Clamping - AA campaign victory

From cowboys to outlawed criminals

14 September 2011

The first legislative steps to outlaw cowboy clampers on private land were taken in Parliament back in February when the Protection of Freedoms Bill got its first reading, but clamping on private land has not been banned yet.

Since February the Bill has passed through the Committee stage in the Commons and, despite some wanting it watered down or removed, the proposed ban remains part of the Bill.

The Bill is still to pass through several stages in the Commons and the Lords but subject to parliamentary approval, The Home Office anticipates that the Bill will gain Royal Assent by the end of this year.  The ban would come into force as soon as possible after Royal Assent.

This campaign had become a personal crusade for me over the last decade. An outright ban on wheel clamping on private land is a victory for justice and common sense

Edmund King, AA president

The AA has been at the forefront of the campaign to outlaw clamping for over a decade.

Too many clampers have been acting like modern day highwaymen for too long, carrying out what amounts to legalised mugging.

Many elderly, vulnerable and generally law abiding people have been ripped off by these callous cowboys simply because they made a minor parking mistake or were deliberately tricked into parking where they shouldn’t by lack of signs or decoy vehicles.

Cowboy clampers stop at nothing to get extra cash, including extra penalties for daring to challenge them or delay payment.

Clamping has been banned in Scotland since 1991 without problems.

Criminal offence

The Protection of Freedoms Bill should ensure that it will become a criminal offence to clamp and remove vehicles on private land. Penalties of up to £5,000 at a Magistrates Court or unlimited fines at the Crown Court could be invoked when the police take action.

Edmund king, AA President welcomes this as a major step in "transforming clampers from cowboys to outlawed criminals."

Case file

Several operational AA patrols have been targeted in the last year, including one who's van was boxed in by four clamper's vehicles.  After calling the police and a three-hour stand-off the Patrol was eventually charged over £1000 to release his vehicle.

Other recent cases have included:

  • A pensioner clamped after pulling on to scrap land to deliver a letter to a working men's club.
  • A lady clamped and charged £390 after stopping for 5 minutes to pay a 15p library book fine.
  • Clampers threatening to take a Doncaster mother's 3 year old daughter hostage until she paid an extortionate fee in cash.
  • A hearse clamped with a body in the back
  • A marked police car - the clamper ended up with an ASBO

More civilised & proportionate

The AA has always argued that motorists should not park where they like but believes that in the 21st Century there are more civilised and proportionate ways to regulate parking.

Councils have even abandoned using clamps on the street, even though fully legal, because the punishment was considered too harsh.

Licensing the clampers themselves without a statutory operating code hasn't worked as it was just used as a licence to print money.  The industry code of practice lacks transparency, independence and does not include an independent appeals process. A ban is the only way to stop the decades of profiteering and threats.

Watch where you park

We are seeing evidence that some of the cowboys are increasing their clamping activity before the ban is introduced. So watch where you park.

The AA will continue to campaign to get all private parking enforcement on private land which includes large private car parks used by millions of people each year regulated or licensed.