Protection of Freedoms Bill

Memorandum submitted by Diane and Duncan Hartley (PF 06)

To the Committee:

I am writing to all of you on behalf of myself and my husband, as we do not want the dreadful experience we underwent last evening to be the fate of any other hapless individual in this town. As the Protection of Freedoms Bill is currently in the committee stage in the House of Commons, we are submitting our personal testimony for the Committee’s consideration, in order that such practices as were inflicted upon us last night be outlawed.

We would like to express our wholehearted support for Item 54 of this Bill, and our hope that it become law in order to put an end to extortionate, unjust companies such as PCM. We would also hope that ‘lawful authority’ (54.1) is not something which private companies such as PCM would ever have the ability to earn. If there is anything the Committee can do to encourage the passing of this provision within the bill, we would like to express our utmost gratitude in advance.

Our experience:

Upon returning to the Windsor Riverside Car Park from a concert at Eton College at approximately 22:15, we were horrified to discover a wheel clamp fitted onto our car; my husband had misread the misleading ‘until 9:00’ sign to mean 9pm (rather than 9am), and thus had only paid up until that time. Almost immediately, two young women in an unmarked white van pulled up beside our vehicle, and smugly demanded we pay them a £120 fine for our honest mistake. As it turned out, they belonged to the company PCM, whom we have since discovered is notorious for its use of deception. This was the same company which had inspired such collective public outrage for their practices in Windsor in 2009 that the Windsor town council considered placing an ASBO on this company in response, having no power to outlaw their operation.

In our experience, PCM employed deceptive tactics with us. They offered us a choice in the matter which was tantamount to no choice at all: we could appeal, but according to these women, we had to pay the fine before we could appeal. They also told us that our vehicle would accrue £120 each day, the balance of which we would have to pay should our appeal be unsuccessful. We later found out that this was all incorrect information: there is no fee prerequisite for appeal, and there is no daily accrual of the original fee.

I cannot understand how this type of medieval practice is still allowed in our society. What they were doing to us was tantamount to extortion, and their operation is an unjust, exploitative racket. Any legislation (or lack thereof) which gives a landowner the right to implement such outrageous punitive measures must surely be changed.

We are filing an appeal with the company on the grounds of their deception, but have little hope of it being granted. On behalf of ourselves and others who have suffered such outrageous treatment, I urge you to please pass this Bill; the practices of companies like PCM are an utter travesty and need to be reconciled to the overarching principles of our society.

March 2011