Number plates firm frozen out in cameras row

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The Independent Online
A COMPANY that makes reflective number plates which aim to defeat police spy cameras has been forced to halt production in the face of a crackdown by motoring authorities.

The Automobile Association says the plates are illegal as the numbers do not show up in flash photography. It has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about advertisements placed in the motoring press by companies still making reflective registration numbers.

The plates came on to the market last month at the same time as new laws enabled the police to prosecute motorists for speeding on the basis of photographs taken by spy cameras. Housed in boxes along main highways, the cameras produce two images at half-second intervals, allowing officers to gauge drivers' speed.

Allan Wilkins, of Magic Plates Ltd, one of the first firms to make reflective plates, insists that his product is legal. 'Cars with these plates will go through any MoT test that there is. The numbers are non-reflective under all conditions except flash photography.'

The DVLC in Swansea, South Wales, disagrees. The plates have to have a compliance certificate from the British Standards Institution, a spokesman said. 'This has not been issued.'

After intervention by the DVLC, manufacturers stopped supplying Mr Wilkins, who said he had no choice but to cease production. 'We took advice from our barrister, who said these guys were going to close us down come hell or high water.

'Yesterday and today, I turned away about pounds 4,000 worth of business. The plates are so popular we have had inquiries from architects, vets, Harley Street doctors - responsible professional people. The majority of people who have bought them have just wanted to guard their backs against big brother.'

He accused the DVLC of using heavy-handed tactics against his suppliers, a claim denied by the organisation. A spokesman said it had merely 'made it quite clear that these plates are illegal'.

Other companies are still making reflective registration numbers. One, Vanishing Numbers Ltd, of Dunstable, Bedfordshire, has advertised the 'latest personal security products' for pounds 80 a pair. The AA said that it had complained about the advertisements, which were 'misleading because the plates are illegal'. Motoring authorities condemned attempts by drivers to make their plates invisible to flash photography by applying substances such as varnish. That too was illegal, the AA said.