Forty Disabled Person’s Parking Cards (blue badges) have been seized in the past 12 months by Traffic Wardens in Cork city centre.
The badges were seized from drivers for a number of reasons including using a deceased family member’s badge, using a lost or stolen badge, using a photocopy of a relative’s badge or using a badge that has expired.
Eddie Hawkins, the parking operations manager with the city council’s traffic division, said he had also come across situations where a badge had been doctored to change the photo.
Mr Hawkins said the badges are issued to a person and not a car and no one other than the person who applied for the badge should be allowed to use it.
The parking operations manager also said he has heard of some pubs in the city where fake badges can be purchased.
“I have heard of people paying €300 to €400 for a blue badge. It is free parking.”
Speaking about the measures that can be taken by wardens who come across someone fraudulently using a blue badge, Mr Hawkins said the Local Authority has very little power.
“We confiscate the badge and issue a €80 fine, but that is about it. There is not much else we can do.”
Mr Hawkins said it is a Garda matter but that it is not one that gets a lot of attention. “Prosecution for using a blue badge is way down their list of priorities. There is very little deterrent for people to stop abusing blue badges.”
Mr Hawkins said in his view, the Council should also have the power to prosecute against the exploitation of blue badges.
“I was a police officer in the UK for 30 years and the Local Authority there were responsible for the issuing of blue badges and they also prosecuted people for exploiting them.”
Here in Ireland, Disabled Person’s Parking Cards are issued by two organisations the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) and the Disabled Driver’s Association.
According to the IWA website the misuse of a blue badge, which is monitored by the Gardaí and the Local Authority, may result in a fine of up to €2,000 or three months imprisonment under the Road Traffic Act.