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Sunday, 1 October, 2000, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
Wheel-clampers face clampdown
The plans aim to help those clamped on private land
The government is planning new legislation to crack down on the activities of cowboy wheel-clampers.

Home Office minister Charles Clarke said protection was being planned for motorists who are clamped on private land.

Those who are clamped by councils are already subject to statutory regulation.

Eight years ago clamping on private land was outlawed in Scotland by the Scottish courts after a judge said it amounted to extortion and theft.

Many people have felt intimidated or tricked by clampers looking to make easy money

Charles Clarke
Tales of unscrupulous clampers are legion.

Earlier this year the House of Commons heard stories of wheelclampers who had threatened to hold a woman driver's three-year-old daughter hostage until she came back with cash to pay her fine.

Another young woman motorist was asked for sex unless she came up with her fine payment immediately.

Among the hardest hit are the disabled. In his letter to Labour peer Lord Morris of Manchester, a champion of the disabled, Mr Clarke said the government was "very committed" to introducing statutory regulations for wheel-clamping.

Mr Clarke spoke of the "unscrupulous behaviour of some wheel-clamping firms who prey on motorists" and said he was aware that the wheel-clamping industry was poorly regulated.

"Many people have felt intimidated or tricked by clampers looking to make easy money, especially disabled people who are likely to suffer more as their health is also in question if they are unable to use their car," he said in the letter, made public on Sunday.

"The government has been looking at the scope for introducing controls on wheel-clamping on private land to prevent this kind of behaviour on all drivers."

Code of practice

One of the government's proposals, he said, would be a Private Security Industry Authority responsible for licensing the private security industry, including wheel-clampers.

He said that a code of practice developed by the British Parking Association in consultation with the Home Office would play an important part in curbing the activities of cowboy wheel-clampers.

The code would be designed to protect motorists from excessive charges, low quality service, poor response times and excessive periods of immobilisation.

It also recommended that private clampers should be registerd and regulated and that the maximum release fee for clamped cars should be 85.

The Home Office has given its approval to the code of practice but it will not have legal effect until the government introduces new legislation.

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