Police towed Bristol driver thanks to out of date database
A Bristol motorist had his car towed away because police thought he had no insurance – thanks to of an out-of-date database.
And the driver then had to pay £150 to get his car back.
Financial accounts manager George Onyeahasi, aged 43, was left at the side of the road as police towed his car away because he was not able to prove to them that he was insured.
He had in fact renewed his insurance just hours earlier and was a legal driver, but the database the police use to run checks on motorists' details had not been updated.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, June 30 2013
Mr Onyeahasi, from Brislington, was stopped at 2.30am on Sunday February 1, as he drove his silver Mercedes ML270 – with the private number plate G5 ORG – towards the Clifton Triangle from Whiteladies Road.
The police initially stopped him because they believed he was braking erratically, which is characteristic of drink driving.
Officers gave Mr Onyeahasi a breath test, which was negative as he had not been drinking, and they also checked the details of his car.
The Motor Insurance Database wrongly showed the car was uninsured, but instead of giving Mr Onyeahasi seven days to produce his details, they impounded the car immediately.
His old insurance had run out at midnight, but having renewed his policy with Swinton Insurance, he knew he was covered.
He said: "From the start, the police seemed to be trying to find a reason for why I had been pulled over.
"When the officer first approached my car, he said I'd been pulled over because I'd been braking a lot – which I said was ridiculous.
"They then breathalysed me, which was negative because I hadn't been drinking as I was the designated driver for the evening.
"It was then that they said the database showed I was uninsured.
"I knew they were wrong and even offered to take the officers to my house to get the insurance certificate, a short 10-minute drive at that time of night, but they preferred to wait an hour for the tow truck to arrive."
Mr Onyeahasi was left stranded at the side of the road, with no money to pay for a taxi home.
He added: "If I hadn't renewed my insurance I'd have held my hands up, but I shouldn't be left out of pocket because the database is not up-to-date. That's not my fault."
Two contradicting laws led to Mr Onyeahasi having his car taken away that night.
If motorists don't have their documents – insurance or driving licence – on them when police ask to see them, drivers have seven days to take them to a police station, or face prosecution.
But police also have the power to seize vehicles if they believe they are being driven without insurance.
As police only had their database to go on, they had to believe the car was uninsured and a danger to other drivers if left on the streets.
But even when he went to Trinity Road police station the following day armed with his insurance certificate, Mr Onyeahasi was made to pay £150 to get his car back.
He says he cannot understand why officers did not allow him seven days to produce his certificate, instead of taking his car.
His new insurance policy had come into effect hours before he was pulled over, but his insurers say it can take seven days for the database to be updated.
The Motor Insurance Database is managed by the Motor Insurers' Bureau.
It claims insurers have access to the database around-the-clock and can update it every hour, should they need to.
It was set up nine years ago to reduce the number of uninsured cars on the UK's roads.
Department for Transport figures estimate one in 20 motorists do not have insurance.
Mr Onyeahasi's insurance broker Swinton Insurance told the Post the law allows it seven days to update the database.
A company spokesman denied the mix-up was its fault and refused to reimburse Mr Onyeahasi.
She said: "We can confirm Mr Onyeahasi's car was fully insured at the time of the incident.
"The fact this did not show up on the database is due to the reason it can take up to seven days to register a customers' insurance details
"The police need to recognise this timeframe and establish a protocol for making contact with insurers and/or brokers either at the roadside during office hours or at the earliest opportunity at other times. This is an unfortunate situation for Mr Onyeahasi."
Police spokesman Martin Dunscombe said officers had been right to impound the vehicle.
He said: "Officers were alerted to his car as it was braking a lot – this is a common trait of drink-drivers.
"Initial checks undertaken suggested the car did not have insurance and so there were reasonable grounds to stop the car.
"... when insurance could not be confirmed at the roadside the decision was taken to impound the car. There are no plans to reimburse the money as officers followed procedure and acted in good faith."
John Franklin, an RAC spokesman, said: "The police need to look at this again because Mr Onyeahasi should not be out of pocket. This man's car should never have been impounded and after it was Mr Onyeahasi shouldn't have been charged to get it back."