Disability News

 

Disabled parking sign

 Some 985 people were prosecuted for disabled parking badge misuse

Disabled parking badge prosecutions have risen by 84% in a year, new figures reveal.

Councils in England took legal action against 985 people in 2014-15, the vast majority of them for using someone else's blue badge.

It compares with 535 the year before, data from the Department for Transport has shown.

Disability groups said they hoped legitimate holders of blue badges would be treated fairly by fellow motorists.

Thefts of badges have also risen with 2,056 cases, compared with 1,756 the year before.

Across England, all but 28 prosecutions were of non-badge holders using another person's permit.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council in London prosecuted the most people of any authority, with 190 cases in 2014-15.

'Zero tolerance'

Councillor Wesley Harcourt, Hammersmith and Fulham Council's cabinet member for transport, said fraudsters were using blue badges to park near shopping centres such as the Westfield development in west London.

"This abuse frustrates and is unfair on genuine badge holders," he said.

Misuse of disabled parking

Prosecutions for blue badge abuse rise

985

prosecutions in 2014-15

535

prosecutions in 2013-14

  • 8,790 badges lost

  • 2,056 badges stolen

  • 2.45 million blue badges held in 2014

  • £1,000 fine for misuse of a badge

Thinkstock

A spokesman said the original holder would not normally know of the fraudulent use and that repeat incidents with the same badge were "very rare".

Blue badge misuse attracts a fine of up to £1,000 plus any additional penalty for a related parking offence.

Islington saw the largest number of stolen badges in 2014-15, 122 in total and up from 103 the year before. A spokesman said it was a "callous and unacceptable crime" and the local authority takes the thefts very seriously.

Thefts of permits decreased between 2010 and 2013 but have risen again over the past two years.

More than two million disabled people have blue badges. They allow holders to park close to the places they need to visit, including on double yellow lines for up to three hours, provided there is no loading or unloading.

'Staggering rise'

Elliot Dunster, head of policy at disability charity Scope, said: "We hope that this staggering rise in prosecutions is because councils are getting better at tackling abuse of the blue badge system, and weeding out those who are not disabled.

"Many disabled people rely on their blue badge to live independently, take part in the local community and contribute to their local economy."

Philip Connolly, the policy and development manager of Disability Rights UK, said the government had cut red tape to make it easier for local authorities to crack down on abuse of the blue badge scheme.

However, he warned people should not jump to conclusions about drivers who may appear mobile on a particular day.

"We need a different way of talking about disabled people and the way that they talk about the blue badge scheme is detrimental to that," he said.

"There is a narrative at work here that suggests that people are in some ways dishonest and should not have a right to their entitlements."

 

From BBC