaming each other.
Chief Inspector Neil Hunter, head of roads policing at West Yorkshire Police, said it was the responsibility of each vehicle insurer to ensure that their records are transmitted to the Police National Computer in good time to enable the police to take effective action in relation to uninsured vehicles.
“It would appear that on this occasion Miss Pickford's insurers had not transmitted this information to the Police National Computer enabling it to be updated accurately,” said Chief Insp Hunter.
“In view of this reasonable doubt the officers have arranged for a recovery agent to attend and seize Miss Pickford’s vehicle on the basis of the information that they had at that time that it was uninsured.”
Chief Insp Hunter confirmed the Force would not reimburse the vehicle recovery fee.
He said: “Miss Pickford was advised that in these circumstances that she may be able to claim for the cost of the vehicle recovery from her insurance company under the provisions of the Data Protection Act, 1988.
“Where an officer has acted lawfully in seizing a vehicle, the VRU are not able to reimburse the statutory recovery cost that is payable to the vehicle recovery agent.”
No-one at Swinton insurance brokers was available for comment when contacted by the Telegraph & Argus.