Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sunderland Echo Letters: Parking Tickets 'not legal.' NCP and Council knew

Sunderland Echo Letters
9th February 2006

Council knew every ticket was illegal

Perhaps the most damning revelation with regard to Sunderland City Council's disastrous Decriminalised Parking Enforcement (DPE) regime has not received the banner headlines it deserves. The reason may be that it not only exposes the Council to further threats of legal action and massive repayments, but also exposes the failure to act by the enforcement contractor, NCP.
Buried away in the Internal investigation report and a few paragraphs in the press reports it is perhaps singularly the most critical and explosive point of all.

The Penalty Charge Notices previously did not have a 'Date of Issue' and this can be construed as being prejudicial to the recipient.

Chief Executive, Ged Fitzgerald, would like everyone to believe that the errors identified amounts to just 0.6% of tickets issued. This is clearly not the case. The wrong wording on the tickets, identified below, dates back to February 3rd 2003 when DPE began and includes every ticket issued for over two and a half years!
The Penalty Charge Notices (parking tickets) issued by Sunderland City Council have only just recently been changed.
However, the sequence of events is somewhat staggering.

4th May 2005 - The National Parking Adjudication Service (NPAS) published a Circular relating to an Adjudicator's Decision in the case MacArthur vs Bury (BC 188). The crux of this case was that the PCN did not conform to Section 66(3) of the 1991 Road Traffic Act in ways that were 'significant, material and potentially prejudicial.' Therefore NPAS advised, "Councils must not play fast and loose with statutory requirements designed to inform the subject of his legal rights and obligations."

It is clear that Sunderland Council had failed to comply. Corrective action was thus required.

16th May 2005 - Memo from Head of Transport and Engineering to Sunderland City Solicitor requesting comments on the matter (MacArthur vs Bury).

14 June 2005 - response from the Assistant City Solicitor to the Head of Transport and Engineering recommending that the PCNs be changed to include the 'Date of Issue' without delay.

16th June 2005 - Parking Services Team Leader e-mailed NCP requesting that the 'Date of Issue' be added to the electronic version of the PCN.

The tickets were not altered for at least five months meaning that both the Council and NCP KNEW that they were issuing tickets which were 'illegal / unlawful / open to challenge' in EVERY instance.
Previous to that they were ignorant of the fact that the PCNs were unlawful, but as we are repeatedly reminded, ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse.’

The question that remains unanswered is this,
“ Is the Council going to refund every ticket that:
- was unlawful? (ie. from February 3rd 2003)
- or, that they knew was unlawful? (ie. from 16th May 2005)
- or, only issue refunds to those that appeal on an individual basis? (ie. only to those that read this or are aware of the investigation’s findings).

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but to know the law and then fail to act AND continue targeting motorists, take the money off them and fail to immediately apologise and offer refunds when caught out and exposed is absolutely unforgivable.

I am sure that many out there who have received tickets and been unaware of this fact will be rather angry indeed.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron
12 Frederick Street
Sunderland SR1 1NA

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