There are over 11,000 cars stolen in Ireland every year. The vast majority of which are recovered within forty eight hours but thousands more go unrecovered and onto the black market as clones, donor cars for parts or exported for sale or breaking in foreign jurisdictions.
Buy A Stolen Car And Risk Prosecution
What's not commonly known is that if you as a buyer knowingly purchase a stolen car you are in effect breaking the law and liable for prosecution under the Criminal Justice Act.
The question is just how could you 'know' if a car is stolen? A professional car thief can make identifying a stolen car a very difficult thing to do.
Even main dealers get caught out from time to time, so how is a private buyer supposed to know a genuine car from a 'ringer'?
Can The Gardai Tell You?
Unfortunately the answer is 'No'. If you, as a private citizen, contact a member of the force with a registration number asking whether or not the identified vehicle was stolen the Gardai are not permitted to tell you.
Surely The Garda Has a Duty Of Care to Inform The Enquirer?
While the force does maintain a Stolen Car Register on the 'Pulse' computer system, the information recorded in the database is not currently available to members of the public.
There are two reasons why the Gardai will not divulge the information to the public:
- Firstly, cars that are stolen are often 'cloned' and disguised using the identity and documentation of a similar car. The current registration number may not be the real registration number of the car involved. Therefore it's impossible for the Garda to give you a definitive answer without properly identifying the vehicle identification number ("VIN"). It may take an expert inspection to identify the correct VIN.
- Secondly, the fact that a specific vehicle has been recorded as stolen is currently treated as confidential information provided to the force by the owner for its detection efforts only. Permission to share the information with public databases, Interpol or any interested third parties is not currently sought, nor consequently given.
How Can It Be Said That You Knew A Car Was Stolen?
The responsibility lies squarely on the buyer to determine that the vehicle they're buying is not stolen. So it's up to you the buyer to protect yourself.
If you purchase a car at a knock-down price without the relevant paperwork, or fail to conduct the necessary background checks and don't demonstrate 'due care' in the transaction, you could be prosecuted for handling stolen goods. Yes that's right - you could be committing a criminal offence if you cannot show your actions were in good faith.
Top Tips To Avoid Buying A Stolen Car
There are some great bargains to be had in second hand cars but if buying a car privately there are a number of things you should always bear in mind. The following tips have been put together by Motorcheck and an Garda Siochana's Stolen Car Unit to assist you when buying privately.
Remember - the better the deal you're getting the more suspicious you should be about the vehicle offered. Buyer Beware!
- Do an online check - has the vehicle had a significant number of enquiries in a short period of time?
- Research the specific model you are going to see. Familiarise yourself with the location of the VIN Number and ensure that they all match the Vehicle License Certificate as well as the Motorcheck Report. If the VIN plate has been removed or replaced be very careful.
- Check that the VLC appears genuine. Are all the watermarks in place?
- Check the engine number. Does it match the VLC and the Motorcheck report? If not, why not? Ask!
- Make sure you can verify the seller's identification. Beware of any advert that invites you to call between 5 and 6pm. Try calling outside these hours and see if you can still make contact.
- Always ask for a landline. If not the home number, get a work number. Mobile phones can be difficult to trace later if anything goes wrong.
- Always view the vehicle in good daylight and at the sellers home. Never meet in a 'neutral' venue like a supermarket car park.
- Ask the seller to take you through the history and mechanics of the car. Does the seller have a good knowledge of the service history? Is there documentary evidence to support it? Is he / she familiar with all the controls of the car?
- Check if the vehicle has a valid tax and insurance disc. If not, why not? Be sure to also check the registration number on the discs with that of the car. Do they match?
- Does the registration plate look like it has been recently printed? Are there more holes in it than necessary? Could it have been changed recently? Why?
- Car dealers love to advertise on vehicle windows. If stickers have been removed from the car ask why? Can you find a dealer in the service history that will support the cars history?
The Current Status Quo - "Caveat-Emptor"
If you are unlucky enough to find yourself in possession of a stolen car, the most likely thing that will happen is the car will be recovered by the Gardai and you will lose both it and any money paid for it.
We've long felt that the lack of information flow from the authorities does not protect buyers, and Motorcheck has spent years lobbying an Garda Siochana for access to the Irish Stolen Car Register. In a positive step, the force deployed a resource from their ICT department to explore the technical requirements of making this information available and subsequently made a positive recommendation to the Commissioner and the Stolen Vehicle Unit.
A Safer Future - Motorcheck First To Accept Terms Of Integration
I'm delighted to announce that Motorcheck.ie has accepted a proposal from the Stolen Vehicle Unit that will allow us to integrate stolen car register data into our vehicle history database.
We hope to begin implementing the necessary technical connectors shortly, meaning that each Motorcheck report will automatically check the stolen car register on the pulse system in real-time.
This is great news for consumers, and will mark another significant step in protecting buyers from purchasing a car with a hidden history. We'll post again once this great new addition is added to our system, and as always you can subscribe to our RSS feed or twitter stream to be the first to know.