BY CHRISTINA FARRELL
A Catholic parishioner whose car was clamped while she was at Mass with her two young sons has thanked her fellow parishioners for helping her “to face down a difficult situation”.
Liz Nelson was at Sunday morning Mass at SS Philip and James’s, Herne Hill, south London, when her car was ticketed by a Lambeth council traffic warden.
When she asked why she had been fined, he replied that her tyres were “over the kerb”. Within minutes of returning to Mass, a parishioner warned Mrs Nelson that her Volkswagen Sharan people carrier was then being hoisted on to a clamping truck.
She again ran out and this time jumped into her car, locking the doors to prevent it from being taken, as parish priest Fr James Spencer and other parishioners remonstrated with the clampers.
Mrs Nelson refused to budge and at midday, after a protracted argument, Lambeth council executives were called. A deal was struck and Mrs Nelson was given a £100 fine, reduced to £50 for prompt payment.
Speaking to The Catholic Herald this week, Fr Spencer said Mrs Nelson had written to him to thank parishioners for their support and for giving her the courage to stand up to the council officers.
“I think it shows that the council are interested, not so much in keeping the roads clear and enforcing parking restrictions, but in making money,” he said. “It was totally farcical. The funny thing was that when the tow truck came to take the car, it too had two wheels on the kerb, which was what Mrs Nelson was accused of.
“When the police turned up, they did the same.” In an interview with the Evening Standard Mrs Nelson said there had been no account shown for the fact that she was at Mass with her children — sons Luke, three, and Charlie, five, who had been distressed by the incident. “I was outraged. They showed no consideration,” she said.
“I had explained to the attendant that I was in church. Why didn’t he have the decency to tell me he’d summoned a tow truck? Lambeth’s actions were out of all proportion and the clampers showed no mercy.” She also accused the council of seeking simply to “maximise money” rather than dealing sensibly and sensitively with the situation.
“It would have cost more than £200 to get the car back and would have ruined our weekend,” she explained. “I was furious.
“I was on the kerb but with plenty of room to get past,” she said. “I parked carefully to make sure the road was clear.” A council spokesman offered no apology and insisted that the ticket had been correctly issued by the wardens.
“Blocking the pavement, as every driving-licence holder should know, is a 24-hour offence,” the spokesman said.