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Offensive Registration Plates and the Banned List

Every year there are dozens of potential registration plates removed from circulation. The main reason is the potential offence they can cause. Sexist, racist, homophobic, swearing, religious or politically sensitive plates have been banned over the years.

The number of banned number plates currently fills a 46 page list and is updated annually. This year (2018) alone, the DVLA have banned the following registration plates…

BO18CKS

TA18BAN

BU18SHT

PU18BES

BL18JOB

TO18SER

VA18NAS

BA18BAG

KN18BBS

PU18SUK

The reasons for banning number plates are quite obvious, but in lots of cases some creativity is required.

Why The List Grows

The banned registration plate list grows each year, often because there’s shifting sands in terms of what causes offence – here are a few examples…

The legal requirement for a registration plate was announced in 1903, the first plates were released in 1904. At that time, the word ‘gay’ meant happy – it wasn’t used as a homophobic insult. Now, the DVLA have to review anything with the letters G, A and Y in that order as to not cause offence.

Politically, there are similar examples. Since the EU referendum in 2016, any plates that can be seen to be politically inflammatory have found themselves on the banned list. A plate with the letters ‘BNP’ (in that order), or any variations on ‘UKIP’ (such as UK1P) have also been banned.

Swearing also evolves. At one point in time, the word bitch was used to describe a female dog, nothing more. It wasn’t used in an offensive sense at all. As times change and the context in which words are used evolves, the DVLA have to respond. The registration plate B1TCH has been banned by the DVLA for obvious reasons.

In more modern times, religious plates have been banned thanks to their potential to cause offense and single out the owners as potential victims. Over the last few years the registration plates 15LAM, MU55LIM, J1HAD, JE5US and similar have all been banned.

Essentially, the list is updated annually due to a number of reasons…

  1. Words change meaning and new acronyms are born.
  2. Complaints are made, forcing a review of a particular number plates’ suitability.
  3. With each passing year, the new combination of numbers can spell new words – the number 8 can be used as a ‘B’, so brings about potential controversies. The number 9 can be seen as a ‘G’, so next year will also see new plates banned!
  4. Politics changes and views can be deemed offensive, so political plates are removed.

If a potentially offensive plate slips through the net, it is typically left alone unless a complaint is made. At that point, the plate will be reviewed by the DVLA and a decision made.

In very rare cases, the issue reaches the top of government. In 2006 the number plate H8 GAY was banned after Alistair Darling, the then transport secretary ordered the DVLA to remove it from circulation after receiving complaints from a fellow MP and members of the public. Ironically, it was owned by a gay couple who had bought the plate for a joke!

The Banned Number Plate Conclusion

The list of banned plates is ever growing, but a word to the wise – if you spot a funny word on a plate, snap it up! They typically sell on for many thousands of pounds!

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