By Katherine Faulkner
A motorist had her car clamped while she was still at the wheel.
Jessie Martin pulled into the car park to make a U-turn – but two vans from a clamping firm pulled in to block her exit.
Two men approached her and ordered her to switch off the engine. When she obeyed, they fitted a clamp to her car.
‘These men just came out of nowhere,’ said Miss Martin, 31.
‘I thought I was getting robbed or something. They didn’t have any uniform on, they didn’t even have badges on.
‘He asked me to turn the engine off because he said something and I didn’t hear him – and that’s when he clamped me.’
Miss Martin said the clampers – from LBS Enforcement – had only pulled on identity badges after they had attached a clamp to her car.
The mother-of-four called police and her partner after the clampers warned her the car would be towed and she would be charged £80 for every half hour they kept her waiting for their money.
‘She was in a terrible state when I got there,’ said her partner Michael Jenner, 39, a roofer.
‘She was crying and felt very intimidated. If she had parked then fair enough – but she was only turning around.
‘One of the clampers said it was because she had switched off her engine – but that was only because they asked her to.’
The couple did not have enough money with them to pay the fine – and so a tow truck was called.
Mr Jenner said members of the clamping firm were ‘laughing and joking’ as the car was pulled away.
‘They thought it was very jolly to take money off of people,’ he said.
Mr Jenner said he had to use money intended for their daughter’s birthday party to pay the fine and avoid further costs.
‘We’ve had to cancel that now and she is very upset,’ he said. ”These people have got no morals.’
Motoring organisations called the incident ‘disgusting.’
‘It is robbery – simple as that,’ said Paul Watters of the AA. By any standards of law and common decency these people would not be allowed to behave in this way.
‘There is no appeals procedure so motorists are being held hostage.
‘The Home Office needs to use this case as a stimulus to ban the practice of clamping on private land.’
The car park – located in a side street off the main road through Leigh-on-Sea, Essex – is reserved for tenants of a block of flats just behind.
But signs warning about the clampers have been spray painted over and cannot be read clearly.
A mechanic who works in the garage opposite said the clampers – from firm LBS Enforcement – were ‘ruthless’.
The worker, who did not want to be named, said: ‘They wait up the road in their vans. They trap people with their vans and if someone argues with them, they ramp up the charges.’
Locals said it was not the first time that LBS Enforcement had clamped someone who had simply entered the car park to turn around.
Jordan Hall, 19, a Lloyds bank worker, was also trapped by trucks, clamped and had his car towed when he turned round it the same car park last month.
He said clampers had pulled the keys from his ignition before clamping his car and charging him £500.
‘I was completely in shock about it all and I didn’t really know what was happening at the time,’ Mr Hall said.
‘When the guy came up to the car and started to put the clamp on I said: “What are you doing? I’m not parked.”
‘He opened my car door, took the key out of the ignition and told me to get out of the car.
‘I had to get out because I was just so scared.’
The firm admitted blocking Miss Martin’s exit from the car park and clamping her car while she was still inside.
Robert Jones, the manager of LBS Enforcement, said: ‘Of course we are pleased when we can clamp people. We would rather clamp someone than have them drive off. It’s how we make our money.
‘There is nothing wrong with what they have done whatsoever. By agreeing to park there she is agreeing to have her car clamped.
‘She has got a cheek complaining. She was trespassing on private property.’