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Secret email shows how Government was misled in law-change bid

[16 Aug 2012] A secret email from the British Parking Association (BPA) has revealed how the self-styled ‘recognized authority on UK parking’ gave misleading figures to a government agency as part of its successful campaign to get the laws on private parking changed.

The email, from top BPA official Steve Clark, told the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) that the BPA’s private-member companies had taken up to 90,000 motorists to court in 2011. The Government believed this huge number could be cut – saving costly court time – if it agreed to bring in ‘registered keeper liability’. This law change would make a vehicle’s keeper liable to pay for all private parking contraventions – eg, parking with one wheel outside a marked bay – whether or not he or she was the driver. It’s thought to be the first time in English law that someone who is not a party to a contract has been made legally liable to fulfil it.

The DVLA, which has a lucrative agreement with the BPA to release registered keepers’ names and addresses on request in return for payment, failed to check its trusted partner’s figures. They were published as crucial evidence for Parliament to use as it assessed the impact of the proposed law change.

But answers to a Freedom of Information request have shown the true figure for the number of cases going before a judge in 2011 was, astonishingly, only 49, of which the parking firms lost more than half. As the BPA would have known, its member companies are wary of going to court as it attracts bad publicity and they often lose.

Plain Language Commission has protested against the use of illegible, illiterate and legalistic signs in private car parks, which have contributed to more than two million drivers a year being stung by average penalties of about £80. Zealous operators who farm landowners’ car parks for penalty income treat drivers as easy-money cash machines. [cont]

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