Lawyer says wheel clamper lacks required licence
A row is brewing over whether New Plymouth's Richmond Centre wheel clamper is in breach of a new law governing private security operatives.
Auckland lawyer Alex Witten-Hannah says he believes Daniel Clout, of Egmont Security, has been illegally clamping vehicles for the past three months.
Under changes to the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Act 2010, which came into operation about three months ago, anyone operating a security business in a private car park has to hold a property guard's licence.
Mr Witten-Hannah said he had no doubt wheel clampers were covered by the act.
"I'm confident that the wheel clampers fit within the definition of a property guard."
Mr Clout doesn't hold the licence but said he believed Mr Witten-Hannah was biased against clampers as he had been quoted in the media saying the practice was illegal.
"We are doing everything within our powers to do things right. Quite simply we are operating lawfully," Mr Clout said yesterday.
Simon Bridges, Minister for Consumer Affairs, said whether a wheel clamper would meet the definition of "guard" under the act was a matter of interpretation for the courts.
But Mr Witten-Hannah said anyone clamped by Mr Clout since the act came into effect could take him to court because he did not hold a licence.
"Yes, the answer to that is yes. They have been clamped by an unlicensed property guard," he said.
Illegal clampers faced fines of up to $40,000 for individuals and $60,000 for companies.
"It would have to be a pretty bad case for that but that is the maximum," he said.
Mr Witten-Hannah said complaints should be made to the Department of Internal Affairs which would investigate and prosecute on behalf of the New Zealand Security Association.
Mr Clout confirmed to the Taranaki Daily News that he does not currently hold a property guard's licence.
"We will be getting a security guard's licence because it will be becoming part of the voluntary code of compliance," he said.
Mr Clout said he would be signing up to a new industry code of conduct set to be introduced.
The voluntary code will set out minimum standards and good practice for wheel clamping companies and will ensure all signatories to the industry and their employees hold a certificate of approval by the Ministry of Justice.
Industry operators, with support from Mr Bridges, are working through the finer points of the code of conduct.
Mr Clout said he believed the voluntary code would be a good thing for the industry.
"We already have high standards but I feel that that will bring awareness that clamping is lawful," Mr Clout said.
He is due to appear in New Plymouth District Court today charged with assault following an alleged altercation with a German tourist in March.
Taranaki Daily News