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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project