Here is my column, published yesterday in the Ham & High, on the government’s decision to ban wheel clamping on private land.
Denver booted out!
When the Denver boot (wheel clamp) was introduced in this country – I remember wondering what the logic was of this new ‘solution’. A car is parked illegally or dangerously – so let’s make sure it stays in its illegal or dangerous position for much longer – by immobilising it!
Ever since then – this poor solution (albeit to a very real problem) – has caused untold misery. The horror stories abound: from the disabled man who was frog marched for twenty minutes to a cash point on a freezing November evening to a disabled man who had his wheelchair actually in the car that was clamped who had no money and so was left, stranded, by the clampers. However – it’s not just the extreme horror stories that matter – it is the every day horror story of a punishment completely out of kilter and disproportionate to the actual crime. Release fees of hundreds of pounds are made for what is, after all, a parking offence.
Parking regulations have to be fair and just if we want people comply and support them. Parking regulations should be used to improve traffic flow and improve safety – not act as revenue raisers. Wheel clamping – which was originally about putting off motorists from parking illegally on the highway has developed into a £1billion per year industry.
Successive governments have tried to deal with rogue clampers. Licensing of individuals working for vehicle immobilisation companies was the first attempt to rein in the industry because so much abusive behaviour was reported by people about the way they were treated by the clampers. The Independent Security Authority currently licenses the individuals working for a clamping company at a cost of £245 per annum.
However, licensing individuals did not stop the abuse and neither did it stop the poor signing, extortionate fees or the non-provision of receipts – because it is the companies that set the level of release fee or the position of the signage – not the individuals.
As soon as I became a Home Office minister with wheel clamping as part of my portfolio, I was deluged by letters from other MPs (representing their constituents) asking when we would do something about rogue clampers.
It seemed that we were continuing to try and make something work that never could or would. There had been little or no enforcement when complaints had been made against rogue clampers – even though they were now licensed. The police, with the best will in the world, did not have this as a priority in crime fighting. To move to licensing the companies as well as the individuals working for them and setting up an independent appeals process for aggrieved motorists would have been the next step. That would have meant more regulations that would not be enforced. As to the cost – an independent appeals process would cost £2million just for set up costs – and people would pay forever after for the running costs out of the fees they were charged.
The other option was to ban wheel clamping on private property altogether. Towing would have to be banned too – otherwise people would just find their vehicle disappeared instead of clamped. Banning had been introduced in Scotland in 1992 and had worked extremely well.
But what to do about the owners of private land? Of course – there has to be something to take the place of wheel clamping – some deterrent to prohibit people from parking on private property. Landowners have an absolute right to protect their land from people parking on it. So – in Scotland private landowners either protected that land by a barrier method or switched to ticketing.
Ticketing is highly regulated and consumer protection legislation already applies. There is already an independent appeals process in place – and it is a good and proportionate deterrent. A couple of people have raised the issue of there being so many unregistered / unlicensed cars – particularly in London, for example, and that these car owners would ignore a ticket. To that I would say to Boris and the Met police – about time this was properly dealt with rather than the go after ever more punitive methods for those who do pay up. It’s always the good guys who act responsibly and pay up – because they are good guys. Let’s go after the bad guys!
The legislation that is needed will be brought in through the Freedom Bill in or around November. If you would like to raise any issues or make any suggestions to inform that legislation – please feel free to write to me at the Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF
I got clamped, refused to pay, sat in the car for two whole days being harassed in turn by the clampers and the police both trying to scare me into leaving the car so it could be towed. Eventually I got cold and tired and left the car and the clampers took it.
I took legal action, the clampers failed to appear in court (twice), I got a default judgement for the value of the car, but the company doesn’t keep any cash and doesn’t care about ccjs (who needs credit when you can legally hold people to ransom for their freedom) so how am I supposed to get my car back or any justice ??
Congrats to the clampers who were so proud that they were ‘acting entirely within the law’ when they stole my car with the assistance of armed police officers, and thank you to the british ‘justice’ system, which actually has nothing to do with justice and alot to do wioth money. I wanted an apology and my car back and all I got was a piece of paper showing that someone I can neither find (due to the business being registered to a ‘formation agent’ and the only address being a PO Box) and certainly not find any assets to seize, owes me some money. (Great!)
Also thanks to the ever growing body of entirely useless legislation regarding clamping on private land and ‘licensing requirements’. This approach will never work because Of this reason:- The government does not have any powers to legislate the activities of private landowners on their own private land. Only criminal law can apply there and thanks to the licensing requirements which protect the clampers from the possibility of a criminal prosecution, this is now inapplicable. This is the real reason why the codes of conduct of the BPA etc were never legally enforcable, and why signage size and release fees were never legislated.
in fact when I got clamped I telephoned the police to inform them because there was no signage at all and was informed by their legal team that there is no legal requirement to show any signage, neither can they interfere because its on private land and, if the individual is licensed, then no offence has been committed.
I wonder how much money was raised by the SIA for licensing fees, licences which do absolutely nothing except protect the clampers from criminal prosecution. Or how much was raised by ExExcel who have been for many years selling a BTEC Diploma in Clamping and Parking Enforcement, or those lawyers and MP’s whose private business interests include premises that operate private clamping firms ?
If you want to play the clampers at their own game, don’t park on private land then they can’t clamp you, charge an extortionate fee or inpound your car.
I think people should be aware that this is Trevor Whitehouse’s company in action.
Clamping people who are parked in their own parking space.
The comment from David in Southend is pertinent as to the way these vultures operate because once the problem has gone, assuming there ever was one, then the only way for the clamper to make money is to clamp people who have every right to be. Many people have these schemes imposed on them when there is no need and the requirement for a permit is not in the lease. Trevor Whitehouse is not the friendly face of clamping. Natalie Tonkins, nee Whitehouse. Wonder why she is so opposed to the ban ?
“I’m a resident in these flats and I was also clamped. I own my flat and I own the space in which my car was clamped. I did not have a permit because the property management company failed to respond to THREE phone calls I made asking for one. I, like other clamped residents, could prove ownership or tenancy and, as the clampers are employed (in theory) to protect OUR spaces, then such proof should be sufficient to have the clamps removed. But this was not the case: an £80 release fee was still demanded. To be fair to the clampers on site, they tried to sort things out by speaking to their manager who was utterly unhelpful and eventually actually refused to speak even to his own employees. There is next to no problem with parking in these flats and the only people who get penalised are those who are legitimately parked in their own spaces. The real villains are the property management company who sign off a contract to a clamping company and wash their hands of any potential problems.
– David, Southend, Essex, 10/2/2011 17:19”