Sunday, July 19, 2009

A new peasant's revolt ... or justice on the horizon for the motorist?

How to get revenge for your parking ticket
You can turn the tables on councils that play fast and loose with the law, says Philip Johnston
Published 19 Jul 2009
Daily Telegraph

Yes, I know: it's only a parking ticket. Perhaps I should not be in such a lather about it, but I am and I am not alone. Not by a long way. It is not that we cannot afford £60 (or £30 if we go quietly, which we won't). It is the sheer injustice of it.
This ticket was placed on our car not in the town centre or on a busy urban highway but in the street outside our house where we already pay £90 a year to park in a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ), which a majority in our road voted against having in a referendum. We live in a quiet avenue in London with no problems of congestion or of obstruction.

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But the borough painted a confusing array of white and yellow lines everywhere, removing around a dozen spaces where cars used to be able to park. Near our home, the bay is so badly drawn that, in order not to obstruct a neighbour's access, we parked a few feet over the line, as everyone does and we have done many times.

A ticket was issued. We appealed to the local borough and they said: "We must advise that when using parking bays you must make sure your car is fully within the parking bay or space before you leave it. If it is beyond the end of a bay, straddling two bays or obstructing the clearway you may get a ticket even if you have paid to park, or have a valid permit allowing you to park."

When we pointed out that the lines were not easy to discern, and that if we parked within the lines the car would block a neighbour's access, we were told that "the law does not require that the yellow line must be in good condition. Enforcement can take place as long as the signage reasonably indicates a restriction".

It was this mention of the law that made me sit up. If they are going to quote the law at us, we will try to find out if they are observing it as well. If they are going to quibble about our car being a foot over an arbitrarily drawn line, let's see whether, in the myriad parking regulations, there is a legislative equivalent that we can irritate the life out of them with. If people are to be fined simply because their ticket has fallen off the windscreen, maybe the tables can be turned; and I know a man who can do turn them.

Neil Herron is a sort of latter day Wat Tyler leading a Peasant's Revolt against the parking tyranny that has gripped the land. A former fishmonger from Sunderland, he was a key figure in the celebrated Metric Martyr campaign a few years ago when his late friend Steve Thoburn, a fellow market stallholder, was fined for selling bananas by the pound. He has a sharp sense of injustice and now runs, which specialises in fighting such cases – and winning them, too.

In fact, he is causing consternation in town halls across the land. In our case, Mr Herron advised that the CPZ may itself be illegal since it does not appear to have been correctly signposted. This could be true of residential parking zones around the country and he has a judicial review under way in which the Government is taking a direct interest because the implications are considerable: if CPZs are invalidated then millions of pounds in penalties may have to be returned.

Were this to happen, councils would have only themselves to blame. They simply became too greedy. CPZs were supposed to cover small areas of around 12 or so streets where there are legitimate parking worries, but they have spread across whole towns because they raise money. Parking has become a stealth tax. A fine is a punishment yet it is levied not through the criminal justice system but by way of a civil regime administered by local councils, many of whom seem not to think it matters whether they obey the regulations or not.

Last year in England, nearly four million tickets were issued, 250,000 more than in 2007 and a fivefold increase since 2001, the year when the decriminalised system (which has operated in London since the mid-1990s) began to spread across the country.

Thanks to Mr Herron, we have now discovered that the ticket we received is almost certainly invalid. Our borough, in common with several others, was making an additional charge for processing credit card payments. This has recently been ruled unlawful by the parking adjudicator because it adds an extra sum to what is a statutory penalty. The charge has been withdrawn; but our ticket was issued when it was still in place, which at least gives us something to argue with.

In the three months that our council operated this illegal scheme it issued tickets to the value of £500,000. These may have to be refunded. Other boroughs face paying back millions.
It serves them right – but in the end, of course, it will be the council taxpayer that suffers, so we will pay anyway. It should come out of the pockets of the people who played so fast and loose with the laws they expect the rest of us to follow.


Will said...

I was wondering if you are willing to arrange an exchange of mutual links.

My blog, Bent Council, describes dishonesty by identified employees of Brent Council's Housing Service.

Anonymous said...

you say a "Statutory" Penalty?

A Statute can only become Law with Consent, from YOU!

this makes it yet another ILLEGAL Fine!

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