Shergroup calls for clarification in law between cowboy clampers and Hceos

Shergroup calls for clarification in law between cowboy clampers and Hceos

Shergroup calls for clarification in law between cowboy clampers and Hceos

Wheel clamping can often be used to secure vehicles to satisfy judgments from the High Court, preventing owners from removing them. It is this vital tool of the trade that could be hindered by these moves, as Claire Sandbrook, CEO of Shergroup explains: “While this legislation should be applauded and is long overdue, it has not been completely thought through.

“It is one of our many tools to compel unwilling judgment debtors to pay what is due to their creditor under a High Court Writ. Any restriction on clamping vehicles which was allowed to impinge under the High Court enforcement process would hinder my ability and those of other HCEOs to carry out their strict duty in law to enforce the judgment. There needs to be a clear understanding made between the different approaches to the clamping of vehicles to penalize a person for parking in the wrong place, and the securing of a vehicle as part of goods seized in an enforcement process.

The often criticised unscrupulous practices of private clamping companies will soon be outlawed by government plans for a ban in England and Wales as part of the Freedom Bill in November, but there are concerns that the legislation may lead to limitations in the enforcement sector being applied.

Removing cars parked without permission on private land, such as company or supermarket car parks – which can then cost the owners up to £400 to release – is said to be worth £1billion a year for so-called ‘cowboy clampers’.

Once implemented, anyone who clamps (or otherwise immobilises) a vehicle or tows it away on private land without specific legal authority to do so will face criminal proceedings or civil sanctions, but it will not change existing traffic enforcement by local authorities and police on highways.

Regional and local transport minister Norman Baker said at the time of the announcement: “The rules governing parking on private land should be proportionate and should not result in motorists being intimidated or forced to pay excessive fines.

“Cowboy clampers have had ample opportunity to mend their ways but the cases of bullying and extortion persist.

“That is why we are putting an end to these outrageous practices once and for all to ensure that drivers no longer have to fear intimidation from rogue traders, allowing the parking industry to begin to restore its reputation with the motoring public.”

High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs) often use their own wheel clamps to secure a vehicle after seizing it as part of their duty to take control of goods found at the address on the High Court Writ. Once clamped an HCEO is required to make reasonable enquiries as to ownership and this is done through an online look up system with the DVLA called “Shercar” which was designed and built by Shergroup for the then Department of Constitutional Affairs – now of course known as the Ministry of Justice.

The distinction as to when clamps are used is an important one for HCEOs and users of High Court enforcement services and it is important that HCEOs continue to stress the differences in their process to business which may appear on the face of it to be similar but which in fact on closer examination is fundamentally different in approach.