Car clampers are breaking the law and infringing drivers' human rights, according to the RAC Foundation.
Damning legal evidence has challenged the legality of fines imposed by firms who clamp cars on private property.
The legal argument, prepared by barrister Dr Chris Elliot, claims clampers are attempting to punish motorists – which breaks English law.
'Punishment is a power reserved for the state'
Landowners can legally charge motorists that are parked on private land for any losses incurred, but rules prevent them from using fines to prevent or penalise car owners.
Dr Elliot said: 'Clamping only makes sense either to punish or deter. Both have little foundation in English law, since they are based on a notion that one person may punish another. But punishment is a power reserved to the State.'
Human rights breached, too
Motorists' human rights could also be breached, because clampers demand a fee before the car is released – whereas the Human Rights Act 1998 states that such punishment is not acceptable.
Dr Elliot said: 'If the release fee is unreasonable, the clamper's actions are incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998, which demands that punishment should only come after a proper legal process'.
See the clampers in court
Cowboy clampers should be taken to the courts by victimised motorists, according to the RAC Foundation's director, Stephen Glaister.
He said: 'It seems that the actions of these rogue operators are not only disproportionate, but also probably illegal. Such blatant injustice undermines society and respect for the law.
'We would like to see the issues raised by Dr Elliott tested in a court of law by motorists who have been the victims of what, in many cases, amounts to bullying and sharp practice.'
The report's recommendations
Stamping out cowboy clampers could be achieved by implementing the following recommendations, according to Dr Elliot.
•Ensure Parliament defines the legal right to clamp cars on private land.
•Ensure that any organisation acting as an accrediting body for the parking industry has its performance monitored and audited by a Government agency.
•Ensure there is an independent appeal mechanism or ombudsman available for those who have been wrongly penalised by private parking enforcers.
•Ensure any system of parking enforcement is based on a flat or capped fee.
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