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New tech to crack down on drivers using ‘stealth plates’ to avoid fines

Estimates suggest as many as one in 15 drivers are fitting their cars with number plates boasting anti-ANPR technology

Speed camera van window

One in 15 drivers are said to be using so-called ‘stealth plates’ in order to dodge fines from cameras. Now, a council in England has become the first to install all-new technology in order to detect and crack down on these illegal registration plates.

Stealth plates, also known as ‘ghost plates’, employ a special reflective coating in order to avoid detection by ANPR cameras. These infrared cameras are used to catch those speeding or driving where they shouldn’t be – namely in bus and cycle lanes, yellow box junctions and other areas such as London’s Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ). Stealth plates can be bought from as little as £10 online, with estimates suggesting there are over 40,000 sellers offering these number plates to UK buyers.

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Wolverhampton City Council is now the first local authority to introduce new technology which can detect these illegal plates. Drivers caught with them fitted to their cars are in line to receive a £100 penalty charge notice (PCN).

Councillor Craig Collingwood, Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change said Wolverhampton Council is, “leading the way as the first council investing in this state of the art technology to deter and detect offenders”.

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The installation of the new cameras and technology comes after an investigation by West Midlands Police and Wolverhampton City Council in which a taxi was found wearing an illegal stealth plate.

“All motorists can expect to pay a fine if found to be using these illegal methods to avoid cameras,” Collingwood warned. “Taxi drivers licensed by Wolverhampton may have their licence suspended or revoked."

The issue of illegal registration plates is not a new one; last June, an investigation by police found that six per cent of cars travelling on a section of dual-carriageway near Gatwick airport were found to be using some form of “ANPR-defeating material” on their number plates. 

Another estimate by the UK’s former Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner, Professor Fraser Sampson, suggested that “one in 15 drivers may already be using anti-ANPR technology”. In a letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, Mark Harper, Sampson expressed his concern over how ghost plates and “other rudimentary tactics” are being used to “‘game the system”.

“I would therefore urge [the Government] to give consideration to modernising the way in which vehicle registration, roads surveillance and ANPR systems are regulated generally and to addressing the enduring risks to the ANPR system in particular.”

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Consumer reporter

Tom is Auto Express' Consumer reporter, meaning he spends his time investigating the stories that matter to all motorists - enthusiasts or otherwise. An ex-BBC journalist and Multimedia Journalism graduate, Tom previously wrote for partner sites Carbuyer and DrivingElectric and you may also spot him throwing away his dignity by filming videos for the Auto Express social media channels.

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