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New rules will allow 'spy car' to keep filming; CCTV vehicle launch 'sneaky', says councillor.

Byline: LIAM MURPHY

NEW rules are being introduced by council chiefs so they can continue operating a controversial "spy car" used to enforce parking laws.

The use of the Smart car, equipped with specialised CCTV camera equipment, was thrown into question after a landmark legal ruling last month.

Wirral Council had been using cameras set up in the vehicle to target illegal parking.

They photograph drivers who park wrongly and then send them a fine through the post.

Next week, the council's audit committee will be advised of new procedures for using the vehicle.

Officials will have to put up notices in the street warning drivers the equipment is being operated in the area.

A council report said: "Before commencing enforcement, traffic signs will be erected either end of the enforcement location to advise motorists of the presence of the CCTV camera.

"This is in addition to the onvehicle markings and the existing road markings and signs."

Wallasey councillor Leah Fraser, Conservative spokeswoman on the audit committee, said: "The spy car was sneakily launched on an unsuspecting public without any prior warning or publicity.

"If we want people to park more sensibly, it would be better if drivers knew the consequences beforehand and the spy car must be parked legally as well."

Rachel Johnson, 34, who owns Bargain Booze off licence, in Victoria Road, New Brighton, received three pounds 70 parking fines through the post in one week as a result of pictures taken by a "spy camera".

But, after Ms Johnson took her case to a traffic penalty tribunal, it was ruled unless councils put up signs warning motorists the cars are being used, the tickets are invalid.

Ms Johnson's ruling could open the floodgates for thousands of other appeals from motorists.

The periscope-mounted camera cars were first trialled in London at the beginning of 2007 before being rolled out across the UK.

It is estimated more than 30 councils now use Smart cars, as well as traffic wardens.

The council report added: "Wirral is currently one of a small number of authorities outside London to have Secretary of State approval for CCTV parking enforcement".

The vehicle has a mobile CCTV control room, including cameras, recording and playback equipment.
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 15, 2009
Words:370
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