THE dog can often blamed in a sticky situation but for one Yeovil garage only “sorry officer, a snail ate my tax disc” would help them escape a hefty police fine.
When Jon Roles, of West Coker Road-based J H Norman and Sons Ltd, was asked to fix a van, he did not expect to embark in a battle with the police due to the actions of a snail.
When he came to move the white Peugeot, which had broken down on Forest Hill, he discovered a £100 penalty notice for failing to properly display a tax disc.
Enlisting the help of father Steve, 70, on closer inspection the culprit for the missing disc was identified - a snail.
It was caught in the act, at the scene of the crime, sat on the dashboard happily munching through the certificate.
Steve Roles said: “It’s almost unbelievable.
“I had a bit of a chuckle as I just couldn’t believe what I saw.
“I think snails like glue and ink so maybe that’s why it ate the disc.
“But we still had the penalty notice to deal with.”
Mr Roles, who helps his son out at work on occasion, said they felt it was their duty to contest the fine.
He said: “As the vehicle was in the care of the garage at the time we felt the liability rested with us so we appealed on the customer’s behalf.
“Jon asked for my advice and I suggested we talk to the police.
“We explained the situation but they weren’t too keen to see the evidence.
“They said it was still an offence as the disc was not properly displayed.
“As it had been partially eaten by the snail, it only said ‘August’ and you couldn’t see the year.
“But we knew for a fact the customer had taxed the vehicle.”
Mr Roles said in a second attempt they wrote to the police explaining the situation in full with photos.
He said: “We felt it was unjust. We tried to make the letter light-hearted but also explain that this all happened by chance.”
To the pair’s delight, Avon and Somerset Police waived the fine.
In a letter a member of the central ticket office said: “After consideration of all the facts I have decided to excuse payment of the fixed penalty.
“Please feel free to interrogate the offender, preferably with a teaspoon of salt.
Mr Roles said they were grateful for the letter, which showed the police also a sense of humour.
The vehicle is being fixed and a new tax disc has been applied for.
Sadly the offending snail has now died.
Mr Roles said: “Perhaps it just ate too much tax.”
The garage has taken ownership of the van in question - in a non-snail related deal - which it is planning to sell.
Mr Roles said: “It is the talk of the garage and of many of our customers.
“You just couldn’t write this if you tried. It was very much a ‘the dog ate my homework’ moment.”
During last week’s Autumn statement chancellor George Osborne announced car tax discs would be scrapped next year and replaced with an electronic system.