Kent County Council’s Counter Fraud Team has secured its first prosecution as it cracks down on blue badge misuse in the county.
Laura Halford, of Watling Street, Dartford, appeared before magistrates where she admitted fraudulently using her grandmother’s blue badge to park in disabled parking spaces.
The 31-year-old was handed a three-year conditional discharge and must pay costs of £750 after pleading guilty to four counts of fraud.
Under the rules governing the blue badge scheme, it is a criminal offence for a badge-holder or anyone else to misuse the badge and doing so could result in a £1,000 fine and confiscation of the badge.
KCC’s Counter Fraud Team launched an investigation after receiving several reports of Halford’s car displaying a Royal Borough of Greenwich blue badge in Sevenoaks District Council car parks.
The authority’s civil enforcement officers issued her with a penalty charge notice after CCTV footage showed Halford parked in Buckhurst car park on January 2, 2018. Halford appealed the notice but was caught parking in a disabled bay in Suffolk Way Car Park the following day and received a second penalty charge.
The badge holder was not present on either occasion.
Halford admitted false representation for the display of a blue badge and possession of an article for use in the course or connection of a fraud.
Paul Rock, Counter Fraud Manager, said: “The vast majority of Blue Badges in Kent are used correctly and where there is an allegation of misuse we will investigate.
“As a council, our focus is on correcting behaviour through education and working with district and borough councils to ensure compliance.
“Cautions are a balanced way of dealing with offenders without going through the time and expense of a prosecution. However, in this case, Mrs Halford did not attend any interviews under caution and the level of evidence gave us no choice but to proceed with a prosecution.
“We take blue badge fraud extremely seriously and we expect more prosecutions in the near future.”
The day to day enforcement of the scheme in Kent is undertaken by district, borough and city council parking enforcement officers.
More serious allegations of misuse, such as suspected application fraud, forged or counterfeit badges and persistent misuse are referred to KCC’s Counter Fraud Team to investigate. This team sits within internal audit and deals with all fraud and similar crimes affecting the council, including blue badge misuse.
In cases where there is weak supporting evidence, warning letters are issued. Where there is strong evidence of misuse, the suspects are interviewed and if they admit the offence a caution is issued. If the suspect refuses the caution or there is strong evidence of dishonesty, then KCC proceeds with a prosecution.
From April 2018 the service has received more than 130 reports of misuse. In response, 72 warning letters were issued and one person was handed a caution.
In order to help tackle abuse, residents who see a badge being misused to are asked to inform KCC by reporting it online at the kent.gov.uk blue badge page.
For further information about the Kent County Council Press Office contact on 03000 422589 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.kent.gov.uk/news or www.twitter.com/kent_cc for news from Kent County Council.
Notes for journalists
Laura Halford admitted false representation for the display of a Blue Badge on January 2 and 3, 2018 and possession of an article for use in the course or connection of fraud on the same date. She appeared before Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court on Friday, January 25, 2019.