By Peter Stevenson
THREE motorists who had their cars clamped while parked at Larnaca and Paphos airports are suing airports operator Hermes claiming the company has no right to issue on-the-spot fines and clamp vehicles.
The three plaintiffs are not contesting whether or not their vehicles were parked illegally, a wrongdoing which they admit, but that they were not given the right to contest the charge, their lawyer Evagoras Anastasiou told the Cyprus Mail.
“If someone gets a parking ticket then they have the right to take the matter to court and contest the ticket. Essentially by giving them an on-the-spot fine and clamping the vehicle, Hermes Airports was depriving them of that right,” he said.
At the old Larnaca airport, Anastasiou added, traffic police were given jurisdiction to hand out tickets for illegal parking but that no longer applies and Hermes have taken it upon themselves to issue fines and collect the money.
Anastasiou’s law firm sent a letter to the chief of police and asked him if he could clarify whether a private company can hand out fines for any offences or whether they are covered by any other law.
“Currently legislation is clear and does not permit private companies to give out or collect fines,” was the response given by Superintendant Kyriacos Kouyiountas on behalf of the chief of police.
In a response to the accusations, Hermes Airports said that the airports it manages are private spaces and their smooth running is a private matter.
“Just because it is a private space does not give them the right to hand out fines. Imagine if everyone who owned a private plot of land started handing out fines to people who they had felt had parked illegally, it would be chaos,” Anastasiou said.
The first case involved a Russian woman who is a permanent resident on the island who claimed that she parked in a disabled spot within Larnaca airport’s parking lot because her daughter was late for her flight. When she returned to her car she found that it had been clamped and that she would need to pay €85 to have it removed. Not having any cash on her, she asked if she could be allowed to return at a later date to pay the fine. According to the woman’s statement to Anastasiou, she was told that if she did not pay the fine on the spot then the clamp would not be removed. Having no other choice as she claimed, she was escorted by airport staff into the departure lounge to find her daughter who gave her the money.
In the second case, a man had parked outside Paphos airport’s main terminal building to carry his relatives’ suitcases inside the airport. He claimed that he returned after ten minutes and found that his vehicle had been clamped. He was informed by airport staff that he would need to pay 85 euros to have the clamp removed.
The third case took place at 5am when a man parked his car in a spot for taxis at Larnaca airport and when he returned five minutes later had found it also had been clamped. He paid the airport 85 euros and the clamp was removed.