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Society warns new 'blue badge' offence will duplicate common law offence of fraud

19 May 2014 | tagged News release

A new criminal offence aimed at combatting fraudulent use of the blue badge scheme will duplicate the existing common law offence of fraud, the Law Society of Scotland has warned ahead of the Scottish Parliament stage 1 debate tomorrow, Tuesday, 20 May.

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.

David Cabrelli, a member of the Society's Equalities Law Committee, said:

"As we stated in our written and oral evidence, we are fully supportive of the policy intent behind this Bill, but we do have some concerns. The Bill makes it an offence to drive or park a vehicle whilst displaying a blue badge which has been cancelled or should have been returned to the local authority. There are two issues with this. Firstly, the current criminal law in Scotland already covers the misuse or abuse of blue badges. This can be prosecuted under the common law offence of fraud. Therefore to create a further offence effectively duplicates what is already in existence. Secondly, the offence to be created is one of strict liability, which means that a person may find themselves being prosecuted for a genuine error or mistake in using a cancelled blue badge unintentionally.

Mr Cabrelli continued: "The Bill also introduces non-uniformed enforcement officers. These officers will have enforcement powers which will include requiring a person to produce a badge for examination and to retain badges in certain circumstances. Our concern here is that this may cause confrontational situations. Many blue badge holders may not be aware of the use of non-uniformed enforcement officers, and to be approached and requested to produce their blue badge for examination may cause confusion and anxiety for some. Even if the officers carry identification cards, there is no way for the blue badge holder to know that the card is genuine."

ENDS

Notes to editors

The stage 1 debate will take place on the afternoon of Tuesday 20 May.

The Law Society of Scotland's written evidence to the committee and full stage 1 brief can be viewed the Law Society of Scotland website.

Further detail on the Bill can be found on the Scottish Parliament 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

Email: louisedocherty@lawscot.org.uk or valeriemcewan@lawscot.org.uk

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