Thursday, November 12, 2009

Camden is set to wage new war on motorists

Ham & High

By Susanna Wilkey

Motorists in Camden were hit with a double whammy this week when the council gained new impounding powers and launched a judicial review to fight parking ticket appeals that went against them.

On Mondey the council voted to give itself new powers to seize the cars of ticketed motorists without warning. Together with Westminster Council, it will trial the project which gives them the power to impound vehicles with three or more unpaid PCNs that are not the subject of an appeal, even if they are parked legally when tracked down.

The council will be able to pick up the cars in the two boroughs and three others in London - a move which campaigners say is "draconian".

Opponents also say the scheme will affect innocent drivers because of mistakes by wardens and difficulties establishing car ownership.

To get their cars back those affected will have to pay all the fines plus towing charges, or pay a bond to release the car if they dispute the council's actions.

Paul Pearson from who lives in West Hampstead and works in Marylebone, said: "This will end up persecuting the wrong people. People will have their cars towed when they sometimes don't even know they have tickets because they have been lost in the post or gone to the wrong address. This seems totally ridiculous"

Lobbyist Neil Herron, of, said: " The DVLA database is never more than 90per cent accurate. You could have people who have just bought a car and then have it towed away even though the parking tickets belong to someone else, like a previous owner. These local authorities couldn't run a whelk stall so to give them the power to tow away cars because they have three outstanding PCNs should not be happening."

The judicial review move follows two separate judgments from the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service (Patas) which ruled that a 1.3 per cent administration fee charged to those paying paring fines by credit card was illegal.

The council scrapped the policy in June but campaigners say it should pay back the £6.5 million of tickets paid out by motorists before the adjudications.
Now Camden has submitted a request for a judicial review, expected to be heard in April. A spokeswoman said: "Camden Council believes the recent decisions by Patas are legally flawed. We will be asking the High Court to review and overturn them."

Mr Herron welcomed the judicial review case as he expects the council to lose and be forced to repay the money.

He added: "I am confident the adjudicators reached the correct decision. If Camden was wholly confident, it should have continued charging. They should also ask themselves how much public money is being spent by going down this route."

But parking boss, Cllr Chris Knight, has defended both actions. He said the council believes fines paid with the credit card surcharge are still valid and the new impounding rules will help the borough catch 2,716 cars with three or more fines outstanding."

He said: "We are losing huge amounts of money through unpaid PCNs. It is a fair process and we are already undertaking pre-debt recovery programmes which identify the owners of the vehicles and the offenders if they are not the same people."

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