By Ian Dipple 21/02 Updated: 21/02 21:44
THE REDDITCH owner of a clamping company, which prompted hundreds of complaints from motorists, has been jailed.
Andrew Minshull, who ran Midland Parking Contracts, admitted conspiracy to defraud between January 2006 and January 2009. The 38-year-old from Hatfield Close in Matchborough, was sentenced to 32 months in prison at Worcester Crown Court on Tuesday (February 21). His former partner Debbie Worton 43 and from Longdon Close in Woodrow and who worked for the company in an administration role, was given 12 months in prison.
Clamper Faisal Qadeer, 35 and of Mount Pleasant, was sentenced to 15 months in prison along with fellow clampers Simon Barry, 37 and of Lilac Close, Evesham who got 21 months behind bars and Christopher Cartwright, 31 and of Maple Close, Kidderminster, who got 15 months. Lloyd Isherwood, 39 and of Groveley Lane, Birmingham had his sentencing adjourned to a later date.
West Mercia Police, Worcestershire Trading Standards and the Security Industry Authority began investigating MPC, which has now stopped operating, after receiving about 200 complaints from motorists whose vehicles had been clamped and in many cases towed away netting the company hundreds of thousands of pounds. The vast majority were from the Redditch and Bromsgrove area although the company operated across the Midlands.
During the course of the investigation 1,500 incidents were uncovered and although in some cases people who complained about the firm's tactics were offered refunds, most did not get their money back.
Alison Overton, an NHS worker from Redditch, was driving a van carrying drugs, patients' notes and blood specimens when it was clamped on waste ground at the rear of the Slug and Lettuce pub in High Street, Bromsgrove. She was in uniform and had only parked there for a minute to make a delivery but when she returned, even though clampers had not started to clamp the van, they demanded she pay up and eventually had to fork out £150.
"I felt intimidated and was also aware of the inconvenience it would cause to patients if there were any delays," she said.
"These people were just making money out of causing misery. I am so grateful for the effort put in by the police to bring this case to court, and I hope it stops other firms from doing the same."
Another victim, who did not want to be named, was clamped on Bates Hill in Redditch Town Centre after she parked on waste land, with one wheel just three inches on to private land.
She said: "I had only left my car for a few minutes when it was clamped, and I had to pay £330 to get it released. The warning sign was obscured so I couldn't see it. I was absolutely furious and very frustrated."
Det Sgt Mark Roberts, of West Mercia Police, said wheel clamping was legitimate but there were rules which needed to be followed.
"The barrage of complaints we were receiving about MPC prompted us to launch an investigation, and it showed the company and its employees were effectively demanding money with menaces.
"Warning signs were placed high on walls, and often difficult or impossible to see, especially in the dark. The motorists also said they felt intimidated and threatened by the clampers due to their physical stature and aggressive manner. The clampers caused a great deal of distress to the motorists they targeted, many who were the most vulnerable members of our society, including the elderly and disabled.
"We hope other clamping companies will take note that the police are willing to pursue criminal prosecutions."
Peter Holmes, Trading Standards senior practitioner added: "It was obvious these clampers only had one motive and that was to make as much money as possible from victims."
Wheel clamping will be banned on private land in England and Wales from October but the British Parking Association say the law needs to go further and force clampers to join an officially recognised trade association, to prevent rogue clampers from simply switching to issuing unfair parking tickets.
A spokeswoman said: "Midland Parking Control are not members of the British Parking Association (BPA) nor would they be able to become members until they had met the requirements of our strict Code of Practice. This case highlights the need for legislation requiring that any organisation managing parking on private land be compelled to join an Accredited Trade Association (ATA) with a proper Code of Practice.
"The BPA is actively involved in establishing an Independent Appeals Service with the Government that will be introduced in October. The BPA is dedicated to ensuring it will be a truly independent service, which in turn will allow all motorists to appeal tickets they feel are unfair. For the service to be truly effective it is critical for all operators to be members of an Accredited Trade Association so the scheme can be properly regulated.”
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