Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The way thousands of drivers can avoid paying parking fines

By Ben Webster,
Transport Correspondent
The Times
January 18, 2006
THOUSANDS of drivers are paying unfair parking penalties because councils fail to make clear that they have a right to appeal to an independent body, a study suggests.
A record eight million parking penalties were issued in England and Wales in 2004, one for every three cars on the road. But only 60,000 drivers appealed to independent adjudicators against their fines. Nearly two thirds (62 per cent) of those who did were successful.
Two councils, Islington and Trafford, lost more than 90 per cent of motorists’ appeals made against their fines. In contrast, Harrogate lost only 21 per cent of appeals.
More than half of all drivers do not realise that they can ask for their case to be considered by an independent lawyer, according to a survey by Birmingham University, commissioned by the National Parking Ajudication Service (NPAS).
The overwhelming majority of drivers who did not appeal believed that they would not have got a fair hearing. But 91 per cent of those who went through the appeals process believed that it was “completely impartial”.
Councils fail to mention on parking tickets that there is a right of appeal to an independent body. Drivers are informed of this only if they write to the council to contest the ticket and have their case rejected.
Caroline Sheppard, the chief parking adjudicator, said that many drivers who believed a penalty had been imposed unfairly chose to pay it anyway.
Drivers are offered a 50 per cent discount if they pay within 14 days but have to pay the full rate if they pursue the case through to an appeal and lose.
Ms Sheppard told The Times: “People do not know at the beginning of the process that if they feel strongly that the ticket was unfair, they can have their case decided by an independent lawyer.
“It would help if councils made that clear at the outset.”
A lack of awareness of the appeals process meant that thousands of drivers were paying fines that would probably have been cancelled had they appealed.
“If you are a gambling person, your chances of winning an appeal are high. But if you lose, you will probably have to pay the full rate,” she said. The full rate in London is £100, reduced to £50 if paid within 14 days. Outside London, the full rate is £60, with £30 discount.
Ms Sheppard said that councils had ignored her request to publish annual reports on their parking performance. She said that this allowed failing councils to conceal poor records.Nick Lester, of the Association of London Government, said: “We are changing penalty charge notices to make them more explanatory.”
The NPAS report also warned that some councils may risk breaking article one of the Human Rights Act if they clamped and towed away vehicles in unreasonable situations.

Step 1 Object in writing to the council within 14 days
Step 2 Council sends “Notice to Owner” to you, giving you 28 more days to make formal representation
Step 3 If council refuses to waive charge it will issue a “Notice of Rejection of Representations”. You have 28 days to appeal to the independent adjudicator, based on written material or at a personal hearing


Anonymous said...

"Drivers are offered a 50 per cent discount if they pay within 14 days but have to pay the full rate if they pursue the case through to an appeal and lose"

So there is a financial penalty specifically to deter them from seeking the due process of law to which they are entitled.

Surely that goes against one of the clauses of Magna Carta:

"(40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice."

the term "justice" covering the outcome of civil, as well as criminal, legal proceedings.

While that may have been over-ridden by an Act of Parliament in this case, the principle it expressed should still be upheld.

David said...

We have had the same sort of rubbish with a local Rainbow Store carpark. You are photographed going in & coming out & if you stay over two hours a ticket arrives through the post!!!

The fine is about £90, but reduced by about half, if you pay promptly. People tend to pay even if they feel they have been incorrectly penalised, as they are scared of incuring the higher charge.

Yes, I know the payment time should be frozen, if you appeal, but people are too upset to notice this or are not informed of it.

A bloke selling poppies got fined just before rememberance day, although the store did refund his fine money.

Anonymous said...

The initial charge of the parking ticket is frozen at the reduced rate if you appeal within 14 days of issue. If the appeal is refused at this stage, you then get 14 days to pay at reduced charge but if you wait for the Notice to Owner it will double to the full cost of £60.00/£80.00/£100.00 whatever unless your appeal is successful.

Anonymous said...

I have just had my parking ticket appeal rejected by the ticket issuer.

Does anyone have any advice on which independent body to appeal to if the issuer is not a council i.e. an independent contractor (in this case Parkforce "The UK Parking Enforcement Agency") working on behalf of a private business (in this case the Conservative Club of Market Harborough.

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