Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for ten years whilst I was active I retain it now only as a literary device no longer actually using the term JP for any other purpose whatsoever.





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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query BLUE BADGE. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query BLUE BADGE. Sort by date Show all posts

Thursday, 23 February 2017

BLUE BADGE CRIME

I recollect many years ago on returning to a rural car park and being berated by an elderly couple for parking in a disabled bay; an action that was completely accidental on my part.  I felt humiliated and told myself to be more careful in future.  Using a Blue Badge fraudulently is a different matter.  Whispers say that the price of a stolen badge is well into four figures. In addition they are not all that difficult to counterfeit.  When I was active we did not have many cases of fraudulent use as they usually were settled between the offender and the borough.  On the odd occasion when one came before us we often imposed the maximum fine of £1000 when there was little or no mitigation.  It is therefore somewhat surprising that according to a short report in the Warrington Guardian an offender was out of pocket to a derisory £69 fine for the use of an out of date badge not belonging to himself.  A lay bench is supposed to be more attune to local needs than a District Judge. Obviously this bench needs some re-education.  The item below might be helpful.



Blue Badge (Disabled Parking) Scheme enforcement policy

1.       The Blue Badge (Disabled Parking) Scheme provides a national arrangement of parking concessions for those people who have a permanent or substantial disability. NELC and its partners are responsible for the administration and enforcement of the scheme within the borough on behalf of the Department for Transport.

2.       The misuse of the Blue Badge scheme undermines the benefits of the scheme, impacts upon local traffic management and creates hostility amongst other badge holders and members of the public. It can result in a genuinely disabled person being unable to access designated parking spaces.
Types of misuse
3.       The vast majority of Blue Badge holders use their badges responsibly. However,  there are individuals who misuse the scheme. This misuse can take a number of forms including:

·         False application for a blue badge
·         Use by someone other than the badge holder, either to park in an otherwise restricted area (eg double yellow lines/disabled bays) or to evade parking charges
·         Alteration of a genuine Blue Badge
·         Creation of a Counterfeit Blue Badge
·         Use of expired badges
·         Use of a badge the holder is no longer entitled to use
·         Use of a badge reported as lost or stolen
This list is not exhaustive.

4.       It is a criminal offence to misuse a Blue Badge. In the event of someone being found to be in contravention of the Blue Badge scheme, this policy seeks to ensure that the Council:

·         Message is clear that misuse of the scheme will not be tolerated
·         Provides support to Blue Badge holders to help them to understand their responsibilities as badge holders and reduce misuse
·         Enforces the Blue Badge scheme in a fair and consistent manner
·         Takes appropriate and proportionate action to stop any misuse
·         Undertakes criminal proceedings in line with its Prosecution Policy when necessary

Prevention

5.       The Council operates a robust application process to minimise the number of false applications being successful.

6.       Every successful applicant for a Blue Badge will be issued with the Department for Transport’s  ‘The Blue Badge scheme: rights and responsibilities in England’ leaflet. This will provide the badge holder with the information they need to ensure the badge is used appropriately.

7.       Each successful applicant will also be required to sign a declaration confirming that they will not allow someone else to use a badge that has been issued to them.
Detection
8.       The Council will inspect vehicles parked on the public highway and in Council car parks using a blue badge, as part of the duties of its Civil Enforcement Officers (CEO). Where there is evidence of misuse and the misuse constitutes a contravention of road traffic regulations, the CEO will take the appropriate action as per [need to insert reference to powers/policy]. The CEO may also consider seizing the badge and returning it to the issuing authority if they establish reasonable grounds to do so and is practical.

9.       If the misuse is by someone other than the badge holder, the Council will contact the badge holder to remind them of their responsibility to ensure the badge is not misused and that allowing another person to misuse the badge is a criminal offence. If the misuse continues, the Council will notify the badge holder that further misuse may lead to a refusal to renew the blue badge and that the Council may consider criminal proceedings if the misuse continues.

10.   The Council may receive information on potential blue badge misuse from the public, Council employees and other 3rd parties. We will consider all allegations made and determine the appropriate action to be taken. Actions may range from reminding the badge holder of their responsibilities to criminal investigation dependant on the individual circumstances of the allegation.

