A DIKO deputy recently asked the minister of communications whether the security firm contracted by Hermes Airports had the right to “issue traffic tickets and withhold cars for illegal parking in the airport premises”. He was investigating complaints by people who had their illegally parked cars towed away by the airport security which subsequently demanded an €85 fee (not a fine as the deputy claimed) to return the car to the owner.
The minister Marios Demetriades gave his response to the deputy in writing, resorting to common sense to explain that Hermes Airports had every right to clamp down on and penalise illegal parking. “In instances where private vehicles fail to observe traffic laws, thereby hindering either the operation or the security of the airport… Hermes has the right to intervene to deal with the illegality, in order to ensure the provision of proper parking services, smooth transportation and airport security,” wrote the minister. To deal with the problem airport security was entitled to tow away or wheel-clamp cars and demand a fee for cost it incurred, he added.
This was the answer that common sense would have dictated, but not the law. Attorney-general Costas Clerides wrote to the deputy telling him that the minister’s opinion was “untimely and mistaken.” He had investigated the matter after a request by the Chief of Police and found that it was illegal wheel-clamp or tow away cars that were illegally parked because only the police had the right to do this. We are sure that Clerides was correct, but we have to ask who passes these irrational laws that show no respect for private property?
If a car comes and parks in someone’s driveway, would the house-owner not have the right to call a tow-away truck to have it removed and insist the owner paid the cost? In a just society that showed respect for private property this would be norm. But our law does not permit Hermes Airports to deal with illegal parking on the airport grounds, which are technically its property. Should airport security call the police every time some driver has parked illegally and disappeared? Would the police arrive to issue a parking ticket? There is an even more compelling reason for allowing Hermes to tow away cars – security. If an illegally-parked car poses a security risk, of course the airport authorities should have the right to have it removed.
If the law does not permit anyone other than the police to immobilise or tow away an illegally parked car in the airport grounds, it should be changed. Surely the law should not offer protection to those who violate traffic rules and show no consideration for fellow citizens. This may be too much to expect when our courts have ruled that traffic wardens, who photographed cars parked on the pavement in order to prove the imposition of the fine was justified, were acting unlawfully because they were violating the driver’s right to privacy. Need we say more?