12/26/2006All UK Parking Tickets Could be Unlawful
A High Court decision in a parking ticket case could invalidate citations across England and Scotland.
A decision last week by the Scottish Parking Appeals Service stated that a High Court ruling in England that could undermine hundreds of thousands of parking tickets also applies to Scotland. In August, the High Court upheld an adjudicators decision that overturned a fine levied against Hugh Moses because the citation he received did not indicate the date of issue, as required by law. Most local jurisdictions, over several years, have similarly omitted this date.
"It is up to local councils to ensure their PCNs are drafted in compliance with statute," C. Axelson, Head of the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service wrote in a March decision. "These appeals show only too clearly that the findings and concerns of the adjudicators over several years have been disregarded -- a most unattractive basis for asserting good administration."
Attorney Barrie Segal argued the case on behalf of Moses and says the case could require millions in refunds for illegally issued tickets.
"This is a stunning victory for motorists who have had to put for years with arrogant councils whose parking tickets were invalid," Segal wrote in August. "This legal precedent also in my view opens up a huge problems for Councils all over the UK."
The Scottish decision could subject a substantial portion of country's annual £14 million (US $27 million) in parking ticket revenue to challenge. According to the London Times, the UK has collected £1.35 billion (US $2.6 billion) in parking tickets since 1994.
The full text of the adjudicator's March decision is available in a 361k PDF file at the source link below.
Full text of the High Court ruling:Source: Moses v. Barnet (UK National Parking Adjudication Service, 3/6/2006)
BARNET JR JUDGEMENT 02 AUGUST 2006
1. INTRODUCTION Mr Justice Jackson set out the requirements of a Penalty Charge Notice, as defined in S66(3) of the Road Traffic Act 1991, and in the extension of decriminalised enforcement by the LLA Act 2000 to include service of PCNs by post.
2. THE FACTS Mr Justice Jackson went through the wordings of the PCNs at issue in detail. He pointed out that all the parties had agreed that, in the case of the second PCN, the motorist (Mr Moses) had driven away before the PCN could be issued. In both cases, the motorist made representations to Barnet, which were rejected. He then appealed to the Parking Adjudicator. The Adjudicator allowed the appeals against both PCNs, on the facts of each case and because he found that the wording of the PCNs (failure to specify a date of notice) made them invalid. Barnet accepted the direction on both decisions, but applied for review on the grounds that the Adjudicator had erred in his interpretation of the law and that the PCNs were valid. Barnet did not request an oral hearing of the review application, and did not submit further evidence. The application was dismissed by another Adjudicator, who drew on an earlier decision (Al's Bar v. Wandsworth) in stating that the wording of a PCN needed to show substantial compliance with the statutory requirements. He emphasised the need for certainty.
3. PRESENT PROCEEDINGS Barnet claim that their PCNS were "substantially compliant". They said that the way time limits were described on the Notice effectively added an extra day to the statutory requirement, but that this did not matter as it did not cause prejudice to the motorist. Mr Justice Jackson noted the "helpful background" set out in the Chief Adjudicator's ackn
4. DATE OF NOTICE owledgement of service and noted that Barnet's new PCN does comply with the statutory requirements.
The judge referred back to the RTA '91 requirements of s.66(3) and confirmed that the date of notice must be on the charge, otherwise the statutory purpose of sections 66((3) c-e is thwarted. He went on to explain that the date of contravention and the date of notice are usually the same, but not always because of the question of postal issue and if a contravention was observed just before midnight, but the PCN issue just after. He also indicated that the date of notice had to appear on the main body of the ticket rather than just in the tear-off payment slip. To illustrate this, he mentioned in detail the example contained in the Al's Bar decision of a motorist returning the slip with payment, and then wishing to dispute the Council's refusal to accept a discounted payment. Mr Justice Jackson mentioned that the requirement of the two dates, (contravention and notice), had been mentioned by Adjudicators on more than one occasion. He emphasised that the statutory requirement of the form of the PCN were simple and clear – compliance was not difficult and a specimen form had been available for more than 10 years. Enforcing authorities therefore had no excuses for non-compliance. The Barnet PCN showed the date of the contravention, but not of the notice, therefore was not substantially compliant. Mr Justice Jackson concluded this section of his judgement by stating that the question of relevance did not arise because the statutory conditions of the notice were not met, therefore financial liability did not arise.
5. EFFECT OF EXTRA DAY The judge stated that, in the light of his decision, there was no need to pass judgement on the "effect of the extra day" in the wording of Barnet's PCN. He stated that it would be necessary to consider further evidence to discover whether, in the case of Barnet enforcement procedures, a prejudice did occur, but that this was not necessary as he had already found that the PCNs were non-compliant.
6. CONCLUSION Barnet's application for Judicial review was dismissed. Leave to appeal against the judgement was refused.
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