Vigilante motorists attacking clamps out on their untaxed cars


More than one in ten clamps attached to the wheels of untaxed vehicles in the last five years have been forcefully removed or damaged when vigilante motorists have tried to extract them, according to official figures.

Of the 635,445 clamps locked onto vehicles by contractors working on behalf of the DVLA between 2017 and 2021, a staggering 82,475 of the shackles were ‘gone on arrival’ when they returned to remove the motor from the road.

The data also showed that Birmingham is the clamped capital of Britain, with 21,378 cars immobilised by the DVLA for not having tax between 2017 and 2021.

Official figures provided by the DVLA show that 13% of cars it orders to be clamped due to unpaid tax have the shackles forcefully removed or damaged when trying to extract them 

Graham Conway, managing director of Select Car Leasing – who obtained the official DVLA data on removed wheel clamps via the Freedom of Information Act – warned that the destructive behaviour of removing a clamp could have severe consequences.

He explained: ‘Removing a lawful wheel clamp is an offence under the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, as well as ignoring the important fact that you haven’t paid your road tax.

‘To see so many people being clamped for not having the correct road tax, and a chunk of those damaging or removing the clamps, is shocking for law-abiding motorists.’

The official records shared by the DVLA show that 2019 was the year when most clamps were removed by vigilante motorists.

A staggering 21,387 of the shackles put in place by the DVLA’s contractor NSL Ltd were damaged or removed, the government agency said.

Last year 19,382 clamps got the rough treatment.

The total number of clampings across the UK also reached a high in 2019, with 154,575, while they understandably dipped to 53,381 during the height of the Covid pandemic in 2020.

Of the 635,445 clamps locked onto vehicles by contractors working on behalf of the DVLA between 2017 and 2021, a staggering 82,475 of the shackles were 'gone on arrival' when they returned to remove the motor from the road

Of the 635,445 clamps locked onto vehicles by contractors working on behalf of the DVLA between 2017 and 2021, a staggering 82,475 of the shackles were ‘gone on arrival’ when they returned to remove the motor from the road

Birmingham the clamped capital of Britain 

Birmingham is the capital of car tax dodgers, with England’s second city seeing 21,378 car clamped between the start of 2017 and the end of 2021.

It is followed by South East London (16,961), East London (16,894), North London (16,857) and South West London (16,206).

Bristol (15,935), Cardiff (14,803), Sheffield (14,179), Glasgow (13,758) and Newcastle (12,046) also didn’t fare well in the findings.

According to the DVLA, the release fee for a clamped vehicle is £100 if it is re-taxed. If you are unable to re-tax the vehicle, a refundable surety fee of £160 must also be paid with the £100 release fee.

If the vehicle is removed 24 hours after it’s clamped, the release fee increases to £200 with an additional £21 per day storage fee.

Locations where most – and least – untaxed cars are clamed (2017-21) 

Top 10 areas for highest number of untaxed vehicles clamped

Birmingham – 21,378

South East London – 16,961

East London – 16,894

North London – 16,857

South West London – 16,206

Bristol – 15,935

Cardiff – 14,803

Sheffield – 14,179

Glasgow – 13,758

Newcastle – 12,046

Top 10 areas for lowest number of untaxed vehicles clamped

Kirkwall – 24

Llandrindod Wells – 30

West Central London – 45

East Central London – 49

Inverness – 107

Galashiels – 203

Dorchester – 285

Aberdeen – 317

Perth – 342

Dumfries – 517

Source: DVLA records from 2017-2021 provided to Select Car Leasing following FOI request 

Birmingham is the capital of car tax dodgers, with England's second city seeing 21,378 car clamped between the start of 2017 and the end of 2021

Birmingham is the capital of car tax dodgers, with England’s second city seeing 21,378 car clamped between the start of 2017 and the end of 2021

The surety fee allows you to drive the vehicle for 24 hours to move it off the highway and onto private land or a driveway.

Any untaxed vehicle not on a driveway or a SORN vehicle not on driveway or private land, can be clamped again after 24 hours.

Mr Conway added: ‘While there are no doubt some innocent mistakes in these figures – drivers who’ve simply forgotten to renew their road tax – there are many more who are flouting the law.

‘But what they also show is that the authorities are determined to catch out those unwilling to pay their way.

‘And if you do think about removing a clamp, you could be facing a criminal damage charge and plenty more trouble.’

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