Kent

Unpaid Dart Charge fines: Nick Freeman says UK is 'soft' on foreign drivers

Crossing the Thames from Kent to Essex via the Dartford tunnel Image copyright Simon Leatherdale / Geograph
Image caption The charge at the Dartford Crossing is payable between 06:00 and 22:00 daily

The UK is being "soft and stupid" over the unpaid fines of more than a million foreign drivers who have used the Dartford Crossing, according to celebrity motoring lawyer Nick Freeman.

Figures show about 1,160,000 fines - worth about £81m - have been passed to a European debt recovery agency since the Dart Charge began in 2014.

Mr Freeman - known as "Mr Loophole" - said it sent out a bad message.

Highways England said non-payment was being followed up in the UK and abroad.

Figures for how many fines went on to be paid by foreign drivers have not been released by Highways England, which said this could prejudice the effective operation of Dart Charge.

Mr Freeman said: "That means it's complete nonsense and they've recovered nothing."

Charges and fines at the Dartford Crossing

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Image copyright PA
Image caption Nick Freeman is calling for an app to be developed

The figures showed there had been more than 120 million chargeable crossings since Dart Charge began. Of the five million of those by foreign vehicles, more than a million drivers did not pay.

Mr Freeman, who has defended Sir Alex Ferguson, Jeremy Clarkson and David Beckham among a string of high-profile clients, is calling for an app to be developed to notify foreign non-payers about unpaid fines at UK borders.

He claimed it could be sorted without too much difficulty.

"The government need to grasp this because the amount of money is exorbitant and it's totally unfair," he added.

"The point is there are millions and millions of foreign drivers who come over to this country and they pay nothing to use our roads. We go abroad, we have to pay."

Image caption Highways England said most drivers paid the charge correctly

A Highways England spokesman said: "The vast majority of drivers are paying their Dart Charge correctly, and the number of foreign drivers not paying on time makes up less than 1% of total crossings.

"Non-payment is being followed up fairly and appropriately, using all legal means, both in the UK and abroad."

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