Vehicle seizures & recoveries

If your vehicle has been involved in a collision or crime, has been found, seized or impounded by the police and is at a police pound, then you’ll find information here about how you can claim it back or dispose of it.

Vehicles can be seized for the following reasons:

Careless driving

Often a first warning is issued initially.

Unlicensed drivers

A uniformed officer requires a person to produce his/her driving licence for examination if requested.

If the person fails to produce them, and the officer has reasonable grounds for believing a motor vehicle is or was being driven by the person other than in accordance with a driving licence for that class of vehicle, the vehicle will be seized.

Uninsured drivers

A uniformed officer requires a person to produce evidence that a motor vehicle is not or was not being driven without a valid certificate of insurance to cover its use.

If the person fails to produce such evidence, and the officer has reasonable grounds for believing the vehicle is or was being driven without a valid certificate of insurance to cover its use, the vehicle will be seized.

Drivers who fail to stop

A uniformed officer requires a person driving a motor vehicle to stop the vehicle when requested.

If the person fails to stop the vehicle when requested, or fails to stop the vehicle long enough, the vehicle could be seized.

This also applies to drivers who stop but then make off on foot.

Obstruction or Dangerous to Other Road Users

Attending officers will give the driver a reasonable time to remove their vehicle if it is causing an obstruction; if not the vehicle could be recovered.

For Use as Evidence

Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) police can recover any evidence at a crime scene.

Road Tax Offences

Our role involves only the seizing of the vehicle and giving of a DVLA leaflet explaining how to get the vehicle back. We do not get involved in the release of the vehicle, as this is dealt with by the vehicle recovery company involved.

Statutory Off Road Notice (SORN)

In addition to untaxed seizures, the DVLA powers allow officers to seize vehicles seen driven on a road that have been declared as SORN. 

Foreign-Registered Vehicles (FRVs)

The powers also allow officers to seize FRVs when they have been driven on a publically maintained road and have either:

Been in the UK for longer than 6 months (visiting, on holiday, etc).

Or if the driver/owner is a resident in the UK, then the 6 months does not apply and the vehicle must be registered, taxed and insured in the UK before it can be driven. There may be exemption to this in the case of foreign students.

Stolen/Abandoned Vehicles

‘Section 99 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984’ authorises the police to remove vehicles that are illegally, dangerously or obstructively parked or abandoned or broken down, whether or not they have been stolen. The vehicle may not be safe just to drive away or may need to be examined before it is used again. There are statutory fees that you are legally required to pay. They are decided by the Home Office. The fees are made payable to the vehicle recovery operator who has collected your vehicle. 

Vehicle Recovery

Northumbria Police has statutory obligations which can involve the recovery of vehicles. Circumstances where police may be required to recover vehicles include:

The Northumbria Police Vehicle Recovery Scheme was set up to manage the recovery, storage, release and/or disposal of vehicles recovered at the request of police officers.

Northumbria Police Vehicle Recovery Scheme

The storage period begins at noon on the first day after your vehicle's removal. This is to allow the vehicle operator sufficient time to notify you that your vehicle is ready for collection. No VAT is payable on these fees.

Will I have to pay if the police recover my stolen vehicle?

Police contracted operators have to meet specified standards. Membership of a breakdown club may not be able to provide a guaranteed speed of service and safe removal.

Police officers who discover a stolen vehicle will try to stay with it until it is recovered. This prevents it from being stolen again, vandalised or used for other criminal purposes.  Owners are not always immediately available and may not be able or willing to attend at once. 

What powers do the police have to remove stolen vehicles or abandoned vehicles from where they find them?

  • Involvement in accidents causing an obstruction or hazard
  • Stolen vehicles
  • Broken down and causing an obstruction or hazard
  • Uninsured vehicles
  • Vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers
  • Vehicles used anti-socially
  • Burnt out vehicles
  • Suspect vehicles 'of interest' to police

Abandoned vehicles causing an obstruction (See AVAIL below) Northumbria Police Vehicle Recovery Scheme has 13 contracted recovery operators, based within the force boundaries, who provide a professional recovery service on behalf of Northumbria Police.

Costs of recovery- 

Charges paid by the police force

Where recoveries are made under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), for the purpose of the investigation of crime, or where police have seized a vehicle as suspected stolen and subsequently return it to the person it was seized from, Northumbria Police will pay the recovery fee.

