City Council Seized, Crushed Resident's Legally-Parked BMW While He Was In The Hospital

from the BECAUSE-WE-CAN?!? dept

We’re used to stories about asset forfeiture being abused to seize vehicles from citizens here in the US, with the vehicle/sales proceeds going directly to the bottom line of the agency seizing them. That encourages all sorts of abuse performed in the name of Drug Warring but, in reality, just creating a somewhat sustainable revenue source for the government.

At least in this context, seizures of vehicles make sense. Perverted incentives have created a demand for assets drug cartels just can’t deliver, so it’s up to average Americans — many of them not at all involved in international drug trade — to make up the difference. But what can you even make of this atrocity, performed by the Flintshire, Wales government? (via Jalopnik)

After having surgery, the car owner discovered Flintshire council had incorrectly classified his BMW 323 as abandoned and had it crushed.

An ombudsman report said there was no evidence the council tried to identify the owner, while the man whose car it was called it “utter ineptitude”.

The council must pay him £2,750 for his car and the time taken to resolve this.

A man, whose vehicle is worth at least seven times the amount offered by the council, left his vehicle parked in front of his residence while he went in for surgery. The vehicle was parked at the address it was registered to. Nonetheless, the government declared it abandoned and destroyed it. This all happened during the three days he was incapacitated.

The man reported his missing car to the police, who then uncovered the rest of the debacle. A council officer claimed a search of a vehicle registration database prior to the seizure/destruction came up empty-handed. As was pointed out by the ombudsman report noted above, there was no record of this search taking place. The car’s owner was also never given notice the vehicle was targeted by the council for removal. This was the conclusion drawn from the investigation:

Public Services Ombudsman for Wales Nick Bennett said: “This is as classic a case of maladministration as I have witnessed in four years of office.”

Which it is. But it’s more than that. It’s a government moving with impunity because no one will stop it. It’s a pointless display of power that resulted in the destruction of a citizen’s property. And beyond everything else, it’s a demonstration governments are willing to make mistakes but not amends. The amount offered to the car’s owner doesn’t cover the loss and this offer only appeared because the council shit the bed so thoroughly its insurer refused to cover the self-inflicted loss.

What message does this send to residents? Never park your vehicle anywhere for any length of time? Try not get hospitalized? The government has far more potential to harm than to help? The last one might be worth learning, but it’s not really a confidence builder. And it puts government incompetence at the same level as “acts of God” — unpredictable and unforeseeable but always painful for the victims.

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Comments on “City Council Seized, Crushed Resident's Legally-Parked BMW While He Was In The Hospital”

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steve (profile) says:

They screwed up, its now fixed. Not exactly world news.

The better question is what wasn’t printed. The council wont deal with anything off road, but a SORN’d vehicle cannot be stored on road, something missing here. Also the story changes depending on the source, BBC “£2,000 worth of tools in the boot. ITV “hundreds of pounds worth of tools”, a touch of faberge egg in my missing suitcase perhaps.

Bruce C. says:

Re: Re:

Only if you call a restitution of 1/7th of the value of the vehicle "fixed".

The council must pay him £2,750 for his car and the time taken to resolve this.

(The) man, whose vehicle is worth at least seven times the amount offered by the council, left his vehicle parked in front of his residence while he went in for surgery.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

To be fair, I’m a little sceptical of the claim there, as they seem to be counting the value in 2004 plus the amount spent on the new engine. Cars tend to depreciate in value rather quickly in the UK, so while it’s not impossible, I’d say it’s relatively unlikely that it was actually worth that much 12 years later.

I’d agree that he should be compensated for more due to the obvious negligence and costs, but I’m a little suspicious of that claim. It’s more likely that the ever-escalating tax rates made him willing to

PaulT (profile) says:

“They screwed up, its now fixed.”

I’m not entirely sure that “fixed” is the right word here. I’d also think that “screwed up” is a little light on them, considering they apparently destroyed the car in a few days without attempting to contact the owner.

“Not exactly world news.”

