Wednesday, June 04, 2008

BBC ... Council Motoring Fines 'Illegal.'

As another huge brick is removed from the dam it is now only a matter of time before it eventually breaks and councils are forced to admit that they will not only have to repay everyone fined unlawfully (non-compliant notices, unlawful signs and lines) they will also be liable for interest and damages in many instances.

Just imagine all those who have suffered at the hands of bailiffs and had goods seized all arising from an unlawfully marked restriction enforced with non-compliant paperwork.

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The first report is the national story, the second is our ongoing saga in Leeds.

Ask yourself the question why the Department for Transport has made such a powerful statement. Are they aware of the firestorm?
Just remember that no-one at the DfT is able to go out and check the council's claims when they apply for Decriminalised (of now Civil) Parking Enforcement powers. Councils simply had to 'reassure' the DfT that all had been done ... but the councils realising that the DfT had no power to check or censure decided that it wasn't worth spending vast sums of money putting things right ... so the majority didn't.

This is a national scandal ... the enormity of which is just starting to become apparent to the national press and media ... and we anticipate the downfall of Civil Parking Enforcement, dismissals, resignations and criminal actions as the dam breaks ... followed by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of civil actions against councils.

Council motoring fines 'illegal'

The parking adjudicator urged drivers to appeal
Some councils have earned hundreds of thousands of pounds by enforcing unlawful traffic and parking restrictions, the BBC has learned.
Fines are said to have been levied despite incorrect road markings and on parking bays which are too small.

The Department for Transport said it expected councils to "seriously consider" repayment of illegal fines.

A councils spokesman said refunds may not be the best use of public money "where no-one was genuinely misled".
'No right'

A councillor has highlighted one north London authority's past activities, which he described as "highway robbery".
Alan Stanton, Labour councillor in Haringey, said the borough ticketed two yellow box junctions in Tottenham, north London, which were found to be unlawful.

Some of the unlawful restrictions that caused fines
"We have taken £120,000 from people we had no right to take," he said.

Haringey council said that when it discovered the boxes were illegal it stopped enforcing them and gave refunds to motorists who appealed.

The BBC has also discovered the entrance to a bus and tram lane which was incorrectly marked has earned Sheffield City Council £350,000, according to Freedom of Information figures.

Meanwhile, London Borough of Camden collected over £245,000 from drivers for who drove down a pedestrianised street which a ruling found was signposted unclearly.

According to barrister Oliver Mishcon, who specialises in motoring cases, local authorities have been acting unlawfully.

They should pay us back for their mistakes
He told the BBC: "It's definitely a massive problem, definitely on a national scale, and we're talking about councils making tens of millions of pounds.
"From a legal point of view, the term is unjust enrichment. And if the council unjustly enriches itself, it's got to pay the money back."

Nick Lester from London Councils, which represents authorities in the capital, argued that handing the cash back was not necessarily in the public interest.

He said: "Where there's only a technical error, a small issue, where no-one was genuinely misled, the council can take the view, is it really a good use of public money to repay the penalty?
"Is that really what they should be doing?"

Appeals against penalty charge notices are heard by the Traffic Penalty Tribunal.

Caroline Sheppard, Chief Parking Adjudicator for the tribunal in England and Wales, said motorists should appeal if they believe they have been wrongly fined.
But she said that many motorists would not want to take the risk of taking their case to tribunal because it would mean losing their 50% discount - and that the onus was on local authorities to put things right.
"Adjudicators would expect them to stop enforcing in that area until such a time as they put it right - councils ought to be able to correct these things very swiftly," she added.

Figures show that last year 60% of all appeals outside London were successful: 32% were not contested by councils and 28% were won by motorists. In London in the year to March 2007, 68% of appeals were successful.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The whole system is indeed a national scandal.

Not least because, when councils are finally forced to return their illegally levied fines, in many cases they will not only be returning money which they never had the right to take, but they will also already have paid a private contractor their commission on the ticket and won't be able to get that back. So they will be paying TWICE for their mistakes.

Waltham Forest Council in London has been forced to admit that the council itself is shouldering the FULL cost of refunding ALL the penalties for an illegal yellow box. Their contractor, NCP Services, will not have to pay ANYTHING towards this process and will also get to KEEP the fee they were paid for each of these illegal PCNs.

The council, however, refuses to reveal how much that fee is, saying that, if that information were made public, NCP Services's competitive advantage might be weakened!!!

So much for accountability.

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