Wednesday, August 31, 2005

NPAS...National Parking Adjucation Service is Independent? You decide.

We have had confirmation today that the National Parking Adjudication Service receives 60p from EVERY Penalty Charge Notice issued across the country.

They state that they are an independent tribunal.

Their website video states that, "This is in fact a Court of Law." If you click on the link here and view the video you can see the 'independent' adjudicator.
I have a letter on my desk from Paul Griffiths, Service Development Officer which states, "...the National Parking Adjudication Service is not a Court of Law but an Independent Tribunal..."
Which is it NPAS?

The adjudicator on the video states,"I have no connection whatsoever with the local authority."
NPAS is 'answerable' to NPAS Joint Committee which comprises members drawn from Local Authorities.
NPAS is funded by tickets issued by Local Authorities and their agents.
I smell a connection!

I will shortly be revealing the content of the overheard telephone call of Tuesday, August 23, 2005 'National Parking Adjudication Service...on the record' and will be posting the NPAS apologies following 'this unfortunate incident.'

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Highway Councils across the land

Home front
By Philip Johnston
Daily Telegraph
(Filed: 29/08/2005)

Why are councils still getting away with highway robbery?

Do you ever wonder what happened to all those government initiatives that grab the headlines and then disappear? What, for instance, became of a promise to "curb the activities of overzealous traffic wardens who have been handing out fixed penalty fines for technical infringements".

In March 2004, this newspaper reported that David Jamieson, then roads minister, had told MPs that local councils would receive statutory guidelines on the civil enforcement of traffic offences. He made this announcement during the committee stage of the Traffic Management Bill after Tory backbenchers called on the Government to respond to complaints from constituents about the way local councils were apparently using parking fines as a way to raise money.

Unusually - and refreshingly - Mr Jamieson, who has since left Parliament, said he had been persuaded by the committee's arguments and would bring forward an amendment to put the guidance on a statutory basis, so that motorists would have some legal redress if local authorities were unreasonable in their enforcement of traffic regulations.

With most parking and bus lane contraventions now "decriminalised", giving transgressors no opportunity to defend themselves in court, it was considered important to stop councils abusing this new-found opportunity to swell their coffers at the motorists' expense. By putting the guidelines on a statutory basis, adjudicators would have to take account of "proportionality" and "reasonableness" when hearing appeals against fixed penalty fines. At present, the adjudicator must apply the letter of the law and is not allowed the discretion that would probably have been exercised by a "sensible" police officer under a criminalised regime.

The Tories called Mr Jamieson's announcement "a victory in the fightback for the motorist". Christopher Chope, the party spokesman, said voluntary guidelines had failed to curb excessive action against law-abiding motorists who were "being persecuted and oppressed by unreasonable men and women in uniforms … often at the behest of local authority employers out of greed or hatred of cars and those who drive them."

So what has happened? Nothing. Earlier this month, the Commons transport select committee announced its intention to conduct an inquiry into parking policy to establish whether local councils were "carrying out controls reasonably, fairly and accountably". It said: "Concerns have been raised over the standard of enforcement activity undertaken by some councils and contractors. In particular, there are concerns … that the surpluses raised through parking enforcement have become the main motivation for local authority parking control."

One question the committee proposes to consider is whether statutory guidance is necessary "to ensure proportionality in enforcement and proper discretion in applying measures". But is this not what the Government said it intended to issue 17 months ago?

As is often the case, a promise to do something is subsequently used to fob off anyone who continues to criticise policy. In February, Tory peer Lord Lucas introduced a private Bill aimed at bringing some sense to the parking regimes across the country and controlling the activities of parking wardens, whom he somewhat colourfully described as "a collection of licensed highwaymen who are roaming our streets … intent on robbing us at every opportunity".

He was told not to get so het up because the matter was already in hand. Lady Crawley, for the Government, said she was unable to support Lord Lucas's measure "not because we disagree with the principles behind the Bill or the idea of guidance in relation to the conduct of parking operatives - for we do not - [but] simply because it is unnecessary. That is because the Government has already taken steps to address the question of guidance on parking enforcement, and thereby on the conduct of parking attendants."

Oh really? When the Transport Department was asked last week what has happened to this measure, a spokesman said there was to be a public consultation "hopefully later this calendar year, but we don't yet have a date". Let us, charitably, assume the guidance is almost complete somewhere in the bowels of Whitehall and that the consultation begins in October. Normally, three months is given to conclude such an exercise. It would be no surprise, however, if the Government says it will await the transport committee's deliberations before putting forward proposals. That could take until the middle of next year.

Then the guidance will have to be drawn up and regulations issued, since it is intended to be statutory. That's another six months, or more if there is further consultation. If this guidance - intended to ameliorate one of the most irritating aspects of modern life and promised amid a fanfare of self-congratulatory trumpets and the tooting of horns from grateful motorists - materialises within two years of the date it was promised, there will be squadrons of pigs flying over Whitehall.

Meanwhile, local authorities continue to cash in on traffic controls that everyone accepts are necessary but that are resented when they are unreasonably applied. As an example, one camera monitoring a bus lane in south London has resulted in 5,000 drivers being fined - our household has paid three of them - in just one year because cars have to enter the lane to turn left. That will have raised at least £250,000, or more if the offending motorist has failed to pay the £50 penalty within 14 days and has had to stump up £100, which is a disincentive to appeal.
After local protests, the council's head of traffic has promised to introduce gaps in the bus lane to allow access to the roads on the other side, though only as part of a general road resurfacing scheme.

