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Police chief in talks to ban cash-only vehicle auctions

Plans to prevent organised crime gangs making money from vehicle theft is in discussion between a police chief and policing minister.

Police chief in talks to ban cash-only vehicle auctions - Jenny Sims Assistant Chief Constable, Cheshire Police
Jenny Sims, NPCC lead on vehicle crime ©Staffordshire Police


According to a recent article in the Daily Telegraph, police chief urges ban on cash-only payments at auctions due to their use by organised crime gangs which is seeing a rise in vehicle theft.

Jenny Sims, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s (NPCC) lead on vehicle crime, recently met with policing minister, Kit Malthouse to discuss new laws to avert gangs from making millions from vehicle theft, which have increased by ‘60% to 115,000 offences in five years’.

Ms Sims, assistant chief constable with Cheshire police, told The Daily Telegraph that ‘thousands of cars are being stolen, to be stripped of their parts and then used to reconstruct a wrecked vehicle that the criminals have obtained through salvage firms.’

Vehicles are sold for cash at auction, and because it is a cash deal, it means there is no paper trail to track down these criminals.

According to the article, so far ‘only one (sic) of the auctions has agreed to block cash sales. ‘Ms Sims wants to use the threat of legislation to get them to voluntarily bar them or face a legal ban and new rules requiring anyone selling a car wreck to register it with the DVLA.’

Ms Sims said: “The auction companies are not criminals, but they are operating in a way that is making it easier for criminals to process cash through their businesses,” She added: “They are selling them at auction for cash only without any audit trail.”

Mr Malthouse said: “If we can design crime out with physical, technological or regulatory changes, I’m all ears and I’m looking forward to hearing what ACC Sims has got to say.”

According to Ms Sims: ‘Car theft is increasingly a major source of income for serious and organised crime, because of the value and rising number of cars combined with the easy availability of “hacking” equipment which exploits flaws in in-demand keyless technology and can be bought freely online.’

Ms Sims said: “It’s become a low risk, high reward crime. We really need to increase the risk of being caught. A vast amount of offences are being committed by a small number of offenders.”

She said it was not a “victimless,” lower-level crime and instead caused severe distress to victims. She said ‘there was also growing evidence that criminals were using stolen vehicles as weapons to try to maim or kill police officers or members of the public.’

It is suggested, by police research, that one in seven (15 %) burglaries links to car crime, where thieves are breaking into homes and stealing keys. 

Ms Sims said that ‘she wants to work with the auction companies to tackle the problem but warned a “simple” change to the law could outlaw cash deals and remove the cloak of anonymity.’

“It’s simple economics. Reduce the value, increase the risk and the crime instantly becomes less attractive to criminals. The [auction companies] should think about why they accept cash only and how that is helpful to organised criminals. This is coming their way,” she said.

As well as a bar on cash-only sales, Ms Sims also told the Daily Telegraph that ‘she wanted roadworthiness certificates to guarantee the safety of any vehicles sold at auction and is talking to car manufacturers about improving security around keyless technology.’

Although several companies are now not accepting cash sales there seems to be increasing pressure to ban them. Although not illegal to do so, it is thought by some that if banning the use of cash, it would have an impact on the rising number of car thefts. Would this really be the case and is it fair that salvage yards are seen as the reason for this increase?



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Owain Griffiths

Owain Griffiths

Head of Circular Economy at Volvo Cars

Owain joined Volvo Cars in June 2021 to lead Circular Economy in the Global Sustainability Team. The company has committed to being a circular business by 2040 and has financial, recycled content and CO2 based targets for 2025, all of which Owain is working across the company to make happen. Owain previously worked for circular economy consultancy Oakdene Hollins where he advised businesses on evidence led circular economy implementation. 

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The presentation will cover the work Volvo Cars is doing to achieve 2025 but mainly focus on the transformational work towards 2040 and the business and value chain changes being considered. Attention will be paid to the way vehicles are being dealt with at the end of life and the complexities of closing material and component loops. Opportunities and challenges which Volvo Cars is facing will be presented including engagement with 3rd parties and increasing pressure from stakeholders.

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