Driver stole disabled neighbour’s blue badge parking permit
Published: Thursday, April 25, 2019
A man who decided to keep and then fraudulently use his disabled neighbour’s blue badge after it was wrongly delivered to his address has narrowly escaped a jail sentence after being prosecuted by Wandsworth Council’s anti-fraud team.
Belkacem Touileb used the badge to drive from his home in Marylebone and park for free in Aslett Street, close to the café he runs in Garratt Lane.
When fraud investigators examined the badge through the windscreen of his silver Volkswagen Golf they became suspicious. It later emerged that the badge had been reported lost and cancelled by its issuing authority Westminster City Council more than a year earlier in March 2017.
As their investigation progressed, the fraud team established that the badge had been wrongly addressed by Westminster and instead of being delivered to his disabled neighbour, it had been mistakenly posted to his address – and even though it carried the name and photograph of his neighbour he decided to keep it for himself.
When questioned under caution the 37-year-old initially tried to blame his daughter for opening the letter but later conceded he knew he was committing an offence. He was subsequently prosecuted for one count of theft, one count of fraudulent possession and 11 counts of deception for financial gain.
He was given an 18 month community order and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £1,000 costs and an £85 victim surcharge.
Also appearing in court was 53-year-old Omar Tinguali from Bermondsey who was caught using a stolen blue badge to park near his place of work – a café in Balham High Road.
The fraud team spotted the badge being regularly used in a Volkswagen Touran parked in nearby Rinaldo Road. Investigations revealed the badge had been issued by Lambeth Council to a 68-year-old disabled man whose car was broken into on New Year’s Eve 2017 and his blue badge stolen. A few months later the badge was found in Mr Tinguali’s vehicle.
When questioned he denied stealing the badge himself and claimed it had been given to him by an acquaintance who told him it belonged to a family member.
He was convicted of one offence of fraudulent possession and six counts of deception for financial gain. Magistrates handed him a 12 month community order with a requirement to complete 120 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £500 court costs and an £85 victim surcharge. His car was not returned to him and it was subsequently crushed.
Joining them in the dock of the magistrates court was Gary Clark from Belfast who was dividing his time between there and Balham while working in London.
The 49-year-old building company owner was caught using a badge that had belonged to a woman from County Antrim in Northern Ireland who had died 13 months earlier.
The fraud team had come across his BMW saloon parked in Ravenstone Road and could see that the expiry date had been forged to change it from May 2018 to May 2019.
When interviewed under caution he claimed the badge had belonged to his aunt and claimed its expiry date had been altered by another relative who gave him the badge so he wouldn’t have to pay for parking in London.
He was convicted of one count of fraudulent possession and six counts of deception for financial gain. He was sentenced to a 12 month community order with 120 hours of unpaid work, and told to pay £500 in costs and an £85 victim surcharge.
Abuse of the blue badge system is widespread in London and in other big cities because the permits allow holders to park virtually anywhere they like free of charge.
However the badges can only be used lawfully if the disabled person is either driving the vehicle or being carried as a passenger and being dropped-off or picked-up at that location.
Wandsworth’s transport spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “Sadly there are many people who try to fiddle the system in this way. The blue badge scheme exists to help disabled people get out and about, drive to work, visit friends or go shopping.
“It was not invented to give their relatives, friends or neighbours a passport to free parking nor allow selfish able-bodied people to use designated spaces genuinely needed by drivers who have a disability.”
Investigators from the boroughs of Wandsworth, Richmond, Merton, Kingston and Sutton all work together in a partnership set up to combat fraud committed against the public purse across south west London.
Anyone who has information about drivers misusing a blue badge in any of the five boroughs can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (020) 8871 8383.