Clamper with 100s of burglary convictions highlights pressing need for industry regulation – George Lee

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Lack of legislation leaves door wide open for criminals

Reports that the director of a clamping company in Dublin appears to hold up to 400 convictions for burglary is further proof, if proof were needed, that the Government’s refusal to regulate the industry is putting people at considerable risk, Fine Gael Dublin South Deputy, George Lee said today (Sunday).

“Reports in today’s media that the director of a clamping company in Dublin has been convicted of as many as 400 convictions for burglary are staggering.

“By refusing to regulate the private car park industry, including clampers, the Government is exposing Irish people to possible extortion by some people with a track record of rip off.

“The controversial private car park management company, Centurion Parking Systems Limited, has been accused of targeting vulnerable people in Churchtown and Balally (in South Dublin) in recent months and caused outrage among residents for their merciless tactics. The director of the company has previously been described by the Belfast Telegraph as Ulster’s ‘uncrowned king of crime’. This man appears to have over 400 convictions for burglary in Northern Ireland. In Drogheda, he was apparently convicted of conning people out of more than €24,000 for jet skis, plasma TVs and quad bikes that they never received in March 2009. A month later, Centurion Parking Solutions was established.”

Examples of the tactics used by the company in Churchtown include:

A woman’s car was clamped while she was helping her 86 year old father walk across to the barbers in his Zimmer frame.
An 85 year old pensioner was clamped because her ticket had fallen onto her driver’s seat. It was still visible and readable from outside the car.
Numerous customers were clamped while going into the shops to get change.
Bins were placed in front of the pay and display signs, leaving motorists unaware that they had to pay for parking.
Cars were clamped when the ticket machine was out of order.

“After an outcry from local residents and businesses, Centurion ceased operated in Churchtown. However, they moved their operation a mile down the road to the Rockfield campus at Balally LUAS station. Centurion Parking Systems is repeating the same tactics that it used in Churchtown: hiding behind walls, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting motorists. The company refuses to give any grace period and is clamping cars within minutes.

“A man from Leopardstown was clamped after bringing his son into casualty with a suspected broken hand. He had to park nearby because his son was in agony with the pain. Despite only being away from his car for less than five minutes, he was clamped and forced to pay €120 to unclamp his car.

“A single mother from Cabinteely, living on lone parent’s allowance, was clamped after bringing her elderly mother and young children into the HSE for their swine flu jabs. She told me her Christmas was ruined by the clampers because she was forced to pay €120 that she could not afford. She was away from her car for six minutes.

“Centurion are also clamping cars in the apartment block in the complex. One resident has been clamped six times because the management company did not provide her with a resident’s disc in time. Despite this, she was forced to pay €120 every time.  

“The absence of legislation governing private car clamping operations in Ireland is leaving the door wide open for criminals. Reports that Centurion Parking has been given the access codes to apartment complexes highlight the risk that, without proper regulation, criminals could by-pass security measures and gain access to people’s property.

“The Government must take immediate action on the issue and tackle this problem in the same manner as it was tackled in Scotland. The Scottish executive completely outlawed clamping by private companies. In England the Government has said that they too have learned their lessons. They are planning to move to regulate private car clamping operations in England and Wales in the current parliamentary session.

“The Minister for Transport must amend the Road Traffic Act at the earliest opportunity to make provisions for regulating private clampers. Failing to legislate for this could leave the public exposed to the possibility of extortion and rip-off.”