Social media row could cost Preston boss his business

A businessman says he faces ruin after a ‘social media witch-hunt’ over a row about parking – in which he wasn’t even involved.

The drama began when amputee Chris Johnston blocked in a mum and her disabled child in a parking space, thinking they had no blue badge.

Chris, who lost his foot in an accident in 2002, admitted that he parked behind the car in frustration after repeatedly seeing able-bodied drivers parking in disabled spaces.

Chris, who lost his foot in an accident in 2002, admitted that he parked behind the car in frustration after repeatedly seeing able-bodied drivers parking in disabled spaces.

Chris, who lost his foot in an accident in 2002, admitted that he parked behind the car in frustration after repeatedly seeing able-bodied drivers parking in disabled spaces.

The woman, was not displaying her blue badge at the time, after she flipped up her visor where the badge was kept when she became distracted by her children.

Preston mum Emma – who asked not to be fully named – posted her frustration at being blocked in on her own private Facebook page, but unknown to her, the post went viral.

Even Chris’ boss James Rothwell – whose company name was on the side of the van – has also been targeted with a boycott and says he now faces ruin.

The post went viral

The post went viral

Mum Emma, who has two disabled children, was parked in a disabled spot at the McDonald’s on Peddars Way, Preston, when she was blocked in by the Express Plumbing and Gas van.

In her frustration, she posted on social media describing what had happened, saying: “Just been blocked in by this man and his van, who admitted he did it on purpose.”

Her post was screen-grabbed from her own private wall and shared hundreds of times on social media which attracted outraged comments.

Chris Johnston who had his foot amputated following an accident with a bin lorry, said he was frustrated to find a seemingly non-disabled car user occupying the space.

The row started when Chris parked mum Emma's car

The row started when Chris parked mum Emma's car

The 42-year-old admits he parked behind the people carrier, blocking it in, but claims he saw no obvious signs that its owner was in need of the space.

He said: “I’d had a long day and I was desperate for the toilet. My stump was throbbing and I really needed to use the facilities.

“When I pulled up at the car park my colleagues checked the cars in the disabled bays for blue badges.

“There was no sign of any blue badge, the windows were privacy windows so I couldn’t see any equipment and I didn’t see the occupants go into the restaurant.

“This has all been very upsetting – it has been blown out of all proportion.

“I come across non-disabled car users parking in disabled spots for their own convenience all the time – it’s really annoying.

“I’m so upset that someone can have a go like this when all I’m trying to do is protect the rights of all disabled people.”

Mum Emma, who does not want to be identified over fears she may face retaliation, said: “I get the worker’s frustration, I truly do – being a disabled badge holder and needing a space can be frustrating. We all have our bad days.

“I do believe he genuinely didn’t see Alfie’s blue badge and think he thought someone had just parked there so he felt he was doing what was right for him as an amputee.

“What’s done is done, we all make mistakes and it was resolved at the time - he didn’t realise Alfie was a blue badge holder. The employee seems genuinely sorry at the mistake he made and we all make mistakes, the company he works for shouldn’t suffer for a genuine mistake.”

James Rothwell, 45, who owns Express Plumbing and Gas, has had clients cancel contracts and says he is receiving threatening and abusive messages following the incident.

He said: “I’m getting phone calls at five in the morning, I’ve had to close my website down because of the abuse.

“Customers are calling me up saying they will never use my business again after what’s happened.

“I have had no jobs come in since last week. I’ve spent five years building my business up and it was going from strength to strength.

“I have worked so hard and I’m now at risk of losing it all.”

A spokesman for a leading disability charity has highlighted the importance of disabled parking spaces for blue bad holders.

James Taylor, head of policy and public affairs at disability charity Scope, said: “Accessible parking spaces are essential for disabled people.

“Disabled people must be able to use accessible parking spaces so they can get out and about, be part of the local community and contribute to their local economy.”

Police confirmed they are investigating reports about the row and subsequent social media posts.