World news doesn’t have to be earth shattering or important globally. It can just be a case of “look at this silly thing that happened over here…”

“The council wont deal with anything off road, but a SORN’d vehicle cannot be stored on road, something missing here”

Not really. The linked article stated it was stored off road. The questions are why they didn’t bother to contact the owner and why they were in such a rush to destroy the vehicle. Surely, they usually try to get some extra income from storage first?

“Also the story changes depending on the source, BBC “£2,000 worth of tools in the boot. ITV “hundreds of pounds worth of tools””

That’s not a massive discrepancy, especially if the reporters were just estimating based on the stated inventory rather than a stated value (e.g. one reporting on the average used value while the other way quoting full retail cost). Even if he is inflating the losses, I think it’s understandable that he might wish to get a little more under the circumstances.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The linked article stated it was stored off road.

no it didn’t:
“It had been declared off the road and was parked outside the registered address.”

Outside off road or on road? if on road then it was illegal and should have been crushed, the only fault being they did it without notification. You see how it changes the story from a car stolen from private property, to enforcing the law, if with a mistake.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Ooops, I did mean to type “declared off road”.

From context, I’m taking it as meaning it was declared SORN but parked on the public street. You’re right that the wording changes the meaning somewhat, but the reduced payout the fact that the council were reprimanded for their actions afterwards suggest they were not found to be in the wrong for the actions of taking the car in the first place.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The basic train of thought is this:

– Every car owner in the UK is required to pay a road tax (except for new cars, I believe). The cost varies depending on how economical and eco friendly the vehicle is, but you need to pay tax if you own a car, the revenue from which is used to maintain the public road infrastructure.

– However, a rule was introduced so that if your car is not used on the public roads, you don’t need to pay the tax. You can opt out by informing the DVLA (the British equivalent of the DMV) of this. Obviously this comes with a restriction – you do this, you lose the right to use the vehicle on public roads.

– If you are caught using the vehicle on public roads despite not having paid the tax, there are a number of things that can be done as punishment, one of which is to confiscate the vehicle.

– While under confiscation, reselling or crushing the car are things they can do if fines/taxes/whatever are still refused by the car owner.

It makes perfect sense when applied normally, it just seems silly here because they broke so many of their own rules enforcing their powers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Crushed?

When the official options are impound until the owner reclaims the vehicle, and/or crush the vehicle, why would the police r councils seize vehicles without a good reason, at least most of the time.

It is the difference between laws whose application avoids corruption, and those that encourage corruption.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Accident', right...

In the three days the man was in the hospital they declared the car abandoned for being parked in front of the owners house, lied about the search to check registration, and had it destroyed.

All of this taking place during a three day window when the owner couldn’t contest anything.

Had they not lied about the search I might have believed that this was a case of a screw-up and a city council being extremely eager to do their jobs, however with that lie I can’t help but suspect that this was intentional, and am left wondering if the homeowner hadn’t made one or more enemies on the council before going in for surgery.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Four of the most depressing words in the English language

Now there was a great President.

How about “Jimmy Carter was President”. Now that was depressing.

Lets get it down to 3 words. “Obama was President”. Now that was depressing. 8 years of a crap economy. Hit comment of those jobs are gone forever,…NOT!!!! You can keep your Doctor and everyone is going to save $2500 a year. HAHAHAHAHA, all the many LIES.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Four of the most depressing words in the English language

I love the fact that you people keep regurgitating half-truths and spin, it makes it easy to see who’s operating on the basis of fact and who’s off with the fairies.

“Hit comment of those jobs are gone forever,…NOT!!!!”

Was this meant to be a coherent sentence, or is your command of the English language just on par with your grasp of economics and history and your understanding of the relevance of early 90s pop culture in the modern world?

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Four of the most depressing words in the English language

It took me a few seconds, but I managed to parse it as “His [i.e., Obama’s] comment about ‘Those jobs are gone forever’ [is one of the things Obama said that have now turned out to be false, and so can be considered lies]”, or something like that. (The typo of “Hit” for “His” makes it more confusing than it would otherwise be.)

