Heather Mills' chauffeur in disabled badge fraud
Published 09/12/2011 | 10:10
A former chauffeur to Heather Mills made an illegal copy of her disabled parking badge with her "full knowledge and consent", a court has heard.
Stewart Simonson, 65, was caught using the Blue Badge to park his Smart car on a yellow line during a shopping trip.
Traffic wardens who inspected the permit recognised a picture on the reverse as belonging to “someone on the television” and Mr Simonson admitted that it was Miss Mills, ex-wife of Sir Paul McCartney.
He said that Miss Mills often forgot to carry the original permit with her, and claimed that he made a photocopy with her consent. It is an offence to make a copy of a disabled parking badge.
At Enfield Magistrates Court, Mr Simonson pleaded guilty to using the badge illegally six months after leaving Miss Mills’s employ. He was ordered to pay £660 in fines and costs.
Jenny Brown, chairman of the bench, said: “We regard this as very serious because he had gone to the trouble of photocopy the disabled badge and photograph.”
Miss Mills, 43, is entitled to hold a Blue Badge after losing her leg in a road traffic accident in 1993, when she was hit by a police motorcycle. The charity campaigner lives in Brighton and employed Mr Simonson during her visits to London.
In a written statement to the court, Mr Simonson, of Enfield, north London, said: “I was employed as a chauffeur by a lady who was awarded a disabled badge.
“On occasion she would forget to bring the badge, therefore I made a copy.
“I suffer from arthritis which forced me to retire. Six weeks before this I had been discharged from hospital and am in constant pain and unable to walk any distance and applied for a badge myself.”
On the day of the offence, he drove to a supermarket near his home “on the spur of the moment” to buy painkillers and a new watch battery.
Robert Redmond, prosecuting, told the court: “The badge was a photocopy and the officers recognised the photo on the back as someone they had seen on TV. Mr Simonson subsequently revealed it was a copy of a genuine badge issued to Miss Mills.
“He said he had intended to return it to her ‘if he saw her’. He didn’t return it to Brighton because he didn’t want to get her into trouble.
“It would appear he was unlucky as he said it was the first and only time he used the card.”
A spokesman for Brighton & Hove City Council, who issued the original badge to Miss Mills, said: “Those who use fake or stolen Blue Badges are limiting the available parking spaces from those who genuinely need them.
“We take misuse of a badge by an applicant seriously and investigate thoroughly any reports of misuse.”
There are 2.55 million Blue Badge holders in the UK and disabled badge fraud costs the UK an estimated £46 million a year. The Department of Transport has announced a crackdown on drivers who abuse the system, including the introduction of credit-card style badges designed to prevent fraud.
Miss Mills was unavailable for comment. There is no suggestion that she was aware of Mr Simonson's actions.