Motorists across Northern Ireland are using social media to reveal the locations of red diesel testing checkpoints and mobile speed cameras to other drivers.
The posts have appeared on the Facebook page ‘Red Diesel Alert Northern Ireland’ which claims to have been set up to help motorists avoid the congestion that HMRC cause when dipping for agricultural diesel.
The page administrators go on to state: “No way do we endorse the use of untaxed fuel. We are here to simply help people avoid traffic jams.”
However, the posts have led to concerns that motorists are using the site to circumvent police attempts to save lives and crack down on illegal fuel use.
In the last twenty-four hours alone, the page has posted warnings and photographs of HMRC illegal fuel testing on the Toome Road, Magherafelt, the Cookstown Road, Dungannon, the Moneymore dual carriageway, Moy Road. Dungannon, Donaghmore Main Street, Stevenson’s Yard, Coalisland, and the Tamnamore roundabout, giving the impression that there has been a HMRC crackdown in the Mid Ulster area.
Many of the visitors to the page seem to view the posts as acts of citizenship rather than infractions of the law.
“The past couple of days they are everywhere lol”, said one motorist, while another replied: “They’re out in force today!”
Some drivers have posted derogatory comments, referring to HMRC officials as ‘dirtbags’.
The posts, which have been shared hundreds of times, include warnings of speed cameras on the A5 Omagh Road, and also DVLA road tax checks.
A spokesperson for the PSNI said that people posting the warnings were not breaking the law. Instead police regarded the messages as similar to motorists flashing lights to warn of a speed camera.
The HMRC states that using illicit fuel is not a victimless crime; it robs the government of tax revenue that is used to fund vital public services and puts those businesses that follow the rules at a commercial disadvantage. It also has a severe environmental impact, with considerable clean-up costs for local councils.
The use of illicit diesel is estimated to be 12% to 13% of market share in Northern Ireland and about 2% in the rest of the UK.
The use of rebated fuel is strictly limited to specific circumstances, primarily in agriculture, construction and heating. Excise duty on rebated diesel is charged at a lower rate than standard fuel duty.