Call for new checks to prevent 'car cloning'

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The country's top car crime police chief is calling for new checks on used vehicles to help combat stolen "car cloning".

Det Chief Insp Mark Hooper said gangs of "well organised" criminals were giving stolen cars false number plates and papers before selling them on to unwary customers.

The officer, who heads the Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service for the Association of Chief Police Officers, wants to see independent checks on the identities of buyers and sellers, as well as on the car itself to make sure it is genuine.

Citing weaknesses in the current market, he told the BBC: "If we have a process which is flawed, which is vulnerable... it is our duty to try to fix that to make sure it is not being exploited by criminals.

"(The criminals) are very good at what they do. These guys make their living doing this and they will always be testing, probing, trying to find weaknesses that we need to protect against."

Mr Hooper said one option would be to introduce a similar system to that in France, where both vendor and buyer must go to a local registration authority to prove their documentation is correct.

He added: "It could be anything from a superficial identity check... some documents that are produced which would deter all but the most confident of criminals.

"Or it could range to a full mechanical check of the vehicle."

An estimated 75,000 cars a year are stolen in the UK and not recovered.

Mr Hooper's unit is talking to the UK's vehicle licensing authority, the DVLA, about potential new security systems.