Number Plate Cloning – What is it and how can it effect you?

In January 2018 we had a fellow who owned a small motor dealership come to us for help. He had received numerous traffic camera infringement notices for offences he had not committed.

The infringement notices were all for one of the vehicles he had advertised on the internet. The website he used had brought in a policy that registration plates needed to be clearly displayed on all advertisements of cars being listed for sale. This meant that people who were listing their vehicles on the website were providing the make, model, colour and registration of their vehicles to the greater public.

Without registration stickers those who are willing to take the risk have been doing so, in that they have been replicating or cloning number plates and putting them on cars of a similar make and model to the ones listed for sale. They have then been committing crimes using the cars with the cloned number plates. Some of these crimes are traffic infringements such as in our client’s situation, however, there have been other instances where more serious offences have been done either using the car during the crime or leaving the scene.

This is a relatively new issue in Queensland and one that the police have advised is not overly common at the moment. Because of the way the traffic camera infringement notices are issued there is somewhat of a reverse onus on the person who has been issued with the ticket to prove that it wasn’t them driving the vehicle. This is sometimes very difficult for people to prove, especially if they live alone and the offences happened late at night, which was the case for our client.

When our client started receiving the infringement notices he immediately went to his local police station to report the crime. The officers weren’t familiar with number plate cloning and advised him that they didn’t have the authority to cancel the infringement notices. They told him that he only had two options being either to pay the tickets or to elect for a court to hear the matter. This is when he sought legal advice on the issue and came to see us. We initially elected for the court to hear the matter and then made submissions to the police trying to provide them with enough evidence to prove that the car in the notices was not our client’s.

After not being able to easily obtain corroborative evidence, we delved into the notifications of his smart phone. Our client’s location services were switched on and this showed that he was at home when all of the offences occurred. This was one of those instances where he was happy that his phone was tracking his every move.

Understandably, this alone wasn’t enough for the police to cancel the tickets. We had to find more evidence, for them to be convinced that our client wasn’t simply trying to get out of multiple speeding tickets.

We then took a closer look at the car in the infringement photos and while many of them were of a fairly poor quality, we were able to make out distinct differences between our client’s car and the one in the photos. This along with a mechanic’s report advising that there was a defect in our client’s vehicle that was likely to cause it to go into “limp mode” once it went over a certain speed, ultimately saw the police discontinue their action against our client.

This took 5 months, many hours of work, a lot of stress and anxiety for our client, not to mention the expense to him and to the public for the police’s time and resources.

It is likely that these sorts of opportunistic crimes are on the increase especially as we no longer have registration stickers on our cars. If you or anyone you know has been issued with a traffic camera infringement notice that you don’t believe is yours, seek legal advice before paying it, as someone may have cloned your number plates. For more information on traffic matters, click here. 

Rowena Ferrall – Legal Practitioner Director