DRIVERS caught red-handed illegally using low-tax fuel were given 30 minutes to pay £500 fines or have their vehicles impounded.
The culprits were caught in the first of a series of police spot checks for vehicles illegally using red diesel – a fuel which is subject to a vastly reduced tax and is reserved for agricultural or construction vehicle use.
Out of 15 stopped and checked by officers, five were found to be using the dyed fuel.
Those motorists caught out in the purge in south Leeds were given the choice of paying an on the spot instant £500 fine within half an hour or having their vehicles impounded.
All five drivers were able to come up with the money. Had had their vehicles been taken away, they would have not only been faced with the same £500 fine but a £150 storage charge and additional daily storage fees.
Now all five drivers must remove the red diesel from their vehicle’s fuel tanks within 24 hours of discovery or face a further penalty.
Their details will also be entered onto a HM Customs database, so any further breaches will result in a heftier fine.
During the spot checks in Hunslet on Tuesday the police and Customs team carried out so-called dip tests on fuel tanks to search for the illicit use of the cheaper fuel.
The number of positive tests during this operation was much higher than the normal average, and the operation will be repeated in the coming weeks and months – with the financial penalty expected to double to £1,000 in April.
Sgt Graham Slarke, of the City and Holbeck police, said: “With the rising fuel prices it’s no surprise to find that more people are turning to red diesel to fuel their vehicles instead of paying at the pumps.
“However, anyone caught will face an instant fine of £500 which is the same it would cost you to fill your vehicle every week for two months, so it’s really not worth the risk.”
“It’s even riskier in April not just because the fine will double but also because we’ll be carrying out these operations more often, so you’re more likely to be caught.”