OXFORD City Council has been given a criminal record and condemned by a judge for illegally crushing a man’s car.
The authority admitted criminal damage after its contractors seized Martin Young’s Ford Escort from near his home despite it being legally parked on private land.
The vehicle was later crushed.
Last night a council spokesman apologised and said it was the first time the authority had been convicted of a criminal offence.
Oxford magistrates heard Jeremy Franklin admit the charge, relating to the incident in May 2007, on behalf of the council.
Jo Sear, prosecuting, said Mr Young’s car was in poor condition after being vandalised and was parked on private land because the pensioner intended to repair it.
But after reports the car had been abandoned, the contractor seized it under the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978.
Ms Sear said Mr Young thought the car had been stolen and reported it to the police. He later contacted the contractors, who confirmed it had been destroyed.
Ms Sear added Mr Young, of Headington Hill, had not received a letter informing him of the car’s removal as he should have done.
Matthew Corrie, defending, said the council had received reports of an abandoned vehicle which was a potential danger to members of the public because of its state.
He added: “The council held its hands up from an early stage and the mistake was down to an administrative error.”
Deputy district judge Peter Greenfield said: “Mr Young’s proprietary rights were infringed by the council. The car may only have been valued at £350 but that is not the point. He had the right to
leave it on private land.
“The council invoked powers which override the powers of citizens. This gives them immense rights which need to be used very carefully.”
Judge Greenfield fined the council £600, ordered it to pay £3,015 costs to Mr Young and a further £15 victim’s surcharge.
He added: “When a council invokes such a Draconian power they need the right system so it is not simply a blind approach.”
Mr Young said on Friday: “The money I have received will be to pay my lawyers’ fees, none of it benefits me. I wanted to make this point essentially for the public benefit – as well as giving the
council a dose of what it had given me – and to disabuse the council officers of their general attitude that they are always right and we ‘peasants’ must do as we are told, and without complaint.”
City council spokesman Annette Cunningham said: “The council handles a large volume of abandoned cars and it is regrettable that a mistake was made with this one incident in 2007. We apologise to
Mr Young for our error.”
Her colleague Louisa Dean added that “as far as the council’s legal department is aware” no restraints will be placed on the authority because of its criminal record.