FED-UP Lesley Christie was left seeing red after being told she would have to hand over £150 – to get her own stolen car back.
The university worker was told she could not drive off from the recovery compound without handing over the money.
Angry Lesley today branded the situation an “absolute disgrace”.
The 52-year-old said: “I’m the victim, but I might as well be the criminal because I bet they get off with a lighter sentence than this.”
Lesley was ready to drive off in her Ford Focus after it was found a few streets away from where it was stolen.
But, despite having the keys in her hand, she was told the car would have to be taken to a compound in Pallion where she would have to stump up the cash to get it back.
Lesley was then informed that if she was unable to pay the money, she would be charged a further £20 a day until she could.
Now, the RAC is calling for a change in the law to protect drivers from these type of charges.
Lesley, of Royal Court, off New Durham Road, Sunderland, said: “It’s an absolute disgrace and just hideous that I’ve had to pay £150 to get back the car that was stolen from me.”
Northumbria Police said stolen vehicles are subject to the Vehicle Recovery Scheme where the costs for recovery and storage charges are paid by the owner.
It added that drivers can claim back the cash on their insurance, but Lesley said this will mean her still having to pay the excess and losing her no claims bonus.
She said: “When I got there and found out I needed to pay £150 I didn’t know what to do because I didn’t have the money.
“It was even more shocking when I was told if I didn’t collect it then I would be charged an extra £20 a day for storage so I had to borrow the money off a friend.
“It’s totally unfair that I’m having to pay out when I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Motoring groups today said the charges do nothing but add insult to injury to drivers.
An RAC spokeswoman said: “The motorist is paying through the nose for everything now.
“We appreciate there is a cost for vehicle recovery but the Government needs to see if there is a fairer system.”
A Northumbria Police spokeswoman said: “Stolen vehicles are subject to the scheme in order to take the vehicle to a place of safety, prevent it from being used in further crime and to allow the owner the opportunity to have the road worthiness of the vehicle to be tested before being driven on public roads.”
•A 21-year-old woman has been charged with taking a vehicle without consent in relation to the incident.