‘Welcome to Victims First. Please leave your name and number and we will return your call. Beeeeeeeeeeeep!’
I had rung the number given to me by the police to pay my fixed penalty fine for not having an MOT.
This £100 I was trying to pay was coming out of an increasingly tight household budget, incidentally, so I decided that the fairest thing to do was to claw it back from the state.
I had, of course, deeply apologised to the officer who pulled me over for forgetting the MOT after the Covid extension period ran out. And I begged him to let me drive straight home, park off road, and take the Volvo to be tested the very next morning. But he insisted I had to be fined.
Looking through my list of direct debits, I decided to stop paying the council for garden waste collection, the annual subscription for which was due, so I let it lapse.
The state should know that what they take with liberal abandon, we have to scratch around like thieves in the night to find, and sometimes that means scratching around places they would normally be allowed to fish for more money in.
Darn it all, really, because I got pulled over at night when I turned right out of a garage that the copper said had a sign saying no right turn, but which in fact, when I went back to look, had an unlit sign that was invisible in the dark.
Having pulled me over, he discovered my MOT had lapsed. Fair enough. But I then had to call and ask the police repeatedly to help me pay the ticket as it hadn’t printed properly. A policewoman finally emailed me the details and a phone number to pay.
But this was incorrect. Either that or I did need to call something called Victims First to help me cope with the fallout of being pulled over by a special constable who detained me for an hour to lecture me about the state of my car, issued me with a half-printed penalty notice, and then, having made me keep my headlights on for all that time, left me stranded by the side of the road with a drained battery.
He was just doing his job. And being a special, his work was his hobby. He laughed about the state of my old Volvo until I was in tears.
Then he told me off for ‘making a scene’. He said the car would never go through its MOT. I had a little weep about that. He told me I was the most difficult person he had ever dealt with.
The next day, the guy at the test centre listened to the builder boyfriend telling him the sorry story of how I had been pulled over and had this piece of advice for us. ‘Jet wash it regularly. The police pull cars over that are old and dirty hoping there will be something wrong with them. Even now it’s MOT’d, if you don’t clean it, they’ll keep pulling you.’
The mechanic told the builder boyfriend he was so sick of being pulled over that he got rid of his car and bought a motorbike. The helmet helps, he explained, because when they can’t see whether you’re a man, woman, black (which he happened to be), white, young or old, the variables are too bothersome for them.
It got me to thinking of all the times I’ve been pulled over in the Volvo. I’ve been breathalysed on Park Lane — reading zero. I’ve been pulled over on the one-way system in Wandsworth for being on the phone — they had to let me go when they searched the car and my phone wasn’t there. I had left it at home.
And now I’ve been pulled over for turning right out of a garage that had no visible sign saying no right turn, leading to them discovering my lapsed MOT.
I managed to pay the fine in the end, by going online. A firm called Ingenico emailed me a confirmation of my ‘order’ with the Ministry of Justice, quoting a return email for the Welsh police.
Oh, it’s a fair cop, I suppose. I deserve to be all shaken up, ridiculed and put through a load of confusion and bother for forgetting my MOT. But I am a tad suspicious about why they pulled me in the first place. When I went back to look at the sign, other vehicles were turning right out of that garage. Why me? As we are now meant to ask. And why did he enjoy interrogating me so much?
And to think I used to robustly defend the police. Now I’m the sort of whinger who makes woke-sounding complaints about them. It’s very disappointing.
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