Which jobs exactly are being referred to, or in what context this comment is purported to have occurred, I don’t know.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Four of the most depressing words in the English language

One of the fun things about seeing people crawl out of their particular echo chambering a wider population is that “facts” that they take for granted are suddenly either not known or even challenged. They state things as if they are solid truth, then get angry or confused when people start pointing out the problems.

“Which jobs exactly are being referred to, or in what context this comment is purported to have occurred, I don’t know.”

To the best of my knowledge, the only jobs referred to as “gone forever” were the coal mining jobs that Trump fixated on during the election. Despite the fact that most of them were disappearing due to market forces (with gas largely taking its place), that new tech meant they were unlikely to experience a resurgence and that more jobs were being created in renewable energy, Trump apparently swore that these were the kinds of jobs he would focus on saving. When Obama pointed out that these jobs would not be returning and Clinton promised free retraining in other industries, they were attacked as taking jobs away. The jobs haven’t instantly disappeared, therefore somehow the Democrats were wrong and Trump right, even though the general trend is in favour of coal mining remaining t be a dying industry.

That’s my understanding, anyway. As an outsider looking in, these kinds of debates are always fascinating, but I’m yet to see an example of Trump being “right” that wasn’t either him taking credit for the works of others or depending on creative re-interpretations of what was done.

Oblate (profile) says:

The law was not followed when the car was taken, which I would interpret to mean that it was stolen. Would he have any luck if he reported it as stolen? Seems like a pretty easy case, as there’s already an admission of guilt. Let his insurance company lawyers frighten the council to repaying him properly, isn’t this part of why one pays for insurance?

Bruce says:

Why and how would they keep from acting worse and worse let alone stop what they’re doing when there are NO consequences?

If your 6 year old smashes her bedroom window for the hell of it, do you LET HER be in charge of deciding not only what happened, but leave whether she should be punished or given ice cream for her actions entirely up to her? Completely and utterly accepting her decisions and just shrugging off that that’s just how things are?

Of course not. That would be fucking idiotic wouldn’t it.

But here we are, allowing criminals to destroy property or even outright harm people, and when they go “I’LL decide whether or not I did something bad”, we let them go about their day, pay them more of our taxes, and listen when they tell us that any problems we have with what they’ve done to us is entirely up to them to judge.

Every time they get away they get a little bolder, a little more dangerous. Every time they push the limits just a little more without dragged into the streets and their remains made an example of for their successors, the very concept of being free from tyranny is shaved away a little more. We get just a tiny bit closer to those hellholes like Saudi Arabia or North Korea, where what’s done to citizens is just daily normality.

They must be punished, but they will not punish themselves. Others have to do it no matter what the criminals tell us they wrote up as a law regarding what they’ve done.

OldGeezer (profile) says:


I don’t know what the law is now, but in 1971 I visited my uncle in Denver. I parked on the street in front of his house. I drove the car every day while I was there. One morning my uncle said, “you better get out there, they are about to tow your car”. Turns out they had a law that cars parked on the street had to be moved every day. My aunt told them I had run an errand for her earlier that same day. I had the store receipt in my pocket. Had the driver actually hooked up to the car he would have had no choice but to tow it. I doubt they would have crushed a 5 year old car, but I’m sure I would have paid towing & steep impound fees.This was a residential area. Except for a racket to get people to pay outrageous fines, I see no purpose for this law. I could understand if a car appeared inoperable & there had been multiple complaints, but shit, 24 hours?

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Denver

Honestly, I never knew anyone that didn’t like
my uncle Jim. I was there looking for a job, so it’s possible someone might have thought it was abandoned. Anywhere I went in the evenings it was in his of my cousin’s car. For the rest of my time there I alternated the side of the street. No luck with the job hunt, so I sold it & joined the army.

peter says:

how did they even contest this?

It is actually even worse than the story suggests, because the government mandated procedure is….

