To Archive List PageLocal councils have been getting themselves into a mess by ignoring the letter of regulations on imposing fines for parking incorrectly
Unfortunately for the councils concerned, some of the persecuted motorists have chosen to fight back.

Facts:
One-third of all local councils operate decriminalized parking schemes.
The total sum raised from parking fines in 2004 was over 1 billion.

Sunderland

Sunderland Council set up a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) around the city centre but it failed to enact a Controlled Parking Zone Order to give the zone legal status.
   Neil Herron (a campaign advisor for Metric Martyr greengrocer, Steve Thoburn, who was prosecuted for using imperial weights and measures) is backing up his belief that parking tickets issued in the zone are invalid by refused to pay off 27 tickets issued by NCP on the council's behalf.
   The Department for Transport has confirmed to him that, under the Road Traffic Regulation Act (1984), a Controlled Parking Zone requires a corresponding Controlled Parking Zone Order. Mr. Herron's case is based on a ruling from the Metric Martyrs case, which said that some acts of Parliament, including the 1689 Bill of Rights, have primacy over other legislation, unless the measures of the previous acts are specifically repealed.
   According to the Bill of Rights, British citizens cannot be fined if they have not been convicted in a court of law. Parking fines of the type issued in Sunderland Council's CPZ involve no option to go to court which, Mr. Herron believes, makes them unlawful.
   As the council's accounts cannot be formally approved if they contain unlawful items of income, the logical consequence, if Mr. Herron is right, is that the District Auditor will be forced to investigate Sunderland Council and traders whose businesses have been affected adversely by the parking regulations could withhold their business rates or begin a class action against the council!
   Something else which bugs Mr. Herron is that most of the income from illegal municipal parking schemes goes as profit to private companies rather than to the local council, and the money that the council does receive is not reinvested to provide more extensive, or better, parking facilities.

purple ballSunderland Council is conducting a review of all aspects of its parking system. The council's line is that it has started the process by repaying 'the majority' of people who received a ticket from an unauthorized attendant for parking in a taxi rank. The council also plans to pay refunds to 182 disabled badge holders, who parked in loading bays.
   According to Mr Herron, only 88 of the 700 drivers fined have had their money back. He added: "From February 2003, the council issued between 150 and 200 tickets a month for this offence. Have they now examined all the attendant's photographic evidence to find which ones had blue badges? I think it is more likely they are just responding to those motorists who ring in to complain. Millions of pounds have been overcharged in a system where the incentive is profit. This is a desperate attempt to remedy their mistakes, but it is far too little."
   Mr. Herron believes that Sunderland Council will eventually have to pay back £2 million to motorists who received illegal parking fines.

purple ballSunderland Council is also investigating why recommendations made in 2001 by consultants Faber Maunsell were not implemented. The consultancy firm was hired when the council took over parking enforcement from police.

Rochdale

Nick Freeman, a solicitor who specializes in finding legal loopholes to benefit the rich & famous, has found that Rochdale Council has been issuing invalid parking tickets since July 2004. By law, the tickets should have been issued to the owner of the illegally parked vehicle but the council's minions have been issuing then to the driver of the vehicle. Anyone who has received one of these illegal parking tickets, Mr. Freeman says, is entitled to their money back.
   Motorists issued with a parking ticket are liable to a fine of £30, which rises to £60 if the fine is not paid within 14 days, then rises to £90. Parking campaigner Neil Herron has found similar mistakes in parking tickets issued in Sunderland and Blackburn. After checking the rules introduced in July 2004, which 'decriminalized' parking offences, he found that the owner of a car, not the driver, is liable to pay the fine.
   The cheapskates on Rochdale Council got themselves into this mess by continuing to use old tickets until September 2005. Rochdale Council's parking tsar, Kevin Mayor, said: "Penalty charge notices issued before this time have been accepted by the National Parking Adjudication Service."
   Rochdale makes around half a million pounds out of parking tickets in an average year.

Blackburn with Darwen Council

Blackburn with Darwen Council realised it was breaching a ruling made by the National Parking Adjudication Service (NPAS) in April 2003 only after being informed of the offence by the Lancashire Evening Telegraph.
   The council introduced decriminalised parking enforcement in October 2004. The job of collecting the money was handed to Capita, a private firm which runs dozens of the council's administrative services. But the council continued to use a Traffic Regulation Order made under the Local Government Act 1976 instead of re-issuing it under the Road Traffic Act 1991.

purple ballParking activist Neil Herron said: "This throws into question the whole legality of Blackburn with Darwen's council's parking regime. They have taken 3,180 that they shouldn't have and this is not the way for a council to be running the borough. They are displaying an utter arrogance and must realise that they have a duty to give that money back. That money is an item of unlawful income and if it has entered their accounts, they could be guilty of false accounting. How many more motorists would have received illegally issued tickets had the Lancashire Evening Telegraph not highlighted this issue? What has been unleashed across the country with private companies running parking regimes for profit is just resentment from city traders, businesses and members of the public."

Sandwell MBC

Robin de Crittenden, who had been refusing to pay a parking fine until Sandwell MBC took him to court and secured a proper conviction, has proved his point. The council decided in September 2005 not to pursue the matter, which just proves that standing up for one's legal rights can pay off occasionally.

purple ballRead Garbagegate's original report from February 2005 here.

National Parking Adjudication Service (NPAS)

The National Parking Adjudication Service considers appeals by motorists whose vehicles have been issued with a local council Penalty Charge Notice. The Department of Constitutional Affairs and the Law Society are both investigating complaints made against the NPAS, which touts itself as a court of law but, when challenged, admits that it is actually a tribunal, not a court of law.
   The NPAS claims to be 'an independent tribunal' and it feels that it has no obligation to give legal advice. In fact, it is overseen by a Joint Committee made up of appointees from participating local authorities and it is funded solely by contributions of 60p per Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) issued. There is no right of appeal of its decisions except on a point of law.

purple ballInterestingly, if the NPAS is not a court of law within the meaning of Article 234 EC (of the European Union), its decision to give Sunderland's parking regulations a clean bill of health (among others) contravenes Article 6 of The European Convention on Human Rights. And anyone whose individual rights have been denied to make parking more 'efficient' is entitled to challenge any illegally imposed parking fines, clog the legal system and help it to collapse under the weight of its own bureaucracy.

The Commons Transport Committee is labouring under the misapprehension that calling parking fines 'charges' makes them legal. Wrong!

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