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Have you ever been in a situation where you have parked your car only to return later to find yourself clamped and having to pay a large fee to have the clamp released?  Hopefully not, but a large number of people have and the issue has become extremely contentious.

On the one hand it can be frustrating for private land owners to find vehicles parked on their land without permission or without paying an appropriate charge when parking is permitted.  On the other, great concern has been expressed at the activities of so called “cowboy clampers” whose methods have been, to say the least, questionable and charges levied extortionate.

Well, now we seem to have clarification of respective rights with the implementation of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 which came into force on 1st October 2012.  Section 54 deals with clamping of vehicles on private land.  Basically, the Act makes clamping and removal of vehicles a criminal offence unless carried out by a lawful authority (e.g. Police, Local Authorities, Government Agencies and enforcement agents).

There are still circumstances when clamping and removal may  be permitted such as in the course of seizure of goods to satisfy an unpaid court judgment for monies owed or where the law specifically allows clamping and removal to take place.  Examples would include public roads, railway station car parks and airport car parks.  There are others.

The question therefore arises, what should you do if you find your vehicle clamped or removed?  Firstly, check whether the site is one where clamping/removal is still permitted by law.  There should be clear signs to that effect in the car park.  If it is you will have to contact the owner or operator.  If it is private land you should contact the local police as an offence may have been committed.

Where does this leave the land owner who finds that vehicles are being parked on his/her land without permission?  If the landowner does not have “lawful authority” permitting clamping or removal, he/she must contact the appropriate authorities to remove the vehicle; either the police or local authority who have powers to arrange for removal of such vehicles.

Is this then the end of Cowboy Clampers?  Possibly, but beware of “Cowboy Ticketing” and other similar activities which may now become more prevalent!!

If you would like to discuss this issue further or arrange a meeting please contact a member of our Dispute Resolution Team on 01905 726 789 or email

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