Twice a year the DVLA release a new series of registration numbers, but behind the scenes a special team of diverse individuals review the releases for appropriateness. They also revisit numbers already held on the suppression list.
Number plates that can be potentially offensive are taken very seriously after the release of H8 GAY in 2006. The registration prompted a storm of protest from the public, including an MP, complaining that it could be read as ‘hate gay’. It was later withdrawn by the DVLA.
The reasons for banning can be on the grounds of religious, racial and political sensitivities or that they are of poor taste. The DVLA do not wish for any number to cause general offence or embarrassment.
For 2015, a large number of plates have already been revoked, including UP15 BUM, PR15 SON, WA15TED and *P15 OFF, along with more explicit combinations.
Despite their efforts, however, some rude or offensive plates occasionally slip through the net, for example, PEN 15, ORG 45M and BO11 LUX. But the likes of VA61 ANA and BL03 JOB were forbidden.
When it comes to religion, this year KR15 HNA (referring to the Hindu god Krishna), sold for £233,000, however, JE55 US* combinations and also AL14LAH were forbidden!
The 46-page suppression list includes current style combinations such as CO** CKS, BA** STD, AB** USE, AL** ALH, BO** MBS, BU** LLY, AN** GER and BL** OOD, regardless of the digits in between.
This whole process can cause some controversy. A man from the Midlands with the surname Islam knows this all too well after he recently applied for the ’15 LAM’ number plate but was informed that it was “inappropriate”. The man was thinking of buying the plate as a gift for his brother and was quite upset with the situation. He told the Guardian, “I’m not particularly religious, but I am proud of my name. To be told that my name is offensive is really upsetting.” MO14 MED and many Singh registrations such as MR51NGH we allowed.
Worryingly for a few people, if a plate that has already been released later provokes complaints from the public, the DVLA have the power to revoke the number, forcing the owner/driver to hand it back to the agency.
In the last financial year, the DVLA raised more than £105million for the Treasury. This was generated from online sales and auctions of personalised number plates. November 2014 saw ’25 O’ sell for more than £518,000 alone, and this is the most ever paid for a registration number from the DVLA.