A TEENAGER put different licence plates on his vehicle to avoid paying for insurance following the loss of his job due to the coronavirus pandemic, a court heard.

Toby Knott, aged 18, was behind the wheel of a Vauxhall Astra on the A30 in Sherborne on December 5, 2020 when he was stopped by a patrolling police officer.

Prosecuting, Richard Oakley, told Weymouth Magistrates Court how the police officer noted that the vehicle's identification number did not match the number plates.

He said: “A police officer was on patrol in Sherborne conducting speed checks.

“His attention was drawn to a Vauxhall Astra. On looking at the device, it was seen to be using cloned plates.

“He was stopped, and he was not the registered owner or on its insurance documents.”

Mr Oakley added the vehicle’s MOT certificate had expired in November 2020 and noted it was ‘not supposed to be on the road’.

Dorset Echo: Outside Weymouth Magistrates' Court.Outside Weymouth Magistrates' Court.

He said: “He admitted fraudulent use of the registration mark. He explained he put the plates on the vehicle to avoid paying for insurance.”

Knott of Church View, Gillingham, pleaded guilty to fraudulent use of a registration mark, driving a vehicle without a MOT test certificate and insurance.

Appearing unrepresented, Knott apologised to the Magistrates, but explained he had lost his job due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic and was looking for a way to reduce his bills. Knott added he put plates from a different vehicle onto his car.

He said: “So it being a tough year financially, I lost my first job due to Covid.

“I was furloughed and was let go from my job. I was struggling to pay all my bills.

“It was not acceptable, and I needed to get to work as I had another job and I had to allow another month of not being paid.

“It was my intention on payday to get it all off (the number plates) and have a fresh start. Now I am going to do a self-employed job as a labourer and training to be a bricklayer.”

Knott also explained he passed his driving test in October 2019 and had a clean driving licence.

He said: “I lost my job and went through a tough time and with family and I made the wrong decision.

“I made a stupid mistake.”

Chair of Magistrates, Mrs Saunders, said: “We have listened to everything you have said and thank you for being honest.”

For the charge of fraudulent registration, Knott was fined £266 and ordered to pay a £34 victim surcharge and costs of £85. His driving licence was also endorsed with six points for driving without insurance.

Mrs Saunders added: “You have told us you have previously had insurance and have gone through hard times, so we have given you the lesser points.”