A police chief has blamed petrol station owners for fuel thefts after it was revealed just two out of 255 incidents in his territory this year resulted in charges.

His comments came after a Freedom of Information request by the Matlock Mercury found that thousands of fuel thefts from petrol stations in Derbyshire were going unpunished.

It revealed that only 211 charges have been brought from 4,012 drive offs in the last 10 years. This year there were 255 fuel thefts from service stations in Derbyshire up until September, but only two charges.

Detective chief superintendent Mark Knibbs said: “The theft of fuel is a clear illustration of the dilemmas facing police forces in making decisions on where we place our limited resources.

“This type of crime is wholly preventable if stores adopted a pre-payment model for customers purchasing their fuel; something that’s been implemented successfully at many petrol stations in the county.

“As a force, we will continue to focus our resources on protecting vulnerable victims and on tackling the most serious criminality.

“However, on occasions where a criminal investigation is necessary and proportionate, then we can and will prosecute people in relation to the theft of fuel.”