11.   Where intelligence suggests particular areas of Blue badge misuse,  the Council will consider undertaking operations to target these areas.
Investigation
12.   If the misuse could also constitute other criminal offences (other than road traffic offences), the Council will take the appropriate action to stop the misuse and investigate the offence. The issue of a Penalty Charge Notice for contraventions of road traffic regulations does not prevent the Council from also pursuing criminal offences. Such investigations are not limited to the badge holder, but also include third parties misusing the badge.

13.   Criminal investigations will be conducted by professionally trained officers from the Counter Fraud Team in accordance with the Criminal Procedures and Investigations Act 1996, Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and any other legislation that may be appropriate to a particular investigation.

14.   The Council will use the personal data it holds for the prevention and/or detection of crime where it is appropriate and lawful to do so.

Redress
15.   Where evidence of wrongdoing is identified the Council may take one or more of the following courses of action in accordance with the relevant legislation:

·         Remind the badge holder of their responsibilities
·         Inform the person misusing the badge that they are committing offences and may be prosecuted for future offences
·         Retain the badge
·         Refuse to renew a blue badge
·         Cancel a blue badge
·         Refuse an application for a blue badge
·         Offer an individual a formal caution as an alternative to prosecution
·         Prosecution

16.   Where the Council has grounds to believe that the badge holder will permit another person to continue to misuse a badge, the Council will consider refusing to renew the badge once it has expired.

17.   Where a blue badge holder has been convicted of an offence in relation to the misuse of that badge, the Council will consider withdrawing the badge.
Legislation
The Disabled Persons (Badges for Motor Vehicles) (England) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000/682);
The Disabled Persons (Badges for Motor Vehicles) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000/1507);
The Local Authorities’ Traffic Orders (Exemptions for Disabled Persons) (England) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000/693);
The Disabled Persons (Badges for Motor Vehicles) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007/2531);
The Disabled Persons (Badges for Motor Vehicles) (England) (Amendment No. 2) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007/2600);
The Disabled Persons (Badges for Motor Vehicles) (England) (Amendment Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/1307).
The Disabled Persons (Badges for Motor Vehicles) (England) (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/2675)
The Disabled Persons (Badges for Motor Vehicles) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013
The Disabled Persons’ Parking Badges Act 2013
The Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970
Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984
The Fraud Act 2006
Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984
Criminal Procedures & Investigation Act 1996

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

BENCH CHAIRMEN SHOULD NOT "FEEL"

Over 2 million disabled blue badge holders have special parking privileges. Fewer than 1000 prosecutions are brought against those who abuse the system by using counterfeit badges or otherwise fraudulently try to play the system. Since prosecutions are the responsibility of local councils and those councils often appear to be more interested in using their reducing resources for other matters that are more profitable many magistrates will not have been involved in such matters. I first posted on this topic earlier this year on 23rd February. A recent case, I suppose because of the rarity and because of the affluence of the offender, caught my attention

What strikes me about the case is not reported in the national press; one of my eyes and ears on the ground has informed me of the purported statement of the bench chairman: "We feel that you used the blue badge deliberately. We feel that the offence requires a fine but we have taken into account your early guilty plea".........(my bold)

As a bench chairman for many years I generally did not make pronouncements parrot fashion from the "book" but always made very clear the bench`s reasoning, intentions and any other considerations appropriate to the individual.  Neither I nor any other chairman with whom I sat ever used the phrase we feel or anything similar.  One might say that using those words was just a matter of that chairman`s style.  I would opine that it typifies lack of cogent thought, reasoning, common sense and use of language; factors which should be a requirement for the position.  But then this is the result of trying to train people to be chairmen and allowing them to sit for a minimum of only twenty six half days annually. It has often be said by those wiser than I that leaders are not made, they just are. Chairmen of a bench are leaders; some are capable to lead and others...................

Most professionals whatever their speciality whether it be wood carving, train driving, architectural designing or plastic surgery know well that frequency of performance is essential to retain or upgrade skills. Over twenty years ago when abdominal laparoscopic surgery was in its infancy and I required a double hernia operation I asked my chosen surgeon how many such procedures he had performed and how many had he required to redo: four hundred & three and two were his respective answers. My op went perfectly.  There is no doubt in my mind that trying to teach or train people to be bench chairmen is a difficult task. There is also no doubt that sitting on twenty six half days each year is inadequate for most to attain the required abilities to do the job satisfactorily.  It is not unlikely that poor performances as exemplified by today`s example above and others more blatant will be used as examples by those who desire to reduce JPs` role within the court environment in the not too distant future.Indeed on some social media that point is frequently made.