Society warns new blue badge Bill may lead to incorrect prosecutions
The Law Society of Scotland has today warned that introducing a new strict liability criminal offence for the misuse of disabled persons' parking badges is disproportionate and may lead to individuals being incorrectly prosecuted.
The aim of the Disabled Persons' Parking Badges (Scotland) Bill is to tackle fraudulent use and strengthen the enforcement powers of the blue badge scheme, which affords parking concessions to disabled persons.
Ahead of giving oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Local Government and Regeneration committee, David Cabrelli, member of the Society's Equalities Law Committee said:
"We are fully supportive of the policy intent behind this Bill, and any attempt to minimise the misuse of this important scheme and reduce exploitation of it should be applauded. However it is our view that introducing a new strict liability offence is disproportionate. For example, if a disabled person loses their badge, reports it lost and then finds it again and continues to use it, they would be in fact be committing a criminal offence, most likely without them knowing it. Likewise, any carer or relative driving the car, which they are entitled to do, will have no way of knowing if the badge has been cancelled or not. It is our view that any such criminal offence should require the intention to defraud."
Mr Cabrelli continued: "We are also concerned that the review process for decisions regarding a blue badge seem to be restricted internally to the local authority, and that there is no right of appeal to an independent and impartial tribunal. This is a clear breach of article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to a fair trial.
"The policy memorandum appears to recognise this, however, stating that the existence of the process of judicial review makes this compatible with article 6 is not in our view proportionate, as the costs of a judicial review process are far beyond the means of many blue badge users. It would be far more appropriate to have an external review process to the sheriff."
Notes to editors
David Cabrelli, member of the Law Society of Scotland's Equalities Committee, will give oral evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Local Government and Regeneration Committee tomorrow, March 26 at 10.30am.
Further detail on the Bill can be found on the Scottish Parliament website.
The Law Society of Scotland's written evidence to the committee can be viewed the Law Society of Scotland website.
The Society also responded to Dennis Robertson's 2013 consultation on the proposed Disabled Persons' Parking Badges (Scotland) Bill.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Please contact Louise Docherty on 0131 476 8204 or Val McEwan on 0131 226 8884
25 March 2014