A Boroughbridge businessman changed his number plate to dodge speeding tickets and left an innocent man, 360 miles away, to take the blame for offences he knew nothing about,
Sean Durken, 50, was twice caught speeding in his Skoda Octavia but, mysteriously, notices of intended prosecution were sent not to his home in Boroughbridge, but to an unsuspecting soul in Plymouth who was left scratching his head as to why he faced losing his driving licence under the totting-up procedure.
York Crown Court heard that Durken, who had nine points on his licence and faced being disqualified for one more traffic violation, changed the front registration plate on his Skoda in a bid to evade police ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras.
Knowing that ANPR cameras focused on the front plates, Durken thought he’d tricked the system, but his plot ultimately backfired.
Prosecutor Nicholas Rooke said that when police went to Durken’s home on June 6, they found that the number plates on the front and rear of the vehicle didn’t match up.
The back plate was correct, but the last letter on the front plate had been changed from ‘H’ to ‘N’.
“He (Durken) admitted he had done it himself to avoid any road-traffic penalties,” added Mr Rooke.
It transpired that a man from Plymouth, who was named in court, had been mistakenly issued with the speed-violation notices by North and West Yorkshire Police.
Officers in North Yorkshire made enquiries with Devon and Cornwall Police who got in touch with the innocent motorist, who just happened to own a Skoda Fabia whose registration plate matched the one doctored by Durken on his own vehicle.
Mr Rooke said that the innocent man "confirmed he had received penalty notices on May 3 and 8 from West and North Yorkshire Police.”
He added: “He was put to some inconvenience to show that the vehicle was not his and that he was not responsible for these offences.”
ANPR checks showed Durken’s Skoda being captured on no less than 40 occasions by roadside cameras across the county between May 2 and June 6.
The registration on the vehicle was taken from the doctored front plate.
Durken was twice caught speeding during this period and the central ticket office at North and West Yorkshire Police is currently processing his penalty notices now.
He admitted perverting the course of justice and appeared for sentence on Friday.
The court heard that Durken was afraid that any further penalty notices, and the potential loss of his driving licence, would harm his business and staff because he used the vehicle to travel to various sites.
Defence barrister Andrew Petterson said that Durken, of Cygnet Mews, Boroughbridge, had led a previously-blameless life and was dependent on his vehicle for work because it was a company car.
But judge Paul Worsley QC said Durken’s offence struck at the very “root of public justice”.
He slammed the businessman for the “inconvenience” he had caused to a “wholly-innocent man who must have got the shock of his life” when he received the two speeding tickets.
The judge said a custodial sentence was inevitable, but that he could suspend the inevitable jail term because Durken was otherwise a “perfectly-respectable, hard-working businessman” and sending him to prison would have “drastic effects” upon him.
The four-month prison sentence was suspended for a year. Durken was also given a nightly doorstep curfew which will run for six months.
In addition, he was given a six-month driving ban, ordered to pay £500 compensation to the innocent Plymouth man and fined £7,500. He was also made to pay £350 costs.