1. They must determine that it is actually abandoned (they have no keeper on the DVLA’s database and are untaxed, or they’re stationary for a significant amount of time or they’re significantly damaged, run down or unroadworthy, or they’re burned out or they have number plates missing)

2. They must give 7 days notice to the owner or if the owner cannot be found, affix notice to the vehicle.

3. They can only dispose of abandoned vehicles if any of the following apply: the vehicle is only fit to be destroyed, or the vehicle has no number plates or tax disc (even an expired one) and is not taxed or you can’t find the owner or the owner fails to comply with a notice to collect the vehicle.

They basically failed at every one of the stage of this process, and yet still forced the owner to go to the Ombudsman to get any recompense….and this basically took a year.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: how did they even contest this?

No search to find the owner, no 7-day notification, just seized and destroyed in the three days it couldn’t be contested by the owner… yeah, think that pushes the ‘this was an accident’ explanation right out the window, leaving ‘this was intentional’ as almost certainly the reason it happened.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: how did they even contest this?

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”

It could be some kind of personal vendetta or scam. It could also be some underpaid agency works going “sod this it’s Friday afternoon, I can’t be bothered to check all this paperwork today, I’ll just assume it’s all correct and approve it before I go to the pub”.

Having been an agency worker in the UK public sector a long time ago, I know which is more likely, and it’s not the one that requires effort.

The Rusty Bullet Hole says:

Re: how did they even contest this?

"…government mandated procedure…"

What you are citing is likely an outdated procedure – tax discs in the UK haven’t been required for several years now, their rozzers use real-time ANPR and a huge database. That said, whoever actioned/authorized this should be drummed out of office and paraded around town wearing dunces caps. Whilst being pelted with rotten fruit.

ECA (profile) says:

Good comments above..

1. WHY? and WHO asked for it to be removed?
2. where is the paper work?
3. in 3 days you picked up the car and Crushed it?? That recycler didnt have MUCH to do did he??
4. what are the Odds, it got STRIPPED before the crushing? Parts are worth more then the car..
5. Where is the police Verification?? that WHO OWNEd the vehicle?? BEFORE this happened? I see that there is a CLAIM that they did a search, but the COPS dont see that on record.

All I see here is an INEPT person doing a job…THAT SHOULD BE RESPONSIBLE…
OR, an official that should be held accountable. because it HAD to be an official with a Grudge..or person in the Hood, that had contacts and didnt like him.(Ex girl friend??/wife/boy frined/sheep down the road)

ANd the very least should buy him a NEW CAR..
This car was 18+ years old, and probably still in good condition. I wonder what was in the back seat?

Anonymous Coward says:

I hate it when people say a couple thousand pounds is fair. He isnt selling the vehicle, the fair market value is irrelevent to what happened. What he should get is what is called replacement cost, the price it would take for a similar vehicle and the lost tools… Which fhnny enough would prbably be much higher than just the price on a resale. Cant just buy amy car, has to be of similar or better make to qualify as being made whole.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s PAINFULLY obvious whats happened.

Local government official wants BMW. had this car essentially stolen to order.

Other BMW (probably older crappier model) was crushed instead.

Council offers 1/7th of the value of car to owner.

CCTV needs to be checked, as well as every government official and police official etc involved with this to see if they “just happen” to own a BMW.

Then check inside the chassis to see if the ID numbers have been “accidentally” completely removed or they match the ID for the guy who was in hospital.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

A new car, especially an unusual model – I’d be inclined to say you probably have a point. Hell, even a standard showroom model could be subject to such things if it were in top condition and could be done for a heavy discount from a new model.

But, a fairly common model car with major refurbishment, a standard model of which can be purchased for a few grand, and done with such a weak excuse and in such a visibly incompetent way that it all but guaranteed ombudsman inspection and reprimand? That’s far less likely.

Unless there’s some major omission in the story about the nature of the car, I’m far more willing to believe standard incompetence than a clever conspiracy to net a vehicle of this nature.

aliza (profile) says:

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