Judge: Clout needed licence
New Plymouth's controversial wheel clamper Daniel Clout has been found guilty of illegally operating without a licence.
Following a two-day defended hearing in the New Plymouth District Court Judge Allan Roberts ruled Clout was guilty on two counts under the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Act 2010.
The successful prosecution, laid by the Department of Internal Affairs, relates to Clout operating as a property guard without a licence in November and December 2012 in the Richmond Centre carpark and the King St carpark on Devon St West.
Following the decision, Clout's lawyer, Murray Smith, of Wellington, said the prosecution unfairly targeted his client.
Other clampers he had spoken to across New Zealand had not had an issue in being required to have a licence, Smith said.
"You have to ask the question, why my client?"
But Internal Affairs' manager gambling compliance Kevin Finnegan said Clout's activities had been the subject of numerous complaints to the police.
"We're pleased to have been able to follow up complaints that he was operating as an illegal property guard. The case is not about whether Mr Clout was operating illegally as a wheel clamper - but whether he was operating as a property guard whilst being unlicensed under the PSPPI Act."
Generally, the act of wheel clamping itself would not fall within the scope of the PSPPI Act, Finnegan said.
"However, as Mr Clout waited at private property looking out for potential illegal parkers, it's our view that he was operating as a property guard and so that falls within the scope of the PSPPI Act.
"It's important that private property guards are licensed to prevent the potential for misconduct," Finnegan said.
"It's reasonable for the public to expect they can trust private property guards to act in a safe and effective manner."
In making submissions yesterday, Crown prosecutor Justin Marinovich said Clout had an agreement to monitor the two carparks and, in watching who was not adhering to the car park rules, acted as a property guard.
The act required such people to hold a licence.
Clout was not paid by the carpark owners but received $120 to unclamp the vehicles which he asked for from the vehicles' owners, Marinovich said.
Smith, who failed to have the charges dismissed on the grounds the prosecution had failed to present a case to answer, then asked that his client was convicted and discharged.
Clout had no money and no income and was caring for his 20-month-old daughter.
The prosecution was a test case, Smith said.
His client was given legal advice that he could continue working and effectively thought he could continue.
The prosecution came out of the blue to his client, Smith said.
In his decision, the judge said he recalled the issue of whether Clout needed a licence was raised when he sentenced Clout for an assault.
"Clearly you had legal advice that you did not [need a licence]," the judge said.
Clout was fined $500 on the first count relating to a driver who parked illegally across a disabled carpark at the Richmond Centre plus court costs of $132.
And on the second charge, Clout was fined $250.
The judge noted that in the first case the driver parked "quite improperly" and in the second, relating to the King St parking area, drivers were parking in areas they should not have been.
Clout did not respond to the Taranaki Daily News when asked for comment.
About six people were in court to support him.
Taranaki Daily News