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Magistrate and lawyer say clamping is illegal

No person, municipality, or company can place a clamp on another person's car, according to the Island's top Magistrate.

Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner spoke out after dealing with a case concerning a man who damaged a lock that had been placed on his motorcycle at the King Edward Memorial VII Hospital.

Mr Warner stated: “People cannot interfere with persons or their property except by lawful authority.”

Mr Warner went on to say that, in absence of lawful authority, persons who have had their vehicles clamped are fully within their rights to remove the clamp.

He dismissed charges against Tracy Lema, 41, of Cobb's Hill, who appeared in court accused of wilfully damaging a Master Lock that was placed on his cycle after he parked in a reserved parking spot at the hospital [see separate story]

And Mr Warner pointed to the Corporation of Hamilton, saying it did do not have legal authority to clamp people's vehicles but it continues to do so.

“They think they can do whatever they want to do,” said Mr Warner.

Defence attorney Rick Woolridge said: “Clamping is illegal. They have no lawful authority to convert anybody's property to their own devices, which is what clamping is.”

However, the Corporation of Hamilton maintains it is fully within its rights to clamp people's cars, and has yet to be challenged in the court to do so.

“The authority of the municipality to prohibit and regulate the off-street and on-street parking within the municipal boundaries is clear and has not been challenged,” said a Corporation spokesperson yesterday.

Mr Woolridge said Mr Warner's statement in Magistrates' Court should, unless the ruling is successfully appealed, be applicable to the Corporation and individuals Island-wide.

“It's just like the Corporation, like Archie says. These parking lots, they may belong to the Corporation, but if you look at road legislation it says any road that services the public, although it's private land, public rules apply.”

After yesterday's court case, an electrician contacted The Royal Gazette and claimed he had his job terminated while working at the new hospital when he removed a clamp from his cycle.

The electrician, who asked not to be named, said he was fired for “unlawfully destroying hospital property” when he removed the clamp from his bike. He is now considering legal action against his former employers.

“Senior officials that were dealing with the project said there was nothing they could do about it,” he said, after he pleaded with them to keep his job.

He said that he was unable to pay the money to have his bike released at the time, and asked if he could have it unclamped and pay what he owes once his next pay cheque came through. He said he argued that he couldn't avoid not paying the fine seeing as he had to show up to the hospital every day for work.

“They said what I did was wrong and that I shouldn't have done it, I should have paid it off or whatever,” he said. “I told them they aren't allowed to clamp someone's vehicle. They're charging $75 to release it. How can you do that to people? That's extortion.”

Lawyer Rick Woolridge said, in his view, the job termination was illegal.

“At the end of the day, if they didn't have the right to put the clamp on in the first place, the only thing that followed from that is the fruit from the poison tree,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Bermuda Hospital Board late yesterday said: “BHB became aware of the Senior Magistrate's ruling on clamping this morning. The hospital was not a part of the proceedings in court today. BHB is reviewing the details of this matter.”

As of press time neither the police, nor Government had responded to this newspaper's queries regarding Mr Lema's court case and the incident that led to the electrician losing his job.

A sign warns motorists of clamping at No.1 car park in Hamilton.

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Published May 06, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated May 06, 2014 at 12:37 am)

Magistrate and lawyer say clamping is illegal

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