The government is proposing a major expansion in wheel clamping to deal with minor motoring offences and announced tough new powers to tackle the UK’s two million uninsured drivers.
The contentious move towards clamping is a bid to remove millions of minor crimes from the court system to ease the burden on magistrates. It comes just days after Which? revealed that many motorists are already confused about car clamping and how and whether they can appeal.
Meanwhile, police have been given new powers to use automatic number plate recognition cameras to spot, seize and ultimately destroy cars being driven without insurance. The cameras are linked to a database which contains details of all vehicles registered in the UK which are believed to be uninsured.
Motorists caught without insurance will be prosecuted and their cars seized. They have up to two weeks to claim their car after which the police can dispose of it.
Currently clamping is used only to enforce parking rules. But under the government white paper, drivers without road tax or an MOT could be punished by having their cars clamped or impounded rather than having the offence dealt with by a court.
The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, announced the proposals, but didn’t state the amount of the release fee.
The white paper says: ‘The use of wheel clamping, vehicle impounding and intelligence-led enforcement, together with a national network of enforcement officers operating from the DVLA’s 40 local offices, provides further options for dealing with less serious offences outside the magistrates’ courts system.’
Which? believes the new motoring measures could help law-abiding motorists by targeting those who drive without tax, insurance and in unroadworthy cars. But there need to be checks to protect those driving legitimately.
Principal Researcher Pete Tynan said:’With council enforcement of parking, there have been too many cases of drivers who’ve done nothing wrong being fined or clamped. Too many motorists are forced to go through lengthy appeals to clear their names from over-zealous enforcement.
‘Clamping causes distress and delays and can have major impact on drivers. The new system must ensure that legitimate motorists don’t end up being clamped because of mistakes.’
Under the new proposals, the BBC and TV Licensing Authority may also be given new powers to issue their own summonses for licence-dodging.
In all, more than two million minor crimes a year could be removed from the courts under the plans. They could include council-tax evasion and various motoring issues such as licensing and registration offences.