Fined for having a St George sticker on my car

By ANDREW CHAPMAN, Mail on Sunday

Last updated at 08:55 20 June 2005

A motorist has been fined by police for displaying a patriotic Cross of St George car sticker on his front number plate.

Lifeguard Neil Prendergast had the red and white English flag - given away by The Mail on Sunday last summer - stuck to his father's Opel Corsa when he was pulled over by a policeman and given a £30 fixed penalty.

The officer fined him for displaying a registration "not fixed in accordance" with motoring laws.

Mr Prendergast, 20, claimed the officer from Greater Manchester Police wrongly told him the sticker was not allowed to obscure the European Union flag on his registration plate. His fine came despite The Mail on Sunday winning a campaign to force the Government to allow motorists to display their national flags on number plates four years ago.

Mr Prendergast, who is refusing to pay the fine, said: "The sticker was given out by The Mail on Sunday. Loads of our friends and neighbours have them. We have had it on the car for a year and have never had a problem before."

The stickers were given out as part of a Mail on Sunday promotion to encourage readers to show support for England at the European football championships in Portugal last summer. Thousands of motorists continue to display them perfectly legally on top of the EU logo on their number plates.

Mr Prendergast's problems began when he followed a car through a set of traffic lights as they were on amber in Oldham at 8.30am on June 4.

He then overtook it and was flashed down by the officer, PC Battye, who was driving the unmarked car.

Mr Prendergast said: "I was going to work quite early. I came up to some traffic lights, the car in front went through on amber and I followed. Soon after, I overtook and he started flashing me. I stopped and got out. The other driver told me he was a police officer and said he had gone through an amber light and I should not have followed him.

"Then he said something technical about the little England flag on the number plates.

"He was officious and bossy and said I was only allowed to have the European flag there. I explained it was just a sticker and I didn't realise it was not allowed. But he gave me a £30 fine which will go up to £60 if we don't pay it."

Mr Prendergast's father, David, 49, a local government finance officer, said: "The fixed penalty notice was nothing to do with his driving but was because of his registration plate. The stickers show the Cross of St George and like many other people I wanted to identify with the flag of our nation."

Last night the RAC said: "It is totally legitimate. Motorists may display the St George Cross, the Scottish Saltire, Welsh Dragon and the Union flag. As long as it sits within the same space as occupied by the EU stars and GB and does not obscure or alter the numbering in any way it is fine."

A DVLA spokesman said: "The regulations make provision for the voluntary display of the European flag.

"They do not allow for the display of any other flag or symbol, but we are taking a relaxed view on enforcement, unless the emblems distort or affect the readability or recognition of the registration mark."

Last night a Greater Manchester Police spokesman said: "We will have to consider the exact wording of the law on this. If the ticket has been erroneously issued it will be cancelled."

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