Sheffield traffic: Young driver left without car for a year - and £4,400 bill - after towing blunder

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The police and council have apologised

A Sheffield driver was left without her car for a year and £4,400 charges after blunders by the council and police.

Madeleine Ruse, aged 22, assumed her Citroën had been stolen when she discovered it missing from its usual parking space. She reported it to the police and received a payout from her insurer, the Guardian reports.

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Madeleine Ruse assumed her Citroën had been stolen but 12 later Sheffield City Council said it had been towed and demanded £4,400.
Madeleine Ruse assumed her Citroën had been stolen but 12 later Sheffield City Council said it had been towed and demanded £4,400.
Madeleine Ruse assumed her Citroën had been stolen but 12 later Sheffield City Council said it had been towed and demanded £4,400. | Madeleine Ruse

Twelve months later, Sheffield City Council notified her it had been towed due to temporary parking restrictions. And she could have it back - but only if she collected it within two days and paid a fine and fees of £4,400.

Madeleine, who works at Sheffield University, said: “I had left the car as usual on a street that usually has unrestricted parking and did not see any warning signs.

“My insurer, Hastings Direct, paid me £2,190 for the ‘theft’ but because it was recorded as an at-fault claim and I’m on a low income, I could no longer afford to insure a car.”

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Sheffield Parking Services blamed staffing issues and “changes in processes” when Ruse complained about the year-long delay and claimed it could not have anticipated her situation since “we do not usually get a response to these letters.”

It agreed to waive the fine and all fees after the Guardian intervened. 

Joe Otten, chair of the council’s waste and street scene committee, said: “This was an unacceptable failure of process and there will be a thorough investigation and review of our systems to prevent further incidents like this. We are in contact with Ms Ruse and will be paying her appropriate compensation.”

South Yorkshire police admitted they had been alerted by the council that the car had been removed in case it was reported missing. However, staff failed to inform Ruse when she reported it as stolen.

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South Yorkshire police said: “A human error meant an initial report from the council informing us Ms Ruse’s car had been towed was processed incorrectly. This meant that when Ms Ruse contacted us to report her vehicle as stolen, it had not been marked as ‘moved’ on our system and we instead marked the vehicle as ‘stolen’. We’d like to once again apologise to Ms Ruse for the error and understand the inconvenience this will have caused her.”

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