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Motorcycle Number Plates and the law

From time to time police forces around the UK have a crackdown on illegal motorcycle number plates, what are the regulations and how do you stand if you should be stopped.

R1200GS motorcycle number plate Standard legal motorcycle number plate

Comment:
"Small number plates. The way it was explained by one very patient policeman was this: Supposing you (or a loved one) were to be knocked down by a vehicle, which then sped off. The witnesses, who all saw the accident, couldn't, due to size or style, read the numbers, leaving us little or nothing to go on....you would be mighty pissed off."

An article by MikeP from ukGSer.com (Jan2008)
The original thread on ukGSer.com: Number Plates and the current Crackdown

For information. Make sure that if you contest an alleged offense, that you understand the regulations and are on solid ground.

Let's try and clear something up here.

The regulations do not require anyone with a number plate that does not conform to the requirements introduced on 01.09.2001 to change it to a form that does comply (provided that the plate was fitted before that date and it complies with the earlier regulations).

The legislation is not retrospective (with an exception, more later).

Number plates fitted after 01.09.2001 must conform irrespective of the age of the vehicle (the exception here is those registered before 01.01.1973, so-called 'historic' number plates).

So how does anyone know whether the plates were made after 01.09.2001?

The obvious one is that if the vehicle was registered after that date. Patently the plates cannot have been fitted before!

The second method is a bit more obscure and may not be known by whoever is checking the plate.

The Vehicles (Crime) Act 2001, introduced a whole system of registering and policing number plate suppliers. One of the things that this legislation required is the Post Code of the supplier to be on the plate (and micro-chips for this purpose to come).

If a vehicle is registered before 01.09.2001 and has had new plates made since that date, the plates should show the Post Code.

If the plates show the post code then the plate must comply with the requirements of post 01.09.2001.

Motorcycle number plate reglations
Since 1 September 2001 all new number plates must display the new mandatory font

This is all a bit arcane and you should not assume that whoever is checking the plate knows this.

My advice is this:
Refer to the DVLA measurements in the link I have posted below and check your own plates to know now whether it conforms or not to the pre or post 01.09.2001 requirements.

If you are stopped and you are sure that your plate is within the relevant regulations, politely point that out to the person doing the check and ask him/her to explain why it's thought not to conform.

Politely explain why you believe it does conform.

If it still results in some action, you have no option but to accept a non-endorsable Fixed-Penalty ticket if that is the method of dealing with the alleged offense.

Take the ticket and ask the person to photograph the plate with you stood next to it (if they haven't done so as part of the evidence).

Alternatively, state your intention to contest the ticket in court and to ensure that there is no suspicion that the plate you produce in court is not a substitute, ask the officer to stand next to the plate and take a photo of your own (most of us have camera-phones).

Then write in with the FP, explain that you intend to contest the penalty, citing the photograph as evidence of the plate fitted at the time and that the plate conformed to the pre-01.09.2001 requirements and that the plate was issued before that date.

Note: Single line rear plates on motorcycles have never been legal. (Ref: bottom of page three of the DVLA PDF doc - link below)

Three line plates on bikes registered before 01.09.2001 are legal but only as long as that plate was made prior to 01.09.2001.

It does not matter if your bike was registered before 01.09.2001, if the plate was made after that date, it must comply with the later requirements.

Display of Registration Marks for Motor Vehicles (PDF)

Note on the Post Code:
If your plate has a Post Code but you think that it was made before 01.09.2001, there is a Register of Number Plate Suppliers that lists all the suppliers by their Post Codes. Local Authorities have to maintain these registers.

Or search here: Find your nearest registered number plate supplier

One of the requirements of the scheme is that suppliers must maintain records of the plates they make, to whom supplied, what identification of the vehicle was used (V5 or VIN inspection) and identification of the person to whom the plates were supplied.

If the supplier in question does not have a record of your number plate, either they didn't meet the requirements at the time (in which case rather than face prosecution themselves, they are likely to say that they didn't supply post-01.09.2001) or the fact that no record exists will have to be accepted as proof that the plates pre-date the changes.

Comment:
"There is no obligation for anyone to partake in the FPN system, no matter what the offense."
"I think that you need to re-read the post.
I never said that anyone had to partake in the scheme. I did say that no-one can refuse to accept the FPN. Taking the FPN does not bind anyone to complying with it.
Issue of a FPN, for non-endorsable offenses is not discretionary upon someone accepting it or their being able to meet the conditions (such as production of driving documents).
The whole point of the FPN scheme is that it short-cuts the "report for process" system, it does apply a fixed and known penalty and it acts as a "report for process" if the person fails to pay the penalty.
There is no obligation for anyone to pay the penalty, no matter what the offense.
The discretionary factor is to issue the notice not to accept it."

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