Is it illegal to display a registration plate behind the windscreen?

My car passed its MOT with its front registration plate fixed to my car's bonnet with gaffer tape. I'd been waiting at the time for the proper plate holder to be sent out to me before it could be fixed to the curved profile of the bumper. However, two days after the MOT, I was driving along a dual carriageway at speed and the plate flew off into the road. I retrieved my plate and placed it on full display behind my windscreen until I could get home to reattach it properly. Unfortunately, I was unlucky enough to be stopped by the police before I could get home to make the repairs and was reported for failing to display the front plate.

Firstly, have I broken any laws by placing the plate behind glass windscreen, and do I have a lawful excuse due to the circumstances as my plate was attached and on display when I set off at the beginning of my journey? The police said the plate can't be behind glass, whilst I thought that as long as the plate is not obscured in any way that it was still legal.

Asked on 10 November 2020 by andy pears

Answered by Georgia Petrie
Your reg plate should be fixed onto the vehicle, not inside it. This is so that it can be read even in bright sunlight, which will reflect off of the glass - obscuring the reg numbers from cameras. You could be fined up to £1000 if you drive with incorrectly displayed number plates, however, this is often more to do with the letter spacing. Some police officers are also more lenient, especially if you set off with it affixed correctly. Unfortunately, if you've been stopped with it inside the car - this could land you with a fine and discretionary disqualification at worst. Here's the relevant legislation regarding reg plates:

"in such a position that in normal daylight the characters of the registration mark are easily distinguishable from every part of a relevant area having the diagonal length specified in paragraph" - Section 6 (3b) of The Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001.

"A registration plate must not be treated in any other way which renders the characters of the registration mark less easily distinguishable to the eye or which would prevent or impair
the making of a true photographic image of the plate through the medium of camera and film or any other device" - Section 11 (2) of The Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001

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