Student fined £5,000 for fraudulently using grandmother's blue badge

Report by ITV News Meridian's Mary Stanley

A Southampton student has been fined £5,000 for fraudulently using his grandmother's blue badge.

22-year-old Mathusan Ratnakumar was investigated by council officials after he repeatedly used a blue badge to park for free in Southampton.

The owner of the permit was in fact his 85-year-old grandmother, who was miles away shielding from Covid.

1400 people were prosecuted last year for misusing blue badges Credit: ITV News Meridian

Shop workers had become suspicious of Mr Ratnakumar when they saw him parked outside.

Richard Inglis, Parkview Retail Ltd said: "A lot of our customers are disabled and those parking bays and normal parking bays outside our shop make access easier to the store and so blocking them off it makes life a lot harder for people who really don't need the hassle."

It is a criminal offence to use someone else's blue badge if they are not your passenger.

The blue badge scheme is often described as a "lifeline" for people with disabilities.

George Baker from The Disability Union said: "There are very few disabled parking spaces as it is and for the vast majority of the people who use them they are a lifeline.

"It's the difference between being able to go shopping for example or not being able to go shopping.

"Abuse of blue badges is an enormous problem even if there's just one person doing it.

"If there are three spaces outside a shop and one is taken by someone who is not disabled it makes an enormous difference to people."

It is a criminal offence to use someone else's blue badge if they are not your passenger Credit: ITV News Meridian

The city council says the prosecution sends out a message that this crime will not go unpunished.

Councillor Steven Galton, Southampton City Council, said: "Anyone who is misusing a blue badge is really affecting our most vulnerable so as a city we are going to take that really seriously.

"We are going to use all the powers that are available to us and we will catch the people and as this prosecution shows we will take them right through the legal system and get the result at the end that shows it was incorrect to misuse a blue badge."

There are around 2 million blue badges in the UK. The public is being asked to report any suspected fraud.

Mr Ratnakuma's fine is one of the largest handed out.