August 27, 2009

Birmingham is driving test fraud ‘hot spot’

POLICE today revealed they were regularly being called in to challenge the identity of people sitting driving tests in a bid to put the brakes on bogus pupils.

It is feared fraudsters are assuming the identity of provisional drivers to help them pass the test, either as a favour to friends or for a cash payment.

The problem is so bad that Birmingham is considered one of the country’s “hot spots”.

Elsewhere in the Midlands, there is a regular police presence at test centres such is the prevalence of fake pupils sitting the tests to help people get a driving licence.

PC Steve Rogers, from the West Midlands Police’s Road Traffic Department, said officers worked with investigators from the Driving Standards Agency to beat the cheats.

“Birmingham is one of the hot spots for the country,” he said.

“While officers are not routinely stationed at test centres we are routinely asked to assist the Driving Standards Agency.

“There are regular interventions taking place at test centres in Birmingham to challenge the identity of people and people have been arrested for a number of offences.

“We don’t want people on the roads who have not been trained properly but there are potentially people on the streets of the city who have never taken a test.”

Zhiar Rostam, aged 24, of Colonial Road, Birmingham, was jailed for six months by a judge at Coventry Crown Court after pleading guilty to fraud.

The court heard he had posed as another man to take his driving test for him at the Nuneaton centre.

Vicki Lofrese, prosecuting, said a man called Ahzo Mohammed was due to take his practical driving test at the Nuneaton centre but when examiner Paul Owens went to the waiting room to collect him, Rostam stepped forward.

He was caught because he looked nothing like the person on the provisional driving licence.

Miss Lofrese said: “Staff at the centre were on their guard. It was known that this type of offence was becoming prevalent, and there were police officers at the scene for this reason.”

Sally Cairns, defending, said Rostam was a Kurd who had fled Iraq in 2002 because his family had been persecuted, as a result of which he has emotional difficulties.

Jailing Rostam, Judge Coates said he needed to make an example of him.

In 2003, detectives in Alum Rock uncovered a major driving test scam which could have put dozens of unqualified drivers onto the roads of Birmingham.

The six-month police probe led to the arrest of three people on deception and conspiracy offences.

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