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Forecourt crime

Making off without payment

The offence of making off without payment, commonly known as 'bilking' is an offence under Section 3 of the Theft Act 1978.

The definition of the offence is:

A person who, knowing that payment on the spot for any goods supplied or service done is required or expected from him, dishonestly makes off without having paid as required or expected and with intent to avoid payment of the amount due shall be guilty of an offence.

The most common type of the offence affecting retailers is the making off without payment for fuel at service stations, commonly known as a 'drive off'.

For a number of years Warwickshire Police have operated a forecourt watch scheme which sets out procedures for the reporting and recording of making off without payment offences.

In 2014, new recording protocols were introduce whereby all incidents of making off without payment are recorded as crimes by the police. This has not affected the protocols in respect of the actions to be taken by staff at service stations.

When a 'drive off' is committed you must:

  • immediately take notes of the incident, including vehicle registration number, vehicle details (make, model and colour if possible), descriptions of person(s) involved
  • print sample receipt showing grade of fuel, volume dispensed, pump number, and value
  • call the police to report the offence - the police call handler will take details for crime report and arrange for a police officer to attend the petrol station and collect a pack containing all evidence of  the offence
  • the evidence pack must be ready for collection when the police officer attends the station - if it is not ready this can greatly affect how an offence is investigated
  • prepare the evidence pack which must include: CCTV footage of the incident stopped immediately before incident occurred; rough notes made immediately after incident; a completed statement form by witness, including all details of incident, offending vehicle and persons involved, with rough notes.  CCTV footage and sample receipt should be included as exhibits.

It is a criminal offence to make false reports of a crime. Warwickshire Police will prosecute those who report false crimes.

The Forecourt Watch scheme has also proven to be a useful tool for sharing useful information. By signing up to the scheme you will receive messages from the police warning of vehicles involved in this type of offence.

The information shared through the scheme has assisted the police with the detection of other crimes and has also helped with the prevention of 'drive off' offences.

If you are not already signed up please take a look at our Warwickshire Police Forecourt Watch Scheme

  • Drive off prevention: A useful guide for petrol retailers

    The aim of this section is to show you some of the common signs that a drive off is about to occur. It is not an exhaustive list but will hopefully provide you with the tools to identify and prevent future drive offs. A drive off occurred after each of the images below were captured.