Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: Cult car crisis

This reader's cousin gives the money meant for car insurance to her guru instead. Should he report her behind her back? Or let her drive uninsured?
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Dear Virginia,

My cousin, who’s in her forties, is a devoted follower of a very questionable guru. She says he gives her a feeling of wellbeing and that she is saving the world as she raises money and support for him. She needs a car to do this. I get on very well with her, but she refuses to spend money on her car insurance and instead gives it to her guru. She told me that if I thought this was wrong then I should organise lifts for her. I feel I should report her behind her back, but know that if I did our friendship would be over. What can I do?

Yours sincerely,


Virginia says...

Which would you rather? Your friendship be over or, if your cousin were responsible for a fatal accident, having that person’s death on your conscience for the rest of your life? It is, to use an expression I’m not madly keen on but for which there seems to be no alternative here, a no-brainer.

You will have to tell your cousin what you are going to do unless she gets insurance  – and point out that you’re not being unfeeling but that you don’t want to find her behind bars if she’s responsible for some horrendous crash. Nor, you could add, do you want to find that one day, because she’s crashed into a wall, she is injured beyond recognition and cannot afford any help bar the bare minimum from the National Health Service.

Obviously you’ve got to give her a chance before telling the police. Find out how much it would cost to insure her and her car. Find the cheapest possible policy. Make it easy for her. Tell her that all she  – or, even better, her ghastly guru – has to do is pay it, show you the certificate of insurance, and then she has nothing to fear from you. 

If you feel you can’t bring yourself to do this, strengthen your resolve by imagining that she were to run over someone very dear to you – your child, perhaps, or your partner or parent. How would you feel when there was no money to help pay to ease their pain when they were injured? What if someone had long-term injuries that meant a lifetime of care? Surely her guru isn’t so hard-hearted that he would wish her to be responsible for this kind of scenario? Ask her to ask her guru what he or she thinks about driving around uninsured. Surely even the most dubious of gurus would hardly endorse this sort of behaviour.

Draw for her a picture of what the local press might say were she to be caught, after injuring someone. “X, a fervent follower of the guru Y, was arrested yesterday for causing fatal injuries. ‘I gave all my money to Y,’ explained the cult follower. ‘I couldn’t afford it’.” And so on. That wouldn’t make the old guru look so jolly hot, would it?

And if she refuses to do anything about it? Then you’ve got no option but to tell. If a child were being tortured in the flat next door, you’d report it, wouldn’t you? If an old lady were driving while registered blind, I bet you’d do the same. I’m afraid that in the end, however much you might dislike telling on her, it’s your duty as a citizen to prevent what might be a very painful scenario for all concerned.

Readers say...

Have it out with her

Lee, why do you think you should report her behind her back? By driving without insurance she is not only committing a criminal offence, she is also potentially putting other road users at risk of serious loss or damage. Moreover, if she should be stopped by the police, they will confiscate her car and crush it.

Never mind going behind her back. Tell her to her face that if she doesn’t show you a valid insurance certificate within a specified period, you will report her.

Ian Hurdley, by email

Report her

So if she hits another car or knocks someone down there is no insurance to cover – wow, how noble of your cousin – she sounds totally selfish.

I would tell her that she is breaking the law and could receive a substantial fine and penalty points; if she pays no heed, call the police, unless you think driving with no insurance is fair to the users of the road.

It seems to me she has a callous disregard for other people and is a danger in her own right. Give me her car registration number and I’ll call the police for you.

Matt Baker, by email


Next week’s  dilemma

Dear Virginia,

My mother is 90 and lives nearby and she’s driving me mad. She refuses to have a carer and rings me day and night insisting on my coming over to make her a cup of coffee or find her spectacles. I make her lunch every day and she comes over every afternoon but it’s still not enough. I have a granddaughter to look after and my husband’s ill. I also have to earn a living somehow. I feel at the end of my tether. I’m starting to hate her. But if I put my foot down she gets furious and tearful. What can I do? My brother won’t have anything to do with her.

Yours sincerely,


What would you advise Annie to do?

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