Charges paid by the owner 

The owner of the vehicle will be responsible for the cost of the recovery and any storage charges incurred where their vehicle has been: 

  • At risk of vandalism/arson
  • Stolen, and is subsequently recovered by police
  • Found causing an obstruction or a danger to the public
  • Involved in a collision
  • Seized under Sec 165 Road Traffic Act without valid insurance and/or driving licence
  • Seized under Sec 59 Police Reform Act  when a motor vehicle is used carelessly, inconsiderately or 'off-road' in a manner that causes alarm, annoyance or distress 

Release of vehicles

Recovery operators are provided with vehicle release details and, are notified by Northumbria Police Vehicle Recovery Scheme, which has responsibility for the costs incurred. Where costs are the responsibility of the owner, the vehicle cannot be released until the costs are settled. On receipt of release details the recovery operator will send a letter to the owner on how to arrange collection of their vehicle.

Release of vehicle seized under S165 A-C of the Road Traffic Act 

Where a vehicle is seized under Section 165 Road Traffic Act without valid insurance and/or driving licence a seizure notice will be issued which identifies that the owner must produce at the designated police station: 

  • The copy of the seizure form
  • Photographic ID
  • Proof of ownership of the seized vehicle
  • Valid driving licence (photocard and counterpart)
  • Valid certificate of insurance 
  • This must be done within seven working days of the seizure in order for the vehicle to be released.

Arranging vehicle collection

To arrange collection of your vehicle you should contact the recovery operator. You must provide two forms of ID one of which must be photographic and the other providing address details. Full payment of the statutory recovery/storage charges must be made to the recovery operator. 

Recovery Operators are open for the release of vehicles between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays). Vehicles cannot be collected during the weekend.

Abandoned Vehicle Scheme - AVAIL

Vehicles that have no current keeper or where ownership cannot be established and are abandoned on roads or public land, are the responsibility of the Local Authority. 

The Northumbria Police Vehicle Recovery Scheme (NPVRS) acts as a facilitator and manages all vehicles recovered under the Abandoned Vehicle Scheme on behalf of the Local Authorities.  

The Vehicle Recovery Unit will carry out relevant enquiries and, where appropriate, will arrange for a 24-hour notice to be put on the vehicle prior to removal. If the vehicle has to be removed then the recovery operator will be called out to collect the vehicle within 24-hours. 

This is done when a vehicle is reported as abandoned and:

  • Is in reasonable condition
  • There is no keeper
  • It does not pose an immediate risk to nearby property
  • It does not pose an immediate risk to public health and safety
  • Is in an area, where it is not likely to be burnt out or vandalised

A vehicle poses a danger when reported and is found to be: 

  • Insecure and in poor condition
  • Posing a risk to nearby property
  • A danger to health and safety
  • At risk of vandalism/arson
  • Burnt-out

The Vehicle Recovery Unit will carry out relevant enquiries and where appropriate arrange for the vehicle to be removed immediately under the Abandoned Vehicle Scheme. The cost of removal will lie with either the vehicle owner or the Local Authority

AVAIL contact details

Free phone number 0800 169 44 66 (24-hours)

Vehicle Recovery Unit contact details

The Vehicle Recovery Unit is open (excluding public holidays) between;

9.00am – 4.30pm (Monday to Thursday)   9.00am – 4.00pm (Friday)   CLOSED (Weekends)

All necessary documents must be submitted at least 1 hour before the above times in order for the appropriate checks to be made and a vehicle released the same day. This is however, subject to a queuing system whereby documents are checked and vehicles subsequently released on a first come, first served basis.

By emailing


My vehicle has been seized or removed, how do I get it back?

You can visit the front office at your local police station. click here (you will find details of locations and opening hours)

You will have 7 working days to present your documents at the Police Stations above and 14 days to claim the vehicle back. Your vehicle will be disposed of if it is not collected within these times.

What do I need to take when I go to reclaim a seized vehicle?

You will need to take:

  • The seizure notice issued at the roadside.
  • The penalty ticket issued at the roadside (if applicable).
  • Proof of ownership of the vehicle. Ideally, this would be the V5C registration document. Alternatively, you can produce the new keeper supplement of the V5C or a printed receipt for the vehicle but these documents will not be accepted on face value and further enquiries may be necessary.
  • Your driving licence.
  • Your valid certificate of insurance. This must be specific to the vehicle and name the driver.
  • If you are unable to produce the original documents, the release of the vehicle may be prevented or delayed and you could incur further storage costs. All documents must be originals, faxes and photocopies will not be accepted.

