Blue badge fraud team handed prestigious award

Published: Friday, May 10, 2019

The town hall’s team of investigators who target those who defraud or steal from the public purse has been awarded a prize for its work.

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The South West London Fraud Partnership, which operates in Wandsworth and four other south west London boroughs, has been honoured for Outstanding Fraud Detection or Investigation at the Local Government Fraud Awards 2019.

This award was given to the team in recognition of their work tackling misuse of Blue Badges, which is rife in London and other big cities up and down the country.

These parking permits are given to people with disabilities so that they can travel around more easily. The badges allow them to park virtually anywhere, free of charge.

They 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.

But they are often taken by other family members who use them to go shopping or commute to work, leaving their intended owner to languish at home. Other unscrupulous drivers are prepared to pay significant sums for a stolen badge, which fuels vehicle crime.

Since they began targeting this type of fraud, the team has successfully prosecuted 689 motorists for a total of 2,862 blue badge related offences. Those convicted during this time have included solicitors, a dentist, other NHS staff, bank clerks and even the owner of a care home for the elderly. One offender was caught fraudulently using a blue badge in his £160,000 Ferrari.

As a result of the team’s actions, these fraudsters have been ordered by the courts to pay back more than £877,000 to the public purse.

Wandsworth Council’s director of resources Mark Maidment said: “We are very proud and happy to have won this award. The blue badge scheme exists to help disabled people get out and about and live life to the full – not so that others can park where they like or use designated spaces that are genuinely needed by drivers with a disability.”

The investigators work across the boroughs of Wandsworth, Richmond, Merton, Kingston and Sutton as part of a partnership set up to combat fraud committed against the public purse across south west London.

Anyone with information about drivers committing blue badge fraud in any of the five boroughs can email swlfp@richmondandwandsworth.gov.uk or call (020) 8871 8383.