Friday, May 19, 2006

Carlisle ignoring the law and continue to issue illegal tickets

Carlisle News and Star
19th May 2006

CARLISLE could be set for a parking free for all after campaigners today claimed that parking tickets issued by the City Council are illegal and unenforceable.The council disputes the claim but, if it is correct, motorists will be able to ignore fixed-penalty notices until the wording is changed to conform with the 1991 Road Traffic Act.

That means drivers could ignore yellow lines, park indefinitely in council car parks and ignore restrictions in residents' parking areas.

Neil Herron, the North-East campaigner against enforced metrication and elected regional assemblies, has studied the decriminalised parking enforcement schemes operated by many local authorities.He says the tickets issued by Carlisle City Council fail to comply with the 1991 Road Traffic Act because they don't have a date of issue on, only the date of the offence.

Mr Herron said: "People need not pay the penalty charge notice if the ticket doesn't have a date of issue."It's a technicality but we're dealing with the law."Carlisle City Council have sent us a letter saying that they will alter their tickets to conform with the 1991 Act."But, and the council are fully aware of this, if they continue to issue tickets [without a date of issue] they are breaking the law."They should suspend all enforcement operations until the new tickets are done or they will commit a criminal offence."The trouble with local authorities is that they think they are above the law."

A council spokeswoman said it was reviewing the wording on its tickets to avoid any potential legal challenge.But she disputed Mr Herron's claim that, in the meantime, the old tickets were illegal and could not be enforced.

She said: "The penalty charge notices follow government guidance and are designed to comply with relevant legislation."Their validity has never been challenged [before]."We are reviewing the contents of their documentation but at this stage have no reason to doubt the validity of the notices being issued."

The council has been responsible for parking enforcement since 2001 on behalf of Cumbria County Council.It issues around 20,000 tickets a year, raising around £400,000 revenue in fines.Allerdale, Eden and Copeland councils operate similar schemes and Mr Herron says he is checking if their tickets comply with the law.

He is critical of the whole decriminalised parking enforcement system, which he says is a licence for councils to "fill their boots".

He says it is wrong that motorists who want to contest fines have no recourse to a court of law.The only appeal is to an independent adjudicator, who is funded by revenue from parking fines and therefore, Mr Herron argues, cannot be truly impartial.Once the adjudicator has found against the motorist, the council can send in bailiffs to collect the fine without applying to a court.

Julian Whittle
Political EditorNews & Star/
The Cumberland News
45 Lowther Street
CarlisleCA3 8EQ
Tel: 01228 547277
Fax: 01228 595692

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