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Sunday, 9 June, 2002, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Disabled badge 'parking scam'
Shoppers at Safeway
Supermaket disabled spaces are a target for fraudsters
A third of Britain's two million disabled car badges are being used fraudulently - by able-bodied people wanting preferential car parking spaces, it has been claimed.

The bright blue badges allow holders to park on double yellow lines, in supermarket disabled bays and for free in pay-and-display car parks.

But according to new statistics from disability organisations, up to 700,000 motorists are wrongly using the badges.

Charities are now calling on the government to crackdown on the scam, which they say is bringing the scheme into disrepute.

Drivers are entitled to a disabled badge if they:
Receive the higher rate of the mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance
Are registered blind
Use a vehicle supplied by a government department
Receive a War pensioners' Mobility Supplement
Have a severe disability in both upper arms
Regularly drive a motor vehicle but cannot turn the steering wheel by hand

They say many of the bogus users have "borrowed" the permits - which changed from orange two years ago under a European Union ruling - from other relatives.

But there are others who make sophisticated copies using scanners, computers and good quality printers.

Others, they claim, are able-bodied pensioners who obtain "discretionary" badges from their local council by asking family doctors to write letters of recommendation.

The Disabled Drivers Motor Club (DDMC) wants Transport Secretary Alistair Darling to overhaul the system which was introduced in 1971 to enable disabled people better access to parking.

Ed Passant, chief executive of DDMC, said: "The perception of widespread abuse means that the scheme is being eroded which could lead to the public showing less respect for the scheme and local authorities not introducing new disabled parking schemes."

The Disabled Person's Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) - on which Mr Passant sits along with other groups representing the disabled - submitted a report to the Department of Transport in March setting out their concerns.

A department spokesman said the results of the consultation and an announcement would be made once ministers had come to a decision on the issues presented to them.

'New powers'

The DDMC and the Disabled Drivers' Association are calling on the government to give police, traffic wardens and parking attendants powers to examine badges and issue fixed penalties to offenders.

Under the current system, non-disabled people who park in a bay designated for blue badge holders are liable to a parking fine.

But this is only done when fraud has been proved - just displaying a ticket when able-bodied is not enough.

A traffic warden or police officer must be able to show that the ticket was made or used fraudulently.

See also:

20 Nov 01 | N Ireland
31 May 02 | N Ireland
10 Apr 02 | UK Politics
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