Private wheel clamper Mark Haywood was hit over the head with a wheel clamp by Ashfaq Ghafoor, of London Road, High Wycombe, in the Castle Street area on April 14, 2000, Aylesbury Crown Court heard on Monday. Ghafoor pleaded guilty to malicious wounding.
Ben Gumpert, prosecuting, said a row broke out after Mr Haywood found a vehicle had been parked illegally minutes after he had told a BMW driver to move off the same spot. He told the court how Mr Haywood went to get his clamp out after a group of men around the car refused to move it.
The clamp was thrown onto another car by one of the group after which, said Mr Gumpert, 21-year-old Ghafoor, previously uninvolved, suddenly picked up a piece of the wheel clamp and hit Mr Haywood over the head.
Defending, Basil Hillman claimed Ghafoor had firstly acted as a 'good Samaritan' but had over-reacted after trying to help a disabled driver who was about to be clamped.
"Ever since he has been remorseful," said Mr Hillman. "It was an unpremeditated incident which occurred on the spur of the moment."
Judge Terence Maher imposed a Community Punishment and Rehabilitation Order - 12 months probation and 100 hours Community Service - and told Ghafoor to pay £600 compensation to Mr Haywood.
"You were lucky you did not do more damage but you are an otherwise decent young man from a decent family and I think there is just about room for treating this as a one-off," said Judge Maher before sentencing.
On 14th January 2004, a partner of a local clamping company was fined £2480 by Harrow Magistrates Court and ordered to pay £500 in prosecution costs to the London Boroughs of Brent & Harrow Trading Standards Service.
Derek Woods, t/a 'Fast Track Parking Control', pleaded guilty to fifteen offences under various pieces of consumer protection legislation with respect to making undisclosed surcharges for clamping fees, the unauthorised use of the Royal Coat of Arms and for failing to comply with the requirements relating to the disclosure of his business details.
The Court heard that the matter arose after complaints from local members of the public, who had had their cars clamped at various sites within Brent and Harrow.
The Magistrates were told that the outraged consumers called Brent and Harrow Trading Standards Service, as not only were they being charged an £85 release fee for parking without permission, but if they choose to pay by credit card, then a further £15 surcharge was added. Signs placed at these sites made no mention of the fact that an additional surcharge would be made under these circumstances.
Trading Standards Officers acted immediately to confirm whether the defendant was making the undisclosed charge as alleged by the consumers. As part of the evidence gathering process, officers carried out a test purchase and went through the experience of having their own vehicle clamped by operatives employed by the Mr Woods and his partner. This confirmed that the additional charge was being made and that the practice had continued over a number of months while the investigation was in progress.
In order to comply with the regulations, the additional charge has to be made known to consumers in the same manner as the indication for the release fee and notices to this effect have to be displayed at the entrance to the premises.
During the course of the investigation, the Officers also found that the defendant was using the Royal Coat of Arms on his notices that were displayed at the various sites without the permission of the Lord Chamberlain's Office, which is an offence under the Trade Marks Act 1994
The Officers further discovered that the defendant was claiming on his receipts issued to members of the public for payment of clamping fees that his business had limited liability by stating " Fast Track Parking Control LTD". However, investigations showed that the defendant's business was operating as a partnership and had not been incorporated under the Companies Act. The Magistrates also heard that the defendant failed to comply with the requirements of the Business Names Act 1985, which requires anyone conducting a business in this country to display the full name and address of the owner on all business stationery.
The Court were told that when interviewed by Trading Standards Officers, the defendant sated that he had used the Royal Coat of Arms after he had seen it on another clamping company's signage. He further stated that he was not aware of the requirements relating to the disclosure of his business ownership details and that the claim that his business was a limited company was due to a printing error.
In mitigation, the defendant's barrister stated that if ignorance was a defence in English law, then her client would have pleaded not guilty. She added that Mr Woods had no previous experience of running a business apart from having worked as a parking operative for another company. The Court also heard from the defendant's representative that he had amended all his signage and business documents soon after the Trading Standards had brought the various matters to his attention.
John Taylor, Director of Trading Standards for the London Boroughs of Brent
and Harrow stated after the case, "Businesses have a duty to make consumers
aware of all likely costs before they enter into contracts. If different methods
of payment are accepted for the same goods or services, then consumers must
be told of any surcharges before they become legally bound by a contract.
It is a very important for businesses to ensure that they give the correct
ownership details to potential customers so that they know who they are dealing
with in case there is a dispute between the parties. In this particular case,
the defendant had not paid any attention to his legal obligations and the
seriousness of the offences is reflected by the fines that has been imposed
by the Court. My advice to any member of the public who believes that they
have been misled in the same manner is to contact the Trading Standards Service".