News Walthamstow

‘Honest mistake’ led to elderly couple’s car being impounded

The car was impounded while the couple celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary at a Walthamstow restaurant on 14th July

By Marco Marcelline

The now returned 1995 Honda Accord, Credit: Neil Macindoe

A 79-year-old man whose car was impounded last month while out celebrating his 47th wedding anniversary with his mobility impaired wife has criticised the council’s “overly strict” action. 

Neil Macindoe is appealing against the £65 penalty charge notice and £200 car removal fee he was made to pay to the council. The car was impounded on 14th July after enforcement officers spotted it displaying a blue badge that had been reported lost. Neil told the Echo he had put his wife’s previously lost and subsequently re-found badge on display by “mistake”. The replacement blue badge was in the car at the time of the incident, he added.

The car was seized while Neil and wife Lois Chaber, 80, were having dinner at a Walthamstow restaurant. Lois suffers from chronic health and mobility issues and needs a wheelchair for any excursions out of the house.

Upon realising his 1995 Honda Accord had gone, Neil called the police believing it to have been stolen. He was then told by police that it was at the council’s Walthamstow car pound.

There, car pound staff refused to unlock and return the car, citing the need for documents proving car ownership that Neil did not have on his person. The required documents included a certificate of insurance for the car, and vehicle registration document (V5). 

Neil, who lives with his wife in Southgate, told the Echo that he had reported his wife’s blue badge as lost on 22nd February this year and received a replacement one from Barnet Council on 28th February. The couple found the lost blue badge at home “months” later. Neil says he did not return the lost badge to the council because he was not aware it was a requirement. 

The couple were forced to get a taxi home after their unsuccessful attempt at retrieving the car from the car pound on the night of the 14th. After returning to the pound with the required documentation the following day, the car was released and returned.

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The “bewildering” experience, Neil said, left him and his wife feeling “distressed” and “extremely frustrated”. Neil added that the impounding was an act of “disabling the disabled”.

“People need to be treated with compassion and care”, Neil said, and added that he wants the “overly strict guidelines” that Waltham Forest Parking Services follows to “take into consideration” the reality of a population that is growing older and with more physical and mental health issues.

Councillor Clyde Loakes, Waltham Forest’s deputy leader and cabinet member for climate and air quality, said: “I am sorry to hear the couple’s evening was spoilt. I’m assured our officers were sympathetic to their plight and did what they could to help them.

“The car was impounded because the Blue Badge displayed in the vehicle had been reported as lost on the national Blue Badge database. Barnet’s own Blue Badge web page makes clear that Blue Badges that are found after they have been reported as lost should be returned and not used.

“When the couple came to the pound, they were asked for photo ID, which they provided. However, they were unable to provide evidence it was their car, that is the Vehicle Registration Document (V5) and insurance certificate, and so officers were unable to release the vehicle to them at that time.

“The rules, which are standard across car pounds, rightly apply to everyone. They protect both the legal car owner and officers, who would be held responsible if a vehicle was given to someone else.

Cllr Loakes added: “We make it clear on our website, as well as to all persons attending the car pound, that keys are not proof of ownership, nor is Blue Badge ownership, as they are allocated to the individual and not a particular vehicle; again this is a consistent approach.”

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