The Secretary of State allowed them permission to do so after their application to the Department for Transport was granted in the form of The Road Traffic (Permitted Parking Area and Special Parking Area) (Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead) Order 2007
The Order designates the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead, other than the excepted roads, as both a permitted parking area and a special parking area in accordance with Schedule 3 to the Road Traffic Act 1991.
The Road Traffic Act 1991 (Amendment of Schedule 3) (England and Wales) Order 1996 came into force on 1st July 1996.
All a bit complicated?
Actually it is quite simple ... it means it is no longer an 'offence' to contravene a parking restriction. It is now a civil matter and therefore a contravention and not an offence is alleged to have occurred.
The explanatory note to the legislation states:
"This Order amends, in relation to England and Wales, Schedule 3 to the Road Traffic Act 1991 (permitted and special parking areas outside London) with respect to parking contraventions which give rise to a civil liability by the imposition of a penalty charge instead of being dealt with as criminal offences. In permitted parking areas it will no longer be an offence to contravene an order under section 35(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 relating to an off-street parking place or a provision of an order relating to an on-street parking place included by virtue of section 53 of that Act. In special parking areas certain contraventions of temporary traffic orders and loading area orders under the Act of 1984 cease to be criminal offences."
However, Gateshead's tickets are issued in an envelope which states... "details the offence are included in the envelope."
This therefore misrepresents the legal position and implies that the matter is criminal.
At the Traffic Law Seminar in Leeds in July 2003 councils were told by the National Parking Adjudication Service to 'mind their language.' Parking matters are no longer 'offences' ... they are contraventions. Furthermore, you cannot use the word 'fine' it must be civil penalty.
Indeed, in the High Court decision Barnet v The Parking Adjudicator Justice Jackson pointed out that 'decriminalised contraventions are not 'offences' and have not been so since 1991.'
The error is further compounded in the Newcastle Journal by Maureen Kesteven, the council’s strategic director of legal and corporate services, who states:
“We have made a careful study of the case law referred to by Mr Herron and we are entirely satisfied that the Fixed Penalty Notices we issue are fully compliant with the legislation."
Perhaps Maureen Kesteven needs to pull out a couple of law books ... Fixed Penalty Notices are issued by the Police or Traffic Wardens and relate to criminal offences. Gateshead Council issues PENALTY CHARGE NOTICES ... CIVIL !!!
However, she need not just take my word for it. Harrow Council (also operate DPE) state on their website:
"Parking tickets issued by the council are called Penalty Charge Notices or PCNs. They require payment of a penalty, and do not result in a criminal record or points on a driving licence. They are separate from Fixed Penalty Notices, issued for criminal offences by the police and traffic wardens. "
So now we have established that Gateshead Council have potentially prejudiced EVERY motorist issued with a Penalty Charge Notice by claiming an offence has been committed then they must refund the money in EVERY instance.
It's not difficult to get it right ... and when you are taking money off people because you allege that they have erred then it is essential that everything is right, not nearly right or about right.