Belfast Telegraph

Gerry Kelly removes wheel clamp: What does the law say?

Gerry Kelly's actions in removing a wheel clamp from his car have led to confusion around the law in Northern Ireland in relation to parking and the removal of clamps.

And one legal commentator has suggested the Stormont political deadlock may have allowed clamping to continue in Northern Ireland after it was effectively banned in the rest of the UK.

Gerry Kelly speaks on car clamp removal: I don't keep bolt cutters in the boot 

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly facing calls to quit after cutting off wheel clamp 

Sinn Fein policing and justice spokesman Gerry Kelly parked in a yellow box in Exchange Street, Belfast, before attending a nearby gym. Printed on the yellow box was "no parking," while there were signs on the wall which read "private parking only".

There are a number of other signs on the wall warning of a clamping operation in force. Video footage shows the MLA work at the clamp with bolt cutters before placing it on a wall.

Sinn Fein said Mr Kelly removed the clamp before heading off to meetings. Police are investigating and Mr Kelly was interviewed on Sunday evening.

Legal expert Joshua Rozenberg, speaking on the BBC Stephen Nolan show, said the law in Northern Ireland appeared not to have been updated since the 1970s.

"The law says you can't damage other people's property without lawful excuse," he said.

Using the example of someone coming across a house on fire, he said it would be deemed reasonable to smash a window to help those inside.

General view of a clamping zone on Exchange Street in Belfast City Centre where footage was recorded of Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly removing a clamp from his car. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
General view of a clamping zone on Exchange Street in Belfast City Centre where footage was recorded of Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly removing a clamp from his car. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
General view of a clamping zone on Exchange Street in Belfast City Centre where footage was recorded of Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly removing a clamp from his car. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
General view of a clamping zone on Exchange Street in Belfast City Centre where footage was recorded of Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly removing a clamp from his car. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
General view of a clamping zone on Exchange Street in Belfast City Centre where footage was recorded of Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly removing a clamp from his car. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

"So there are circumstances in which you are allowed to destroy other people's property but it's up to the courts to decide what a lawful excuse would be."

He outlined how clamping in England, Wales and Scotland had been effectively banned.

"Maybe because you don't have a functioning legislature, maybe because things a bit slowly I don't know as far as I know the law has not been changed in Northern Ireland," he added.

"I don't think there is any provision banning wheel clamping on private land in Northern Ireland and I don't think the courts have dealt with the question if whether it is lawful or not.

"Everyone assumes if you have private land you can call in a private company, put up signs and they can charge you to have the clamps released.

"That seems to be lawful but that hasn't been tested in the courts in Northern Ireland for as far as I know.

"And if this case where to go to court it would be very interesting to see whether it was a lawful excuse.

"If you look at the wording of the criminal damage Northern Ireland order it says it doesn't matter whether they believe that your actions in cutting through the chain is justified or not, if it is honestly held.

"So in other words if Mr Kelly believed that if his car was in need of protection and that what he did was reasonable, he may well have a defence to a charge of criminal damage."

Gerry Kelly used bolt cutters on a clamped car close to the MAC in Belfast on February 2 2018 (Photo by Belfast Telegraph)
Gerry Kelly used bolt cutters on a clamped car close to the MAC in Belfast on February 2 2018 (Photo by Belfast Telegraph)
The CCTV footage of Gerry Kelly using bolt cutters to remove clamp
The CCTV footage of Gerry Kelly using bolt cutters to remove clamp
The CCTV footage of Gerry Kelly using bolt cutters to remove clamp
The CCTV footage of Gerry Kelly using bolt cutters to remove clamp
Screen grabs from social media showing Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly removing a wheel clamp from his car parked in Belfast city centre on Friday morning.

The Department of Infrastructure has been asked for a comment.

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