Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Thursday, 10 April 2008 17:08 UK

Petrol drive-off money recouped

175 drive-off incidents have so far been resolved
175 drive-off incidents have so far been resolved

Several thousand pounds has been given back to filling stations through a police scheme cracking down on forecourt drive-offs.

More than 200 people have been detected since the scheme was established in Ballymena last June.

But most were found to be drivers who simply forgot to pay, said the PSNI.

The incidents, which were previously investigated as theft, mean those who drive off without paying receive a letter and a two-week amnesty to pay.

Thirty-three filling stations are currently taking part in the scheme in the greater Ballymena area of County Antrim. They have received more than 5,000 back for unpaid fuel.

PSNI community safety officer Richard Adams, who initiated the scheme, said: "The vast majority of members of the public who drive off without paying for their fuel are making genuine human errors.

"We check on the vehicle from CCTV provided by the garage and write a letter to the member of the public.

"They are then given a two week amnesty to pay for the fuel. If that is done then the matter is resolved, but if they do not, they face prosecution."

Mr Adams said that of the 200 reports of drive-offs, 175 had so far been resolved.

"The police believe this scheme is a success, because police time spent on this is minimised, and the filling stations believe it is a success.

"Those people who are detected driving off would prefer to get a letter through the post than have police officers come to their door."

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