Fleet News

Company cars could be seized as magistrates urge tougher line

COMPANY cars could be seized by the courts as magistrates are urged to exercise powers which allow them to take vehicles used by drunk or dangerous drivers. Benches have had the right to seize and sell cars for a number of years. They have rarely done so, but the Magistrates' Association is now urging benches to take a tougher line with drivers, particularly those who have a very high alcohol reading, have refused to give a specimen or have committed more than one drink-drive-related offence within 10 years.

Legal experts say that if a court ordered forfeiture of a company vehicle it would be up to the owner to convince the court they were entitled to have it back. Stephen Duffield, partner in charge of legal firm Eversheds' Birmingham commercial department, said: 'There are two ways to do this. The first is to establish that the owner did not consent to the offender being in possession of the vehicle, for instance if it was stolen or if someone had an invalid driving licence. 'Alternatively you would have to establish that the owner did not know or had to reason to suspect that their car was going to be used for a criminal purpose.'

He said the latter would probably be most appropriate for company car owners whose drivers had committed offences, but it could fail if, for example, an employer knew the driver had already been convicted of drink-driving or was being treated for alcohol problems. If the court did sell the car, with the proceeds going to the Treasury, the final course of action for employers would be to take a civil action against the employee.

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