Clamper Fined For Obstructing Police

A ''belligerent'' clamper has been fined £1,115 for putting clamps on two unmarked police cars which were providing security for a visit by the Queen.

Gareth Andrews, 39, of Privett Road in Fareham was found guilty at Portsmouth Magistrates' Court today of wilfully obstructing a police constable in the execution of his duty.

The trial was told that the Queen had made an unannounced visit to Portsmouth on Wednesday May 25.

Colin Shackel, prosecuting, said Pc Mark Cox and a second officer, both in plain clothes, had parked their unmarked cars at the Gunwharf Quays marina retail complex that the Queen was visiting.

Describing the role of Pc Cox, of Hampshire Police, he said:

''He was actually in effect in a protection capacity. The person being the subject of the protection was Her Majesty The Queen, who was due to visit in a private capacity.

''Police have to guard against any potential threat. The intention was for the vehicle driven by Pc Cox to be a contingency force.

''If there was a contingency, it was their role to respond as quickly as possible.''

Mr Shackel said the parking spaces allocated for the officers were temporarily being used by a delivery lorry so, after consulting security staff, they left their vehicles in adjacent spaces, the court heard.

Mr Shackel said one of the police officers had gone to consult colleagues and, while Pc Cox was talking to security staff, two clamping vehicles arrived.

He said Andrews and his colleagues then clamped the two vehicles, an Audi and a BMW, and he refused to remove them when confronted by Pc Cox.

The court heard that the two cars had been parked for about 15 minutes in restricted spaces overseen by Shoal Enforcement.

Mr Shackel said:

''It's not just a plain clothes officer speaking to the defendant - there's uniformed security guards from Gunwharf, other officers arrived and identified themselves.

"Even then Mr Andrews said he didn't believe he was dealing with real police officers.

''By the time you have been shown a warrant card and security guards are involved, it would be clear to anyone that it was real officers who weren't just trying to avoid a clamping charge and had duties to perform.''

Pc Cox told the court that Andrews' behaviour was ''belligerent'', ''defiant'' and ''obstructive''.

He added: ''I decided I had no option but to arrest Mr Andrews to get the clamp removed and he was clearly obstructing me.''

Andrews pleaded guilty at the start of the hearing to a second charge of contravening the Private Security Industry Act by not displaying the appropriate licensing badge.

Shoppers at Gunwharf Quays were taken by surprise when word spread that the Queen had arrived at the centre that day and a crowd gathered to greet her.

The Queen had arranged to have lunch with NCP car park boss Sir Donald Gosling on board his yacht, Leander.

Andrews told the court he had not released the clamp because his company's ''protocol'' was for the enforcement officer to contact the firm's control room, who would then be able to authorise its removal.

He said he had attempted to phone his control room in order to do this but had been prevented from doing so by the police officers.

He added: ''I was just doing my job.''

Andrews was fined £500 for the obstruction charge and £250 for the licensing offence and ordered to pay £350 towards prosecution costs plus a £15 victim surcharge.

Sentencing him, Judge Calloway said:

''There is some doubt that you knew the Queen was on the Gunwharf site but what you did that particular morning could have caused the Queen and others a very serious incident.

''Had an incident occurred, the police would have been unable to respond properly.

''I am entirely satisfied you knew they were perfectly legitimate police officers going about their duties.

''For these reasons I am of the view this obstruction was in fact intentional.''

Eileen Sproson, defending, told the court that Andrews was unlikely to be able to renew his clamping licence next year because of the conviction for contravening the Private Security Industry Act.

She said:

''This matter has had a detrimental effect on him.

''As a result, his relationship has broken down. He was at the time living with his wife and two children, aged 14 and seven, and had been married for 15 years.

''He has had some unfortunate press interest and he has had petrol poured through his letterbox.

''He may not have a job from today.''