Pay up and cut losses may be best policy for victims

Click to follow
The Independent Online
FOR THE majority of people who are clamped the best policy probably is to acknowledge that it is a matter of force majeure, pay up, and cut your losses, writes Oliver Gillie.

Some clampers will accept a reasonable excuse, such as disability which might make it necessary to park close to a location, and some will make refunds, or partial refunds, to pensioners or others who plead poverty.

The Scottish ruling that clamping on private land is illegal extortion and theft has no force south of the border where there has been no satisfactory test case. In all cases brought so far by the AA or RAC in England the clampers have settled out of court, but it would not be financially sensible for the average person to bring such a case.

Nicholas Bowen, a London barrister who was able to obtain release of his car in Bournemouth recently, succeeded in persuading the clamper to attend court. If the clamper had refused to attend it might have taken a week or more for the barrister to obtain release of his car by the same process.

Some people have been able to obtain refunds of the clamping fee after a ruling by the small claims procedure in the county court. For those who have the time and are determined to make a point it may be worth pursuing such a claim but for others it would not repay the effort involved.

With some of the cheaper clamps it is possible to escape by letting down the tyre, removing the wheel and clamp which can then be taken off. The spare wheel may then be put on and the clamp should be left behind to avoid charges of theft. The clamper should be notified so that he can pick it up.

Some people have removed the clamp by cutting through it with a hacksaw and got away scot-free. However, such action might induce the clamping company to bring a case for criminal damage and the police would become involved. In one case, (Lloyd v DPP, 20 June 1991, Queen's Bench Divisional Court) a man used force to remove a clamp rather than pay a pounds 25 penalty. He was charged with damaging a clamp worth pounds 64.54 and convicted. He was fined pounds 250 and ordered to pay pounds 50 compensation to the clamping company.

However, the outcome of such a case might vary with the circumstances. The issue of whether it was legal, or reasonable, to clamp the car in the first place, and whether a reasonable fee was demanded, might alter the outcome.