A ROGUE MOT tester who sold certificates to illegal street racers in Somerset has avoided jail.

Thomas Ellis ran his father’s garage in Newton Abbot but accepted £80 a time to issue certificates for cars that were not actually tested.

Investigators found some of the 40 false certificates he issued were applied to cars used by drivers who took part in 'drifting' events involving high-speed controlled skids.

Many were issued to cars registered miles away from Devon, including Wells and Beaminster, in Dorset.

Ellis also failed to carry out emissions tests on other cars and passed 20 per cent more cars than most MOT garages, Exeter Crown Court was told.

The testing station carried out more than four times as many tests than the national average and the average age of the vehicles tested was 15 years.

Ellis, 23, of Heathfield, Newton Abbot, admitted fraudulently issuing MOT certificates and was jailed for a year, suspended for 18 months by Mr Recorder Malcolm Galloway.

He was ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid community work, ten days of rehabilitation activities and to pay £2,556 costs.

The judge told him: “These were very serious offences and no doubt had one of the vehicles gone on to cause harm or to kill people, you would be facing much more serious charges.

“When cars are on the road which should not be on the road, they kill people.

"They kill families on motorways and kill children who are crossing the road if brakes don’t work.

“That is the reason we have MOT tests and why it is extremely serious to circumvent that system.”

Felicity Hine, prosecuting for the DVLA, said inspectors checked the MOT garage last August and found discrepancies in the bookwork, with the number of emissions tests carried out being much less than 483 tests carried out over the previous three months.

They also noticed certificates being issued to cars outside the area and connected some of these to vehicles known to be involved in ‘drifting’ or illegal driving at speed around roundabouts.

Two certificates had been issued to cars which had failed MOTs elsewhere just weeks earlier because of serious faults.

Ellis told investigators he had been paid £80 a time by a man called Toby to issue the certificates.

Paul Dentith, defending, said Ellis had been left in charge of the business by his father, a commercial fisherman, despite being just 21 at the time, newly qualified and immature for his age.

He said Ellils, who had experienced the loss of a child and the break up of a relationship, now works as a mechanic for another garage and is banned from carrying out MOTs for five years.