Judge questions disabled parking badge case

A JUDGE has branded the prosecution of a disabled former policeman for displaying an out-of-date parking badge a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.

David Athey

A JUDGE has branded the prosecution of a disabled former policeman for displaying an out-of-date parking badge a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.

David Athey was taken to court after not paying two parking fines imposed when he mistakenly displayed a disabled badge that had expired.

He appealed against the decision but it has taken four years for his case to come before a crown court judge and is estimated to have cost the taxpayer up to £10,000.

Today Mr Athey blasted Newcastle City Council, who he works for as a financial assistant, for taking him to court.

And Judge Esmond Faulks, sitting at Newcastle Crown Court, questioned the wisdom of pursuing the case against Mr Athey.

The judge said: “In no other country but the UK could this possibly happen.

“It is a huge amount of money. Is it worth further expenditure of thousands of pounds out of your pocket and my pocket?

“Why not just let him off to get on with his life?”

Mr Athey, 59, of Holywell, Whitley Bay, was fined £120 with £180 costs during a Newcastle Magistrates’ hearing in 2005.

But when the appeal against that conviction was before Judge Esmond Faulks yesterday he urged Newcastle City Council to re-consider its stance and allow Mr Athey’s appeal to go through unchallenged.

Judge Faulks listed the appeal for October 19 but added: “Now we have got to this stage with an appeal, nearly five years after the event, isn’t it time to say it’s hardly worth it?”

Prosecutor Brian Mark said he would pass the judge’s comments back to the council with a view to reviewing the case before the appeal in October.

Dad-of-one Mr Athey, who is married to Linda, 59, said he thought it was ridiculous his case had taken so long and cost so much.

He said: “If I believed I was wrong I would have paid the fine. Instead of having a simple tribunal, it’s come to the cost and hassle of this.

“Even the judge believed the while thing is ridiculous.

“Only in this country would a council take the small matter of the display of a disabled badge all the way to crown court.

“I wasn’t exactly accused of the crime of the century. The whole thing has been a nightmare that should never have come this far.”

Mr Mark said the council were reluctant to drop the case because Mr Athey had been warned about displaying an out-of-date badge in the past.

The appeal has taken more than four years to get to court because, among other factors, papers went missing en route from the Magistrates to the Crown Court.

Mr Athey, who was a constable with Northumbria Police for 20 years, has had a disabled badge for a bad back since 1991 after he was involved in a serious car accident.

He said: “I have had the badge for 18 years and have never had any problems like this before.

“I have a persistently bad back and I am medically retired from the police. I genuinely need to be able to park in disabled bays. The offence occurred when I parked at Newcastle Civic Centre where I was working in January 2005.

“There are three disabled bays and I parked there for many months. Then, out of the blue I got a ticket.

“The badge was on clear display and I got a colleague to check they could see it clearly too.

“The next day I complained that I thought there had been a mistake, but later that same day I got yet another ticket.

“It was only then that I found out that the ticket was because the badge was expired.”

Mr Athey will now appear in court in October unless the council decide not to pursue the case.

He added: “I wasn’t trying to be deceitful, I genuinely thought the badge was in date.

“If I had known it was out of date I would have got a new one straight away.”

The council’s head of parking, Neil Cuthbert, said: “The council will of course give careful consideration to the judge’s comments and will review the position as soon as possible ahead of the appeal date in October.”

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