Traffic wardens challenge legality of clamping

 

The legality of clamping vehicles parked at inadequately sign-posted locations in Dublin has been challenged by the city's traffic wardens. They also say motorists in other urban centres should not have to pay for parking in restricted areas because these are not sign-posted in accordance with the traffic regulations.

Dublin Corporation's traffic committee is to discuss today proposals to transfer 146 traffic wardens from the Department of Justice to the corporation's payroll. The wardens are opposed to the move, which they see as part of a plan to make them redundant and privatise traffic management.

They claim that the replacement of wardens with private clamping operators has created a climate of terror in Dublin, where traffic management is driven by the need to collect fines. They say this has caused confusion for motorists about where and when they can park, and also denies drivers any effective appeal against the £65 on-the-spot fine imposed by clampers.

A spokeswoman for the traffic wardens, Ms Liz Daly of IMPACT, says they have been questioning the legality of some of the clamping practices for some months. The wardens claim that between July and December last year an anomaly was created by changes in the law.

New regulations extended the hours when parking was prohibited on single yellow lines and in loading bays from 8 a.m. to 6.30 p.m. on Monday to Friday, to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday to Saturday. The regulations also specified that information on the changed hours be carried on the no-parking poles placed at the designated locations.

After representations by traffic wardens, Dublin Corporation changed the bye-laws governing parking in these locations last December so that "information signs" rather than "information plates" could be displayed. The plates are defined in statute as traffic signs which carry details of hours when parking is prohibited in that area.

Ms Daly said that wardens have pulled back from issuing tickets in locations where the signs are inadequate because they believe they are open to legal challenge. Wardens who put tickets on wrongly "can have the nose bitten off them in court", she said, but motorists have little option if confronted by a clamper except to pay.

A senior spokeswoman in Dublin's traffic department confirmed that the bye-laws were changed to comply with new statutory instruments. However, she denied that cars had been illegally clamped at some single yellow line locations in Dublin between July and December 1998.

She said that the clampers were required to take photographs which include the relevant traffic signs when clamping vehicles, and she was not aware of any appeals against fines by Control Plus, the clamping company, on the basis of inadequate information being displayed on parking signs.

She said the requirement to have signs indicating the hours when parking is prohibited in "park and display" areas was already met by the fact that "the information plate is on the machines anyway".

Ms Daly said there were many locations in the city where motorists should be able to park with impunity on single yellow lines, because there were no signs indicating the hours when parking was prohibited. One of these is Merrion Lane, opposite Government Buildings. She also said that few local authorities outside the Dublin area were complying with the statutory regulations on information plates in restricted parking zones.