Poole: Police begin towing cars that are parked 'irresponsibly'
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The concern comes after enforcement rules used by police and local authorities to charge drivers for removing and impounding vehicles were accidentally deleted from the statute book. Police officers and city councillors had believed they could charge up to £150 to tow away a vehicle parking inappropriately.
Many drivers were also charged up to £20 a day for storing a car with a £75 charge added for its disposal.
Larger fees often applied to bigger vehicles or those which were damaged and harder to retrieve.
However, new findings show the rule was added in 1984 but removed in 1991 meaning charging road users for towing has not been legal since.
The new revelation could open up legal action from drivers who feel they have been unfairly penalised.
The error emerged after the publication of the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill last month.
It said: “The police’s power to charge for the removal, storage and disposal of vehicles within the meaning of ‘civil enforcement areas for parking contraventions’ seems to have been inadvertently removed due to a drafting error.
“At the same time, the powers of local authorities, the Secretary of State and strategic highways companies to charge for removal, storage and disposal of vehicles were also inadvertently removed.”
The Daily Mail, who first broke the story, claim police forces and local authorities could be forced to pay millions of pounds in losses.
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The London borough of Hackney towed away over 14,600 vehicles between 2011 to 2015 which would have generated an income of over £2million.
Jeanette Miller, spokesperson for the Association of Motor Offence Lawyers said the discovery may mean drivers may have been charged “millions” unlawfully.
She said: “[This is] a major error in the legislation that has resulted in goodness knows how many millions being charged to motorists without any lawful basis.
“Where this leaves motorists in terms of seeking refunds is difficult to say.
“There is a limitation period of six years in pursuing a civil claim but this can start from the date of the breach or, crucially, date of knowledge.”
Speaking to the Daily Mail, the Home Office said it has “been right” for the police to charge for vehicle recovery.
They said this has avoided costs being issued to the taxpayer and has allowed the police to continue to remove abandoned cars to keep the roads safe.
They warn if police were unable to deal with vehicle removal it would result in “considerable danger” to the public.
They said there were no plans for a review however it is understood many local governments already seeking clarification on the issue.
However, it is possible drivers who have been caught out by penalties could appeal the charge.
Campaigners at Fair Fuel UK have wanted drivers should “demand” costs are repaid in full.
They have urged road users to check their paperwork for any towing charges to “mount a legal challenge” against the charge.
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