BY TOBY PORTER
Three people have been found guilty of fraudulently using the blue badge parking permits scheme. (From left, Omar Tinguali, Belkacem Touileb and Gary Clark)
A man who used his disabled neighbour’s blue badge after it was wrongly delivered to his address has narrowly escaped a jail sentence.
Belkacem Touileb was one of three people prosecuted for an abuse of the system – he used one to park for free in Aslett Street, Wandsworth, close to the café he runs in Garratt Lane.
Wandsworth council’s anti-fraud team examined the badge through the windscreen of his silver Volkswagen Golf and became suspicious.
It 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.
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.
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.
A cafe worker was convicted of one offence of fraudulent possession and six counts of deception for financial gain.
Omar Tinguali, 53, from Bermondsey 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.
Tinguali 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.
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.
A building company owner used the disabled badge of a dead woman from Northern Ireland to park while he was working in Balham.
Gary Clark, 49, from Belfast, who was dividing his time between there and Balham while working in London, 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.
Clark claimed in interview that 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.
But 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 there.
Wandsworth’s transport spokesman Councillor 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.”
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.