Man jailed over 'ruthless' wheel-clamping scam

An unlicensed wheel-clamping firm boss who fleeced dozens of innocent motorists was jailed for two years today after his "business" was condemned as a ruthless scam.

Judge Philip Parker QC told Andrew Baker that his company, Inter Park UK, was nothing more than a simple con which had left its victims feeling robbed and bullied.



As Baker's heavily-pregnant wife watched from the public gallery at Birmingham Crown Court, the judge criticised the rogue clamper for leaving motorists stranded and distressed.



Baker, of Pithall Road, Shard End, Birmingham, pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to conspiracy to defraud drivers in Birmingham and other parts of the West Midlands between March 2007 and March 2008.



The 29-year-old father-of-one, who has previous convictions for robbery, obtaining property by deception, harassment and theft, showed no emotion as he was sentenced.



A previous hearing was told that Baker left 36 victims - including some who had paid and displayed - in a state of distress after conning them out of more than £12,000.



Passing sentence, Judge Parker told the convicted burglar that he accepted the clamping business had operated legitimately when it was set up in 2005.



But the judge added that operation then became a "con" in which motorists parked legitimately saw their vehicles clamped and towed away before being held to ransom for up to £445.



The judge told Baker: "You were not in fact licensed for this activity, as it is accepted you should have been.



"Your website was a travesty of the truth, suggesting as it did that you worked closely with Trading Standards and the police.



"It's plain by this fraud that in effect you illegally impounded people's cars, not just causing them distress and inconvenience, but naturally feelings of real loss and panic.



"People felt held to ransom - the victims felt they had been bullied, felt that they had been robbed in ordinary terms, or as the prosecution opened it, fleeced."



The business was operating as a simple scam with a false cloak of legitimacy, the judge said, ruling the offences to a confidence fraud.



"This to my mind is professional offending - there is a failure to respond to warnings... there is an abuse of power... there are multiple victims and in the end one can see this case as a ruthless exploitation of vulnerable persons," he added.



Two other men who worked for Inter Park UK were also before the court and were each fined £500 after admitting one count of fraud.



The prosecution followed an investigation by Birmingham City Council's Trading Standards department, which had received numerous complaints from furious motorists who felt they had been unfairly clamped or towed away by Inter Park UK.



Inter Park UK operated at numerous sites in Birmingham and Wolverhampton, where warning signs could not be seen easily, as well as clamping cars at three locations were it had no contractual right to do so.



Among those who fell victim to the firm were Christmas shoppers at a site in New Canal Street, Birmingham, who were told they had parked "inches over the line" even though the lines were not clearly painted.



On one occasion in February 2008, Inter Park UK removed several cars on what turned out to be land owned by Walsall Council, which had no agreement with the firm.



Birmingham City Council believes that Inter Park UK may have been netting up to £3,000 per day and that many motorists were so intimidated that they did not contact the authorities.



In a statement, Councillor Neil Eustace, Birmingham's Chair of Public Protection, called for greater powers to allow the authority to regulate the car-clamping sector.



Mr Eustace said: "Birmingham City Council's Public Protection Committee has made several representations to the government calling for further regulations to curb the excessive practices still engaged in by a number of clamping companies, and the misery that they ultimately cause to their victims."

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star