bbc.co.uk
Home
Explore the BBC
You and Yours- Transcript
BBC Radio 4
Print This Page
TX: 10.07.03 - YOU & YOURS INVESTIGATES THE BLACK MARKET IN STOLEN BLUE BADGES



PRESENTER: CAROLYN ATKINSON


ATKINSON
You and yours has been in the awkward position of handling stolen property this week - a disability parking permit or blue badge, to be exact. Now it was sold to a reporter working undercover for the programme, having been stolen last Christmas from a woman with Multiple Sclerosis. It's the clearest evidence yet of a black market in the sale of these permits, which allow their disabled owners to park virtually anywhere for free. In London holders are also exempt from the congestion charge.

Well earlier this year a You and Yours survey established that 4,000 badges were reported lost or stolen in just 12 local authority areas. And only this morning we got an e-mail from listener, Rosa Reagan, whose permit has been taken eight times in the past 12 months. While genuine applicants for a blue badge parking permit have to fill in a form and be assessed by social services to confirm their disability our reporter Paraic O'Brien went undercover to a garage in London where there are no forms to fill in, no disability test, in fact all you need is 50.00 which will buy you free parking for life.

O'BRIEN
If I drove to work everyday and parked in this car park it would cost me 150.00 a week. That's 5.00 for the London congestion charge and 25.00 for a day's parking. A blue badge enables the holder to avoid these costs, so it's become very valuable indeed. For the disabled driver the badge is the key to accessible city living, for the street criminal it's easy money.

FOX
My name's Theresa Fox, I'm a wheelchair user. The first time the badge was actually stolen a few months ago it was parked outside the house. I suddenly opened the door in the morning and there was broken glass everywhere and the badge had gone.

O'BRIEN
How did you feel when you saw that?

FOX
Really sick. It's not something I can do without. It really is the lowest of the low kind of crime.

O'BRIEN
And it's not just a London problem.

WATSON
Well in Glasgow we're experiencing what I would describe as an epidemic of blue badge misuse and theft.

O'BRIEN
Alistair Watson is a local councillor in Glasgow.

WATSON
It's the beginning of a niche trade for the criminal fraternity. So I think we're dealing with something here that quite frankly has got the potential of running out of control. In one day we inspected 90 vehicles, along with the police, and on that particular day a third of the vehicles were not entitled to use that badge.

O'BRIEN
We've had a tip off that a garage on this street in North London is selling stolen badges. I've already spoken to the owner whose name is Lloyd and sure enough he said he'd have a blue badge for me within 24 hours.

I'm wearing secret recording equipment and I'm about to go in to find out whether he will.

ACTUALITY IN GARAGE

O'BRIEN
So tell me how this works?

LLOYD
It allows you three hours on a yellow line. [Indistinct words] residents' bays or even pay and display, you can put this in their pay and display like that, you don't have to put no time.

O'BRIEN
Want they know that it's not my badge like?

LLOYD
No they don't know, they don't know.

O'BRIEN
Why not?

LLOYD
Because I mean they don't go about checking nothing [indistinct words] anyway because they don't do that.

O'BRIEN
Give us a look again. Here you are - how much did we say? So how do you go about getting them?

LLOYD
There's a guy that I know he can get them.

O'BRIEN
He broke into this woman's car like? Is that your guy?


As Lloyd was handing me the badge a traffic warden walked into his garage and asked him to move one of the cars he was repairing off the street. Lloyd didn't even both to try to conceal the badge and went on to tell me about another scam - forged blue badges.


LLOYD
Okay alright. And there's somebody else that I know they can get these copies - you understand? - they scan it or something.

O'BRIEN
On the computer?

LLOYD
Yeah something

O'BRIEN
But that's not a copy is it?

LLOYD
No that's not a copy, that's the original.

O'BRIEN
So what does he do, does he sort of get them from cars your guy? So do you think he'd be able to sort me out some more?

LLOYD
Yeah course.


O'BRIEN
Lloyd said he could get me another three badges this week and went on to boast about how he uses his stolen badge.


LLOYD
Sometimes I used to park my car up here, park my car across the other side all day, all week.

O'BRIEN
Have you ever got - you haven't got done have you?

LLOYD
No I haven't, no, no.

O'BRIEN
Okay take care.


So for 50.00 I can now park wherever I want, the only trouble is the badge really belongs to a woman called Simone Kay. There's a photo of her here on the back of the badge. We tracked Simone down and needless to say, unlike Lloyd, she didn't see the funny side.

KAY
I actually have Multiple Sclerosis. A couple of days before Christmas I was - I left work early to go and do last minute shopping, got to the car and the window was smashed, glass everywhere, which I was so shocked and I looked inside and I noticed that the badge and the timer that comes with it had been stolen.

O'BRIEN
And how did you feel when you saw that?

KAY
Utter shock because I was due to go to the shop to pick up my last bits of food for Christmas and I thought - I didn't know what to do initially and I just - I panicked and I just got my mobile out and phoned the police, I didn't know what to do at all. Since that happened I've heard that numerous people have had their badges stolen. A very old friend of mine actually she told me last week that she'd had her badge stolen at least four times.

ATKINSON
Simone Kay ending that report by Paraic O'Brien.

Well Paraic joins me now in the studio, so Paraic what will actually happen to the owner of this garage?

O'BRIEN
Well when the programme has finished today I'm going to bring up Simone's badge and the tapes and hand them over to Lloyd's local police station. I've got her badge here, obviously it's no good to her because she's got a new one.

ATKINSON
Okay, now why is it so easy to actually use these badges, for the wrong people to use these badges?

O'BRIEN
Well three reasons. The first one is design - as you can see on the front of the badge here they've got just the disability symbol and an expiry date, all of Simone's personal details are actually on the underside, which is face down on the dashboard, so nobody can actually see that the right person has the badge. Second reason - traffic wardens don't have the power to inspect bizarrely, I could drive around in this and nobody could ever ask me to hand it over to them. And finally, there's no national database, so you could steal it in one area, use it another area and no one would ever know.

ATKINSON
Now what are the authorities and the government actually trying to do about all this, because everyone's accepting it is now a very big problem?

O'BRIEN
Yeah, well on the design front first of all, some local councils have basically had it with the blue badge so they're saying we're going to introduce our own white badge, with the registration of the car owner on the badge, so that it's limited to a specific postcode - you can only park outside your house really. So that has obvious limitations. Secondly, on the powers to inspect, primary legislation is going to be introduced and the government have made a verbal commitment to introduce the power to inspect legislation. It's going through parliament at a snail's pace though, it has to be said. And then finally, the last time we ran this story we had a government spokesperson that came on and made a commitment to establishing a national database, so we'll be keeping an eye on that one.

ATKINSON
Okay, now we'll continue to update you on any developments and tonight you can see Paraic buying the badge undercover on the Six O'Clock News on BBC 1.



Back to the You and Yours homepage

The BBC is not responsible for external websites

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy