Saturday 21 April 2018

Operation Enable: Garda clampdown on disability cheats sees 26 hauled before courts

Sgt Peter Woods
Sgt Peter Woods
Sgt Peter Woods
A convertible parked in a disabled bay without a permit. Picture@GardaTraffic
Three copies of the same permit seized by gardaí. Picture: @GardaTraffic
A taxi parked in a disabled bay. Picture: @GardaTraffic
L driver parked in disabled bay. Picture: @GardaTraffic
Gardaí stop taxis at Heuston Station. Picture: @GardaTraffic
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

Gardaí will bring 26 people before the courts in the coming months for fraudulently using a disability permit to park on Dublin streets, Independent.ie can reveal.

Gardaí launched Operation Enable in March and since then they have held two days of action across Dublin streets as well as a high-profile social media campaign to highlight parking abuses.

The initiative, led by Sergeant Peter Woods of the DMR Traffic Division, has already yielded big results and next month the first prosecutions will be brought before Dublin district court.

In an exclusive interview with Independent.ie Sgt Woods has also revealed:

  • On the first day of action in March they seized 11 parking permits;
  • In one West Dublin housing estate gardaí identified three cars using the SAME permit;
  • Gardaí have snared drivers using permits issued to dead relatives;
  • Those caught face fines of up to €3,000 and/or up to six months in prison.

Sgt Woods first came up with the idea for Operation Enable after dealing with an incident involving a disabled motorist last Christmas, and hearing of the difficulties encountered by him in finding accessible parking.

It was decided to take a closer look at the issue of disabled bay and disabled parking permit use in Dublin City Centre.

A disabled person’s parking card allows the user to park for free in disabled bays and any other public parking spots across the country.

Sgt Woods then identified the law of fraudulent use of a permit under Section 115 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 as amended.

Buoyed by this he contacted the two groups responsible for issuing permits the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) and the Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland (DDAI). Both, he explained, were delighted to come on board and just a month later they launched Operation Enable at Dublin Castle.

The objective, he explains, was to remind motorists to respect parking bays and to prompt permit holders to respect the conditions attached to the permits issued to them.

#OperationEnable
#OperationEnable

The following month, on March 1, gardaí held their first day of action across the capital.

Undercover gardaí travelled to locations identified by Dublin Street Parking Services and Dublin City Council where badges were being used in places other than disabled bays.

“On that morning we challenged people as they parked. And at the end of that day we had 11 permits seized.”

Most, he explained, were people using a disabled relative’s permit.

“We had two incidents where people were using dead a dead relative’s permit. One man was using his mother’s permit but she died two years earlier.”

In June Sgt Woods and his team held their second day of action with similar results. “I didn’t want it to be a one-day wonder,” he said explaining that there will be another day in October.

“We are aiming for quarterly targeted days of enforcement.”

In conjunction with the days of action gardaí have also held special operations based on tip-offs from members of the public.

In one case traffic gardaí seized a number of permits from workmen who were parking for free on an upmarket Dublin street while doing works on a house. They also towed vehicles on this occasion as the vehicles had no valid tax or NCT.

On another occasion Sgt Woods and his team travelled to a housing estate in West Dublin where they identified three cars using the same permit. One of the permits was legitimate while the other two were convincing forgeries.

“In our experience many of those using fraudulent permits or ones belonging to a family member will not park in disabled bays as this may arouse suspicion. Instead, they will park for free in regular bays.”

Sgt Woods and his team have been documenting the operation on social media and this has led to further tip-offs from members of the public.

In the coming moths 26 people will appear before Dublin District Court charged in relation to the first six months of Operation Enable.

Under the legislation a judge can fine them up to €3,000 and or jail them for up to six months.

#OperationEnable - A social media campaign that has caught the imagination and illegal parkers

The @GardaTraffic twitter account has become a huge success over these last few years and Independent.ie has covered its hilarious posts on more than one occassion.

When Sgt Woods launched Operation Enable last February he was keen to have an online campaign to match the on-street offensive.

Here are some of the best posts from operation Enable:

1. 'Convertible to a fine'

When this Porsche driver couldn't find a spot to park in, in Dublin City centre on a warm day they simply pulled into the nearest disabled bay.

Gardaí were quick to spot the infringement and issue a fine. They also didn't miss an opportunity to for a pun.

2. Spot the fakes!

Following a tip-off gardaí from DMR traffic travelled to a home in West Dublin where they found three copies of the same permit being used on different cars.

The first was legitimate but the other two were convincing copies. All three were seized and a court appearance will follow.

3. 'L' driver hasn't learned his lesson

Learning how to drive can be difficult and this 'L' driver learned the hard way when he parked in a disabled bay.

They were slapped with an €80 fine and a fixed charge notice was issued.

4. 'Laziness is not a disability'

We have all done it! Stepped out of the car, stuck on the hazard lights and run into the shop to buy a litre of milk.

This Dublin taxi driver took it one step too far though when he blocked a disabled spot, and half the road. He, too, was slapped with an €80 fine and a fixed charge notice.

This prompted @GardaTraffic to write: "Laziness is not a disability."

5. Someone else's disabled permit

Despite six months of a high-profile campaign some drivers just aren't learning their lesson.

Last week @GardaTraffic posted this image of a Toyota Yaris parked in a disabled spot on Stephen Street Lower. The driver was using someone else's permit. This was seized and the driver will now be brought before court.

6. Heuston... we have a problem

Operation Enable has proven a huge success across the capital and gardaí from other parts of the city and the country have now adopted it.

The Community Policing Unit in Kilmainham detected a number of offences by taxi drivers using disabled bays at Heuston station.

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