CROOKS breaking parking rules and cheating the law will have nowhere to hide – they will be punished.
This is the stern warning being issued to fraudsters by Portsmouth City Council today after it achieved its 100th successful prosecution.
Since 2009 the authority’s civil enforcement team has been chasing down those trying to dodge parking tickets and abusing the blue badge system to park for free in the city’s streets.
And the toll to crooks, after they have been hauled through the court system for their crimes, has hit about £50,000 – an average fine of £500 per person.
Many of the offenders were prosecuted for multiple offences of fraud and dishonesty, with 279 separate crimes being recorded.
Most of them were trying to dodge paying for £2.60 parking tickets or a £30 residents’ parking permit.
Today’s news has been hailed as a landmark victory for the council by the organisation’s leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson.
But the Lib Dem chief has insisted the authority won’t rest on its laurels and will continue to punish those intent on bending the rules.
He said: ‘Fraudsters are cheating all the law-abiding people of Portsmouth who pay for their parking and we’ll continue to do everything we can to catch them and bring them to justice.
‘We’re pleased the courts share our view of how serious these crimes are.
‘We’ll continue to work hard to protect our blue badge scheme from abuse, making sure it helps the people it’s there for.’
The unfavourable title of 100th prosecution of Portsmouth City Council goes to Zachary Lewandoski.
The 25-year-old, of Winchester Road, Buckland, was hauled up in front of the bench at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court after he was caught out, on at least two occasions, using a Stamshaw parking permit he had fraudulently altered.
Lewandoski used his computer to change the dates on a temporary, six-week pass given to him by the city council in October 2016.
It comes after the university graduate moved to the city to join defence giant BAE Systems as an apprentice.
The court heard how lazy Lewandoski couldn’t be bothered to go through the process of applying and paying for a full residents’ parking permit because it was ‘too much hassle’.
Instead he used Microsoft Word to repeatedly change the dates on the temporary pass over a seven-month period, allowing him to park in Ranelagh Road, Stamshaw and dodge the two-hour restrictions.
But he was eventually caught out on June 2, 2017 when a civil enforcement officer used his handheld computer to check the permit.
Prosecutor Jenny Ager said it had an apparent expiry date of July 19, 2017. But checks revealed it had actually expired on December 3, 2016.
When questioned, Lewandoski admitted changing the permit, with Ms Ager adding he had applied for one after moving from Wales.
‘He was told at the time he would need to re-register his car to his address in Portsmouth to qualify for a 12-month (permit),’ she said. ‘But he said it was a “hassle” to keep changing his log book, so he kept his home address in Wales.
‘He said he had only altered it once and was aware that it was dishonest but he said: “I didn’t realise it was that serious. I thought I would get a fine and I was willing to take that risk”.’
Subsequent checks revealed this to be a lie. He had previously been issued a parking ticket on March 8, with photos showing it had an expiry date of January 15, 2017.
‘This was premeditated,’ Ms Ager said. ‘It happened more than once for no other reason than he couldn’t be bothered to change his address with the DVLA.’
Lewandoski pleaded guilty to three charges of fraud from the start. Defending himself, he said he had tried to be ‘as honest as he possibly could’, always paid his parking tickets and feared this would now impact his role at BAE.
He said: ‘I don’t want to play the pity card but I moved down here from Cardiff to start a career. I made a very bad mistake – one I wished I really didn’t do and I feel like this will bite me in more ways than one.’
Lewandoski, of previous good character, was fined a total of £422.82p and was given a six-month conditional discharge for all three offences.