And finally a Government who will take tough action on the scourge that is the wheel clamper, for too long we’ve had platitudes, slaps on the wrist and “self regulation”, now finally someone in Government recognises that the business of wheel clamping and subsequent extortion of money is in fact the last bastion of legalised crime.
No, I have never been clamped or extorted for money
But I’ve seen lots and lots of people who have.
The office that we used to rent stood on a piece of empty land when we moved in, shortly afterwards a developer bought all of the land around it and built a block of apartments and as part of the planning permission for that block of apartments had to provide quite a lot of parking space along with a large “turning space” for access by utility vehicles – this element of the planning law clearly irked the developer as he quickly introduced a group of criminals to police the area for him.
And it was a popular space for parking on, just a few yards in front of the development were shops and a bank and whilst the parking area for the apartments was well defined by a wall and consequently not many parked beyond it, the turning circle and delivery space was not – rich pickings for the criminals who operated in the landlords name then.
We had three allocated spaces for parking so were never affected by them, indeed we held an uneasy truce with them after they once clamped a delivery driver who was visiting our premises and we provided all the tools that he needed to saw off the clamp – the criminals called the police on that occasion who stood and watched as our City Link man continued with his sawing and they explained that he wasn’t actually breaking any law but that the clampers would be if they touched him to stop him although they were quite in order to privately pursue him for damages to their clamp – they didn’t.
After that they agreed not to interfere with our trade as long as we didn’t interfere with theirs and that truce held for five years during which we saw pensioners and pregnant women in tears, several old people placed into the clampers car and driven to their own bank to withdraw the £90 release fee, we saw entrapment on a daily basis – the clampers would park their own car on the prohibited area to encourage others to think it was OK, we saw them block the entrance to the space with their car to prevent people leaving even before they’d actually parked, and we noticed that on many occasions they didn’t actually fasten the clamp on the wheels properly – just the threat of two huge criminals covered in prison tattoos was enough of a threat to make people scurry for the bank to withdraw £90 (spilt three ways, £30 each for the land owner, the clamping “boss” and the clampers themselves, so they told us).
And of course no receipts ever issued, no company details on the notices or leaflets, just a mobile phone number that belonged to one of the clampers themselves that victims would ring thinking they were talking to a bone-fide office somewhere.
But it didn’t always go their way.
On one memorable occasion they clamped an old Ford Sierra at which the owner simply removed his belongings and walked off, abandoning the car which was probably worth less than the cost f releasing it, the car stood there for several days until one of the criminal clampers decided that if the owner didn’t want it then he would have it, he was busy trying to hotwire the ignition when the police turned up and arrested him, wonder who tipped them off ?
On another occasion they clamped a man who told them very firmly to remove it, when they refused he took out a wheel brace from his car and chased them back to their van where they locked themselves in and called the police who for some strange reason were very busy at the time and couldn’t come. The man with the wheel brace smashed every piece of glass on the van and was in the act of dragging one of them out of the broken window when they agreed to release his car without charge – the police arrived about half an hour after the man had left and unfortunately when asked of course we hadn’t seen anything at all out of our panoramic office windows that had a perfect view of everything, especially when we pulled all the chairs up to the window to watch and unplugged the phones – it was part of our agreement you see, we didn’t interfere with their business and they didn’t interfere with ours.
And on yet another occasion they tried to clamp a low loader that had arrived to legitimately collect a rental car, they tried but the wheels of the truck were too big and so the driver dragged it off, there followed a huge argument during which the clampers blocked the trucks exit, so he rammed them out of the way, several times – again the chairs were pulled up to the window and the phones unplugged and our policy of non-involvement in their business enacted.
Through all of these years of violence and intimidation the police were strangely unwilling to react to calls from the clampers themselves but appeared many times when victims called, most of the time of course they could do nothing to help for clamping a vehicle on private land and extorting money is/was not illegal, they did however arrest the clampers and take them away for a few hours on several occasions for any imagined minor infringement of any law they could think of, and yet still they would return.
Its hard to think of another situation that is so blatantly wrong and which is crying out for a law to prevent it and its hard to think why some other Government has not grasped the nettle long before now, there is no doubt in my mind that the criminals who operated the clamping in front of our office were just that – criminals, we spoke to them, we know that occasionally one or more of them had to go away for an enforced rest at Her Majesty’s Pleasure for other infringements, and I personally doubt that any of the tens of thousands of pounds (cash only) that we saw them earn (you do the maths, ten or so vehicles clamped six days a week at £90 a time) ever saw a bank account or was declared as income for taxation – criminal extortion condoned by the state.
A law long overdue.