As from 1 October 2012, s.54 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 makes it a criminal offence to attach an ‘immobilising device’ to restrict the movement of a vehicle in order to prevent the driver from removing it. This will undoubtedly be welcome news to motorists who it is estimated will save £55m in fines and pull the plug on rogue companies which have been known to charge increments of £80 for every half-hour of immobilisation. Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone said: “For too long motorists have fallen victim to extortion and abuse from rogue clamping companies. By criminalising clamping and towing on private land, this Government is committing rogue clampers to history and putting an end to intimidation and excessive charges once and for all”.
The law does not affect Northern Ireland and such clamping and towing away on private land has been illegal in Scotland since 1992 following the case of Black v Carmichael 1992 where wheel-clamping was found to constitute extortion and theft.
However, this is not a blanket provision. Beware of railway station and council-owned car parks which may still employ wheel clamping tactics under local provisions found in local by-laws.
Private landowners however do not remain without recourse; they can still issue penalty charge notices. Additionally, they have now been awarded powers to claim against the registered keeper of the vehicle as well as the driver. However, some private land owners remain concerned that penalty charge notices will not provide a sufficient deterrent to motorists wishing to park errantly on their land.
The government have also set up an independent appeals service funded by the British Parking Association (BPA) which provides an appeal route for motorists against parking fines issued on private land, but only if the company is a member of the BPA’s approved operator scheme. The BPA chief executive Patrick Troy is largely supportive of the Protection of Freedoms Act declaring it “the most significant shake-up of private parking industry ever seen in this country” however says it falls short of proper regulation of the industry as the appeals procedure is not binding on all operators and may thus cause confusion among motorists.
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.