The Law Society of Scotland has warned that proposals to reform the blue badge system risk unfairly penalising innocent disabled people whose blue badges are misused through no fault of their own.
There are over 250,000 blue badges in Scotland, which are issued by local authorities to people with severe restricted mobility and who would find it difficult to use public transport. Research for Transport Scotland has shown that 83% of blue badge holders had experienced misuse of blue badges or disabled persons parking spaces.
Dennis Robertson MSP has been consulting on possible new legislation aimed at strengthening the law around the misuse of blue badges. In its detailed response to that consultation, the Law Society broadly welcomed the reforms, recognising them as important in minimising misuse and reducing the exploitation of the scheme.
However, the Society also raised concerns that elements of the changes risked harming innocent disabled people who have their badges misused by a friend, family member or other third party without their knowledge and who then have their badges withdrawn, even before an investigation takes place.
Rory McPherson, Convener of the Society's Equalities Committee, said: "The blue badge scheme has been of huge value since it was introduced over 40 years ago and has helped hundreds of thousands of Scots with restricted mobility. Dennis Robertson and other MSPs are right to look at sensible reforms that help to tackle the fraudulent use of blue badges so we can maintain public confidence in the system and protect parking spaces for genuine badge holders.
"However, the proposals as written risk harming potentially innocent people who have their badges misused by a carer or relative without their knowledge. We simply do not think it fair that such people would have their badges confiscated prior to a fair and proper investigation taking place. Such a move would mean innocent people could have their mobility restricted through no fault of their own.
"We hope this point can be properly considered before detailed legislation comes to the Scottish Parliament."
Notes to editors
1. A full copy of the Law Society's response to the consultation on the proposed Disabled Persons' Parking Badges (Scotland) Bill can be found on the Society's website.
2. The proposals being consulted on empower traffic wardens and local authority parking attendants to confiscate badges, amending section 21 of the Disabled Persons Act 1970. As is highlighted in paragraphs 40 of the consultation document, there may be situations where the blue badge is misused by a third party without the knowledge of the holder. In such circumstances, the Law Society has suggested it would be unjust to confiscate the blue badge immediately without an investigation and allowing the badge holder the opportunity to respond to any allegation of inappropriate misuse. If the proposal is that the badge holder will be contacted at the time the badge is to be confiscated, there is a question of what the position of the badge holder would be if they were was not contactable at that time.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Please contact Julia Brown on 0131 476 8204 or Val McEwan on 0131 226 884.
25 March 2013