When will my vehicle be released after it has been seized?

Once the officer is satisfied your documentation is in order, they will stamp the seizure notice and make contact with the recovery operator who is holding your vehicle on behalf of Northumbria Police. The front office will also email the recovery yard as well as stamping the form, authorising the release of the vehicle. Then - providing the garage/vehicle compound is open - you can usually go and collect the vehicle straight away taking your relevant documentation with you:

  • Photographic ID (if licence has been sent away then take Passport).
  • Proof of ownership Vehicle insurance.

I need to reclaim a seized vehicle. What if the front office staff are not satisfied with the documentation I provide?

If the police are not satisfied with the documentation, they may either:

  • refer the case back to the police officer who seized the vehicle (or a member of the Roads Policing or Vehicle Recovery departments).
  • ask you to return with alternative documentation.
  • Ultimately, if you are unable to provide satisfactory documentation, the vehicle will not be released. It will be kept for 14 days from the time it was seized, then it will be disposed of.

Can someone else reclaim the vehicle on my behalf?

The vehicle must be reclaimed by the person who owned it when it was seized by us.

You cannot sell the vehicle while it is in our custody. However, the owner/keeper can come to the police station with a nominated person to collect the vehicle. The owner will have to prove they own the vehicle and the nominated party will have to show they have appropriate insurance cover and valid driving licence.

Please note: the nominated driver cannot use their own comprehensive insurance.

Can you use a trade or business insurance policy to claim a vehicle which has been seized?

Yes, as long as the policy:

  • Specifically names the driver who is collecting the vehicle.
  • Specifically lists the vehicle on the stock list.
  • Trade policies will only be accepted if accompanied by stock books and VAT registration certificate. The driver should also have declared to the police officer who seized the vehicle that they were driving the vehicle for business purposes.
    Remember, Northumbria Police will not accept documents on face value. Checks will be completed in conjunction with the DVLA and Motor Insurers' Bureau. We may also make direct contact with your insurance company. Please note that this could lead to your insurer withdrawing cover if you have not advised them of any driving convictions or pending convictions.

What happens if I do not collect a vehicle which has been seized?

The vehicle will be kept for 14 days after it is seized. If you do not collect it, we are authorised to dispose of the vehicle on the fifteenth day. You will then automatically be liable to pay the statutory recovery fee, 14 days of statutory storage fees and the disposal fee. This could be pursued through court action.

If you intend to collect the vehicle but have a problem meeting the 14 day deadline you must make contact with the recovery operator as soon as possible. Failure to make contact within 14 days is likely to result in the disposal of your vehicle. In exceptional cases, arrangements can be made to keep a vehicle for longer at the cost of the vehicle owner/keeper.

My vehicle was seized. What if I don't want to collect the vehicle?

If you don't want the vehicle back, you can disclaim it by signing a form signing the vehicle over to us for disposal. Once you disclaim the vehicle, further storage costs will not be applied, but you will still be liable for the recovery fee and storage up to that point.

If you don't want the vehicle back, we would prefer that you disclaim it rather than simply not turn up to collect it: it enables us to draw a line under the incident.

Disclaiming your vehicle can also save you incurring longer storage fees.

Contact the seizing officer if you want to disclaim your vehicle and they will advise you accordingly.

What are the Road Traffic Acts for Vehicle Seizures?

Under Section 165A of the Road Traffic Act 1988, police have the power to seize any vehicle that is being driven without a valid insurance policy or where the driver does not hold a valid driving license. If your vehicle has been seized for this reason the driver should have received a UNIL1 seizure notice.

The Police Officer will have also reported the driver for summons for the offences committed, or arrested, or been given a fixed penalty fine of £300 plus 6 penalty points on their driving licence.

Once the car has been seized it will be taken to the vehicle recovery compound, where you will be charged a release fee plus a daily storage fee until the vehicle is collected. Charges (link on downloadable Resources)

Section 59 powers

If you have driven your vehicle in an anti-social manner which has caused or was likely to cause alarm, distress or annoyance, or was being driven in a careless or inconsiderate manner and it has been seized by the police under Section 59 powers, download the S59 seized vehicle information document from the useful documents section.

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