Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Technicalities or Trivialities?

The law is based on technicalities ... that is why the DfT spent so much effort drafting the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions in 2002 and the various Chapters of the Traffic Signs Manual.

Did the draftsmen of the Operational Guidance to Local Authorities on Parking Policy and Enforcement state that CPZs should be 12 streets or less just for the fun of it? Here is Annex E of that Guidance and it sets out the DfT's position explicitly.

So why is it that councils would wish to ensure that motorists didn't have adequate information as to the times of operation of single yellow lines in a CPZ (bearing in mind that the majority of single yellow lines in the country are 'out of force' for the majority of time in a 24 hour period)?

Could it be that there is more chance of a motorist being confused in a large CPZ and therefore issued with a PCN?

Could it be that greater confusion leads to more PCNs and a greater income?

It would be a brave Judge to publicly slap every council for 'giving it large' when it comes to CPZs. So, ask yourself what the DfT are prepared to do to ensure councils comply with their Guidance?

Their response was to throw all their resources at defeating the challenge by bringing in the Treasury Solicitors to argue that 'common sense' should be applied.

Is the British motorist afforded the same luxury of 'common sense' when a minute late back to a meter or an inch over a yellow line? Of course not and until the law is applied equally the fight for a fair deal for the motorist will go on.

Neil Herron loses Sunderland parking battle at High Court
BBC Wear
25th May 2010

CPZ signs - at each end of a zone - are said to reduce street clutter
If you want to understand the significance of Neil Herron's defeat in the High Court you need to understand Controlled Parking Zones.

Don't all run away at once - you might be grateful next time you park in one.

Here is BBC Wear's handy guide to what they are, how they work and whether it's worth arguing about getting a ticket.

It all revolves around technicalities - technicalities that the judge called "trivialities".

Neil Herron, a former market trader from Sunderland, first came to public attention late in 2000 over the issue of metric measurement.
He helped his friend, Steven Thoburn, challenge a prosecution for selling fruit and vegetables in pounds and ounces, the offence being that he didn't have the metric scales required.

Technicalities or trivialities?
Since 2000 Mr Herron has transformed into something of a parking campaigner.
His current challenge - to Controlled Parking Zones, or CPZs - went all the way to the High Court.

Again, the issue revolved around a technicality.
An important technicality, said Mr Herron, since the result of infringement is "penal" and, he claimed, councils rely on the confusion to make money out of parking fines.
His over-strict interpretation of the rules, said Sunderland City Council and the Department of Transport, flew in the face of common sense.

On May 25 2010 Neil Herron lost his case and was told by the judge that it was "entirely based on technicality and utterly devoid of merit".

What Mr Herron claimed:
- The zone in Sunderland city centre is so large that it confuses drivers with its signs and is unlawful
- The council relies on this confusion to make money out of parking fines
- Penalty charge notices issued against him for parking on single yellow lines in the zone are unenforceable because, technically, there should be no road markings at all within a CPZ
- In law, CPZs don't even exist but are "creatures of statute" and, in order to be enforceable, should comply with rigidly laid down road marking regulations
- In order to meet the definition of a CPZ, there must be no road marking whatsoever within them, except signs indicating parking spaces and yellow lines
- The presence of any other road markings at any point in the CPZ - including zig-zag lines or yellow bus stop clearways - render the entire CPZ invalid

Controlled Parking Zone rules
- Entrance and exit signs show the hours during which all on-street parking is controlled
- Parking is only permitted in designated parking spaces, the remainder of the kerbside is subject to yellow line restrictions
- Single yellow lines prohibit parking during the hours of control, double yellow lines prohibit parking at any time
- Some single yellow lines have signs showing different, usually longer, operation times
- Parking during the permitted hours may be free or charged

What Sunderland City Council claimed:
- Mr Herron's interpretation of road signage rules flies in the face of common sense
- Legislators could not have intended the rules to be read thus
- If this strict interpretation of the regulations was right a single pedestrian crossing marked on the road could invalidate a vast CPZ
- The case could affect the legitimacy of parking tickets issued across the country in other "over-sized" CPZs and lead to thousands of motorists applying to have parking fines quashed
- They vehemently dispute the accusation that local authorities rely on the confusion generated by the zones to make money out of parking fines
Their CPZ is being operated lawfully and drivers are being given the necessary information over where and when they can park

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