... but Antiville man hits out at 'indiscriminate' clamping

A LARNE man has taken a stand against the authorities after his vehicle was clamped outside his Antiville home as part of last week's Operation Evader.

Neil Brownlee told the Larne Times that he briefly moved a broken-down Vauxhall Frontera jeep from his back yard. The jeep was pushed through a set of gates at the rear of his Cymric Drive property and, he claims, clamped during the time it took to drink a cup of coffee.

Operation Evader was launched last year as a joint DVA and PSNI operation and aims “to see unlicensed and ‘runabout’ vehicles clamped and untaxed vehicles removed”.

Officers, according to the PSNI, have been targeting “vehicles parked or used on public roads, which have been untaxed for 28 days or more.”

Admitting the jeep was not yet taxed and without an off-road (SORN) declaration, Neil said he bought the vehicle a few months ago intending to fix it up for an MOT. He claimed the vehicle has not been on the road and, in its present condition, won’t even start.

Neil said: “I can’t believe it. They said they were only doing their job and they weren’t interested. The car hasn’t moved. The battery was out. They could have rapped the door. It’s just indiscriminate.”

In protest Neil chained a trailer to the clamped jeep and parked his Renault Espace beside it. But, he conceded, it appears he has no choice but to pay the de-clamping fees.

Clamping is sub-contracted by the DVA to National Car Parks Ltd. A spokeswoman for the Department of the Environment said: “If a vehicle is to be kept off road without a licence a SORN declaration must be made.

“The clampers do not call at the home of the keeper. In some cases the vehicle will not be in the vicinity of the home of the registered keeper and to call at a keeper's address could prove confrontational.”

The PSNI, the spokeswoman said, were supporting the NCP when Mr Brownlee’s vehicle was clamped as part of Operation Evader.

She said: “If the fee to de-clamp the vehicle is paid within 24 hours the vehicle will be released. However, in some circumstances the vehicle can be removed instantly, for example, if it is causing an obstruction or if the keeper has threatened the clampers or threatened to interfere with the vehicle or the clamp. Once the vehicle has been transferred to the pound it can only be released when the appropriate fee, and entitlement to the vehicle, has been demonstrated.

“If an individual refuses to pay the fees the vehicle will be removed and after seven days it may be crushed. It is an offence to interfere with a clamped vehicle or to remove a clamp. Retrospective enforcement action will be taken in respect of outstanding arrears of duty.”

An appeals process is open to anyone who feels they have been unfairly clamped but this procedure can only be started once a vehicle has been reclaimed and initial fees settled.