A complainant was refunded fees paid for having the vehicle towed by the Police, for humanitarian reasons, after the Office of the Ombudsman recommended a refund for a car owner who unfairly had the car towed by the Police in Gudja.
In the latest edition of the Ombudsman’s case notes, presented to Parliament in April, the Ombudsman explained that a complainant had parked his/her car regularly in a parking bay in Gudja before leaving for a short four day holiday to the United Kingdom. While the complainant was taken suddenly ill and had to be hospitalised. On returning to Malta, a week later than scheduled the person found that the vehicle had been towed by the Police since there was a public function in that locality.
The complainant requested the Commissioner of Police to refund on humanitarian grounds the fine of €410 that had to be paid for the release of the vehicle.
Efforts to obtain a reply from the Police proved futile and complainant asked the Ombudsman to intervene. Initially, the Commissioner of Police did not directly respond to the Office of the Ombudsman’s request but complainant received a reply that the Commissioner had directed that “no refund is to be reimbursed”.
The complainant was informed that on the day of the towing of the vehicle there was a public activity. ‘No parking’ signs had been placed with the stipulated dates and time according to the law and the clearance was published in the Government Gazette.
The Office of the Ombudsman explained that clearly complainant could not have been expected to be aware of the clearance given in the Government Gazette while he/she was abroad on holiday. While it was correct to state that the Government Gazette was available online, it was not reasonable to expect a citizen to access and scrutinise the Gazette even when he/she was away from the island particularly when the individual is unwell and has been hospitalised.
The Police insisted that the Divisional Police acted according to the law on the date that the vehicle was towed away and that at that moment in time they could not have been in a position to know that the owner of the vehicle was abroad.
Eventually, the Office of the Ombudsman was informed that the Police had reviewed the case and had decided that complainant would be refunded the fees paid on humanitarian grounds.