A POLICE delegation were told they could not take a national award they had travelled to London to collect on a plane because it was classed as a security risk.

Durham Police received the award for a groundbreaking project that has taken 2,500 uninsured vehicles off the roads in less than two years.

But the coveted prize almost failed to make it back to the North-East when airport staff told the police delegation bringing it home that the six-pointed star trophy could not be carried in the cabin because it was a security risk.

Faced with having to post the award back to themselves, vehicle recovery manager Malcolm Shilton and Sergeant Lee Morris explained the circumstances and persuaded staff at Stansted to allow them to board the flight with their prize.

Mr Shilton said: "The trophy is about 10in high and is quite spiky. When we put it through the scanner, I thought it might cause a problem and, sure enough, it did, but we were able to persuade the supervisor to allow it through."

Under Operation Takeaway, which was launched by Durham Police in January last year, anyone found to be driving without insurance has had their vehicle seized and sent to a participating garage.

If the owner wants it back, they have 14 days to produce a valid insurance policy and pay at least £105 for recovery and £12 a day for storage.

On November 20, a Ford Mondeo stopped in Shotton Road, Peterlee, became the 2,500th car to be impounded under the scheme.

Two days later, the owner reclaimed his car after paying the fees and taking out insurance, but, although a handful are sold, about half of all vehicles confiscated end up going to the scrapyard.

Last week, the scheme, which is backed by insurance company Direct Line, won in the financial innovation awards run by the Institute of Fiscal Studies and held in London.

The Department of Transport says that about 1.2 million people, or one in 20 UK motorists, regularly drive without insurance, which puts about £30 a year on the premiums of honest drivers.