Fixed-charge fines for illegally parking in disabled spaces soar

Rise in penalties coincides with a clampdown on illegal use of designated spaces

Last year there were 284 fines issued in Dublin’s south inner city for parking in disabled spaces without a permit – eight times higher than  previous year. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Last year there were 284 fines issued in Dublin’s south inner city for parking in disabled spaces without a permit – eight times higher than previous year. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

The number of fixed charge penalties for illegally parking in disabled spaces has soared as much as 20-fold in parts of the country over recent years, newly-obtained figures show.

Last year there were 284 fines issued in Dublin’s south inner city for parking in disabled spaces without a permit – eight times higher than the 36 issued the previous year.

There were much fewer fines issued in the north inner city for the same offence in 2017, at 104, but this represented a five-fold increase on the previous year.

Dublin’s south inner city was marginally outdone as the area for worst offending by Cork city (with 291 fines last year), with Galway not far behind (277), the figures broken down by Garda division show.

The significant rise in fines coincides with Operation Enable, a clampdown on illegal use of disabled spaces set up last year by Sgt Peter Woods, of the Garda’s Dublin traffic division.

The statistics obtained by Social Democrats Kildare TD Catherine Murphy, however, show huge variances countrywide in the level of offences detected.

The number of fines issued has halved in west Dublin, halved in Co Westmeath, more than halved in Co Clare, and are down a third in Limerick over the past few years.

Over the same period, the number has doubled in Co Wexford, Co Galway and Co Donegal.

Kildare and Louth

The biggest rises were in Co Kildare, where there was 20 times the number of penalties issued last year from five years previously, and Co Louth, where the figure is 12 times higher over the same period.

Ms Murphy, TD for Kildare North, urged caution on the figures, saying they did not take account of fines issued by local authority parking wardens, the ratio of gardaí to population in different divisions, the fact that some gardaí may be stricter than others and that the number of offences detected was generally a fraction of the overall scale.

“But they give us some degree of understanding of how the penalties are being applied around the country,” she said.

“You can see the number of fines have dramatically increased in some parts, and the application of sanctions has thankfully improved, because there is no point in having sanctions if they are not applied.”

The fixed charge for parking in a disabled space without a valid permit almost doubled in March, from €80 to €150.

If the charge is not paid within 28 days, the penalty rises to €225, to be paid within the following 28 days.

“We can see it is a problem right around the country,” Ms Murphy said. “It is disappointing that there continues to be such a high level of non-compliance.”

There are 640,000 people in Ireland with a disability.

‘Widespread abuse’

Clare Cronin, of the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI), said: “Few issues irritate people in the disability community as much as illegal parking in disabled bays and fraudulent permit use.

“It is highlighted by every access group we work with across the country.”

She said there was “widespread abuse of the system” and recent campaigns such as “Taking my spot? Take my disability” expressed many people’s frustrations.

Ms Cronin said the DFI was told by gardaí in March that 66 disability parking permits being used fraudulently by motorists were also recently seized, and that all offenders would be prosecuted.

A number of international conventions, including the Barcelona Declaration and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – which Ireland was the last country in the EU to ratify – sets out the rights to accessibility for disabled people.

Ms Murphy said: “A lot more needs to be done to make cities, towns and villages accessible, if Ireland is to take seriously its obligations under the Barcelona Declaration.

“It is not just car parking spaces – there are challenges for public transport too, for example, where people have to give 24 hours notice that they intend to travel. We may well be making progress but it is painfully slow. It does make people feel very excluded from society.”