Over two million people in Great Britain are in possession of a Blue Badge and this is set to increase significantly. From the end of August, the Blue Badge scheme for disabled drivers was extended to include those with less visible or hidden disabilities. This includes drivers or passengers with dementia or anxiety disorders and is part of a drive for greater parity between physical and mental health.
Extended eligibility for a Blue Badge
In addition to the previous eligibility for those with physical disabilities, the scheme is now extended in respect of:
- People who cannot travel without risk of serious harm to their health and safety or someone else’s (such as young children with autism)
- Those who cannot travel without “very considerable psychological distress”
- People who have very considerable difficulty when walking, meaning “both the physical act and experience of walking”
As a result of the changes, it is estimated that there could be a 20% increase in the number of blue badge holders. However, according to a survey by Confused.com, 74% of councils do not have any plans to create more parking spaces. Councils are expecting an influx of applications and many have declared that they are not ready for the changes.
Blue Badge Misuse
The change in eligibility has coincided with the introduction of a task force that aims to reduce the number of people misusing blue badges. The Department for Transport (DfT) wants to improve councils’ enforcement of the blue badge scheme, particularly in the light of a 45% increase in blue badge theft over last five years.
It is a criminal offence to misuse a badge and a fraudulent offence to use a fake badge, a stolen badge or the badge of someone who is deceased.
If you are a holder of a blue badge and it is used without you in attendance, the user could be fined up to £1,000 and the badge may be confiscated. This fine could rise to £5000 in cases of fraud.
As the holder of the blue badge, if you are a passenger it is also your responsibility to make sure that the driver is aware of any rules regarding where and when you can park.
A blue badge holder should never give their badge to family or friends to enable them to park for free – even if they are visiting the holder or doing some shopping for them – this is still an offence for which you can be prosecuted.
The DfT intends to launch a public awareness campaigns to inform the public when badges can and cannot be used and how to hand back blue badges should circumstances change.
Voluntary interview under caution
If you are suspected of misusing a blue badge, this is a potential criminal offence and you may be called for a voluntary interview under caution. If you are subsequently charged, you will face prosecution. Successful prosecution could leave you with a conviction for fraud, a criminal record and a fine of up to £1000.
If you have been called in for a voluntary interview, it is vital to ensure you have legal representation at the interview, even if you are certain that you have done nothing wrong.
Prosecutions for misuse
In 2018, Councils issued 97,138 PCNs to drivers who parking in disabled bays without displaying a Blue Badge.
Of those drivers that were prosecuted, the vast majority of cases were in respect of a driver using someone else’s blue badge. Despite the extension of the scheme to include less visible/hidden disabilities, it appears there has been little increase in the number of allocated disabled bay spaces. Will this increase the potential for blue badge misuse? Will it lead to an increase in prosecutions?
Get legal representation from the outset
Getting a criminal conviction is a serious matter and can have a major impact on all aspects of your family and employment life. If you have been suspected of misusing a blue badge, contact Wells Burcombe’s legal defence team at the earliest opportunity to ensure legal representation from the outset. Call our offices in London & Hertfordshire on 01895 449 288 or contact us by email.