Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Refunds to come in Sheffield? Just you wait ... watch this space



After the 2008 local council election victory in Sheffield, with the Lib Dems taking control from Labour, party leader Nick Clegg stated:
“ The Lib Dems would run Sheffield in a more open and honest way.”
(Sheffield Star 3rd May 2008)

The timing of Alan Bangert’s Tram Gate Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) victory (Bangert, Marcelli and others v Sheffield City Council before NPAS) could not have been better placed for the Lib Dems to set an example nationally by refunding motorists who have been fined unlawfully.

Local man Alan Bangert successfully challenged his own Hillsborough Tram Gate CCTV PCNs when a National Parking Adjudication Service (NPAS) adjudicator ruled that the restriction was unlawfully signed. A request of a review of that decision (consolidated with others) by Sheffield City Council was rejected by the Chief Adjudicator who agreed with the previous decision and ruled against the council.

This leaves the new ruling group with an easily solved dilemma. The Hillsborough Tram Gate, at Middlewood Road and Langsett Road, was introduced by the previous administration and had been marked unlawfully (ie. it did not comply with the road signing law, the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002).
As a result, and it is clear from the numbers involved that the restriction was inadequately and misleadingly signed, 13,353 motorists were fined in just under twelve months (July 07 – May 08) netting the council over £350,000 in unlawfully derived income. Because of the delay in serving the CCTV fines by post some received a warning notice at the same time as PCNs demanding £60 which the previous Labour administration refused to cancel, and some didn’t receive a warning. The reasons freely given for the inconsistency were that the operation was understaffed and notices couldn't be sent out to all transgressors.

The issue of councils using unlawful road markings and signs has been featured nationally in recent weeks with the Department for Transport stating that councils should ‘seriously consider refunding motorists fined unlawfully.’(BBC 29th May 2008)

So, what are the options for Sheffield’s new Lib Dem ruling group?

Neil Herron of ParkingAppeals.co.uk campaigns on behalf of motorists unlawfully fined and is leading Alan Bangert’s call for motorists to be refunded.
He states:
“ This really is an easily solved dilemma for the council. The simplest and cheapest option would be to apologise on behalf of the council and voluntarily refund everyone who have paid PCNs in the unlawfully signed restriction … without delay.
This would set an example nationally by ‘doing the decent thing’ and showing the way forward to the Labour and Conservative councils who have consistently used CCTV enforcement of bus lanes and parking to raise revenue rather than as effective traffic management.
Quite obviously if over 13,000 people were being fined at this location ( on average 84 a day) then there was something clearly wrong with signing and not driver behaviour.”
He went on:
"The other option would be to refuse to refund and attempt to retain the unlawfully derived income in the face of a potential high profile legal challenge in the form of a class action and a challenge to the council’s accounts causing a very uncomfortable investigation by the District Auditor who would have to confirm that the council has been ‘unjustly enriched’ by taking money off motorists to which it is not entitled.”
Alan Bangert, a married father of three, disabled after an accident in a steelworks seven years ago had appealed on a point of principle after getting three PCNs without warning. He had paid the first and then got two more and admitted that paying them would have been a struggle but it was the injustice that spurred him on. He now not only wants his £30 refunded he wants to lead the fight for justice for everyone.
He states:
"I hope that common sense prevails and the council reconsider their position and do the decent thing and show themselves to be better than the outgoing, uncaring, un-listening and arrogant Labour party. I am quite prepared to lead the fight to the High Court if necessary but I hope that the Liberal Democrats will set an example nationally by holding their hands up to this mistake made by the previous administration. It will go a long way and command a great deal of respect from the voters in Sheffield.”
ParkingAppeals.co.uk have leading barrister and motorist’s champion, Oliver Mishcon, lined up to handle any legal action, including a class action on behalf of the 13,000 fined motorists.
He said:
“ Councils are not allowed to keep the money derived from fining motorists unlawfully. They have benefited from what is called ‘unjust enrichment’ and as such they have a duty to actively seek out those fined and refund them.
This case is the tip of a massive iceberg which is likely to affect many councils nationally and we are looking forward to getting the matter before the courts where we are confident of a precedent setting victory for Britain’s motorists.”
However, it is hoped that legal action may not be necessary as it has been confirmed that the fine money has been set aside by the council in case it needs to be repaid in what is in effect confirmation of the position that voluntary restitution is hopefully a foregone conclusion.
In a further admission John Mothersole, the council’s interim Chief Executive revealed that “we are reluctantly going to change the signs to comply with the adjudicator’s review.”
The adjudicator’s view is that the restriction was not correctly marked in accordance with the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 and are therefore not lawful.

Have you been fined and want your money back?
Anyone who has paid a fine at the Hillsborough Tram Gate and would like more information simply e-mail enquiries@parkingappeals.co.uk and title the e-mail ‘Sheffield’ and include your name and address and ParkingAppeals.co.uk will ensure that justice is done on your behalf.



Neil Herron
Parking Appeals.co.uk

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"The Hillsborough Tram Gate, at Middlewood Road and Langsett Road, was introduced by the previous administration and had been marked unlawfully (ie. it did not comply with the road signing law, the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002)." - Really? You're not very good at checking facts are you? Or perhaps you just prefer to write in a misleading style?

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