Suspended prison sentences for men who sold illegal car number plates online

Court news. EMN-150910-150125001
Court news. EMN-150910-150125001

Three men were handed suspended prison sentences and left thousands of pounds out of pocket after admitting selling illegal car number plates on the internet from a business based in Newton Longville.

Steven John Clarke,32, his father John Charles Clarke,70, and their associate David Bagnall, 50, appeared at Luton Crown Court on Friday for sentence, after

previously admitting conspiracy to commit Trade Mark Act offences under s1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977.

His Honour Judge Stuart Bridge, described Steven Clarke as utterly brazen and “breathtakingly contemptuous” after hearing how Clarke continued to

trade in illegal number plates despite having a prosecution pending for similar offences.

Clarke, now of Pulham St Mary, Suffolk, was given a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work.

John Clarke, of Harkness Close, Bletchley, and David Bagnall, who now lives in Newmarket, were both sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months and each ordered to

carry out 100 hours unpaid work.

Steven Clarke was also ordered to pay £200,000 to Milton Keynes Council for prosecution costs and was made the subject of a £25,000 Confiscation Order, under the

Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Confiscation orders were also granted against John Clarke and David Bagnall of £25,000 and £10,000 respectively.

The court had heard how the business ‘number1showplates’, which was set up with the help of Steven Clarke and run by John Clarke, other members of the Clarke family, and David Bagnall, sold vehicle registration plates via the internet. The problem was that the business offered to apply car trademarks (logos) to the number plates without the authority of the trademark holder,

an offence under the Trade Marks Act.

The unlawful additions of these logos actually made the number plates illegal to use on the road.

The judge’s criticism came after Steven Clarke had previously pleaded guilty to similar offences of applying trademarks to vehicle registration plates in December 2011, while a director of the

business No1 Showplates Ltd.

The investigation was carried out by Milton Keynes Council Trading Standards supported by the National Trading Standards, tri-regional scambusters. The investigation started after a tip-off in

an anonymous letter sent to Trading Standards.

In setting up number1showplates, the defendants went to great lengths to try and ‘hide’ their business to ensure that they wouldn’t be detected by Trading Standards. They put a fake Irish

address on their website, didn’t put their business name and postcode on the plates (as required by law), operated the business from a unit in a garden in Newton Longville and had deliveries of

blank number plates sent to an address in Buckingham.

Councillor Mick Legg, MKC’s Cabinet Member responsible for Trading Standards said;“In applying unauthorised trademarks to vehicle registration plates, the business

‘number1showplates’ sought to gain a competitive advantage against reputable, law abiding, number plate businesses.

“Moreover, unsuspecting customers of ‘number1showplates’ may have believed that the number plates bought from the business were legal to use on the road when in fact they were not (only

certain flags and the Euro symbol are permitted to be displayed on a vehicle registration plate). I am pleased that Milton Keynes Trading Standards is continuing its valuable work to maintain a

level playing field for businesses in Milton Keynes and ensuring that consumers are protected.”

Neil Allen, Head of Regulatory Services at Milton Keynes Council, said:“This is an excellent result, after a lot of hard work and effort by Milton Keynes Council Trading

Standards. This was not an easy investigation from the start, particularly finding out who was behind the business and establishing the physical location of the business when the website

showed a fake address in Ireland.  However, under such circumstances Trading Standards Officers do have powers to request information from third parties and can if necessary carry out

surveillance on properties and vehicles. 

“The excellent result in court shows that criminals who are repeat offenders have to bear the full weight of the judicial system”

Carl Robinson, chairman of the Tri-Region scambusters team, said: “This is an excellent result and reinforces the value and success of collaboration between local

authority Trading Standards services and regional assets such as the Scambuster teams.”

In his summing up the judge thanked Milton Keynes Council for its very hard work carried out over a long period of time.