Will we all get our money back? Fat chance. But if the Government moved faster to fulfil its promises to Parliament - and listened to any sensible recommendations that emerge from the select committee's inquiry - it might be possible to rebuild the essential elements of fairness and consent without which laws will always fall into disrepute.

Welcome to the Site...Sunderland Council

Sources have revealed that all is not well at Sunderland City Council as their crisis deepens...they are anxiously visiting this website to see what is coming next.

Welcome to the site.

Just a reminder that we have copies of all communications going back many months from ourselves offering to sit down with officers and members of Sunderland City Council to highlight what our concerns were with the City's parking regime.

It appears as though things have not been handled in the most correct or proper manner by Sunderland city Council or its agents, NCP.

As the investigation continues it may well become a matter for other agencies.

Useful links:

Theft (Amendment) Act 1996

The real reason for the EU's insistence on the UK going fully metric

EC commissioner Martin Bangemann had told the association: “Britain is in an anomalous position, as a full partner in the European Union, but sharing a common system of weights and measures with the United States of America, thereby enjoying an unfair competitive advantage in transatlantic trade.”

Gunter sticks his twelve inch foot in it

Press Release
Metric Martyrs Defence Fund
30th August 2005

"Fat Chance Gunter...You'd lose by a mile"

Following lobbying from unnamed groups, Brussels officials over the past few weeks have made a fresh attempt to get the Brits in line with the rest of Europe in using the metric system, UK media report.

"We are in touch with the UK about how they want to do it", a spokesman for industry commissioner Gunter Verheugen was quoted as saying."In legal terms it is clear they have committed themselves to the metric we have to see how to deal with it", he said to the Sunday Times.

At a time when the 'European Project' has just received a double body blow following France and Holland's rejection of the European Constitution, and the Government was embarrassingly forced to abandon holding a referendum in this country, European Commissioner Gunter Verheugen most certainly knows how to put his twelve inch foot in it.

His statements will cause Downing Street to cringe and scurry for cover. After the bloody nose they got last time (only four prosecutions in five years despite millions of offences being committed daily under the Metrication Regulations and Price Marking Orders) the last thing that they will want to face is another 'metric' battle.

Neil Herron, Campaign Director of the Metric Martyrs' Defence Fund states, " Any government that decides it is going to take away the British working man's pint will be committing political suicide. Yet again, these statements by an unelected and unaccountable Commissioner highlight the absurd position of having our own laws made by people outside the bounds of our own accountable democracy. The spotlight needs to be shone on our own elected representatives in Westminster who have allowed this unbelievable state of affairs to exist.
If Gunter wishes to have a bet that we will replace the pint with the litre in British pubs, I predict he will lose by a mile.
And to the Labour Government...come and have a go...we are rolling our sleeves up ready for you."

Would be interesting, in the interests of transparency of course, to find out which 'un-named groups' have been doing the lobbying.



Neil Herron
0191 565 7143
07776 202045

Hands of our pints, traders tell Brussels

Daily Mail
Monday August 29th

They caused uproar by making us buy vegetables in kilos and grams, and now they are gunning for the pint and the mile as well..

Brussels bureaucrats are preparing a fresh assault on the UK's use of the Imperial system of measurements, it emerged yesterday.

The European Commission has ordered the UK Government to announce a date by which it will finally replace pints, miles and acres with litres, kilometres and hectares. A spokesman said that the Government had to fix a date 'as soon as possible' under its legal obligations and could be taken to the European Court in Strasbourg if it did not.

The scrapping of pounds and ounces in shops caused widespread resentment and a new order for change could produce a fresh wave of 'metric martyrs.' Neil Herron of the Metric Martyrs Defence Fund said last night: ' We are ready to roll our sleeves up for the fight.
'Any government that tries to introduce legislation to remove the British working man's pint will be committing political suicide. This would be the straw that broke the camel's back. People won't put up with it and there would be mass demands to leave the European Union.'

When Britain adopted the EC Act in 1972, it agreed to metrification in principle, but in 1979 it was given a 'derogation' to proceed at its own pace. The Department for Transport said last night: ' We are within our rights and we have no intention of getting rid of the mile.'

Other related news items:

Brussels pressures Britain to go metric
By Lisbeth Kirk
The European Commission has reminded Britain of its legal requirement to set a date for abolishing the imperial system, or the use of pints, miles and acres.

Following lobbying from unnamed groups, Brussels officials over the past few weeks have made a fresh attempt to get the Brits in line with the rest of Europe in using the metric system, UK media report.

"We are in touch with the UK about how they want to do it", a spokesman for industry commissioner Gunter Verheugen was quoted as saying."In legal terms it is clear they have committed themselves to the metric we have to see how to deal with it", he said to the Sunday Times.

Metric Martyrs
The Harold Wilson government decided to go metric as early as 1965 and the UK government also agreed to the principle of metrification in 1972 when it adopted the EC act to join the EU.But in 1979 Britain was given a derogation, allowing it to delay implementation of some of the changes.
Again, little happened until 2000 when it became illegal to sell products by reference to pound, pint or gallon - with the exception of beer.
In 2001, a market trader named Steven Thoburn lost a widely-reported court battle to continue labelling his bananas in pounds and ounces.
He was nicknamed the Metric Martyr, but died earlier this year of a heart attack, aged just 39.

Brussels' decision to take up the issue again is likely to spark further controversy among British citizens who are already mostly hostile to the EU.Few Brits see the point in swapping one pint of ale to 568ml or driving 1.609km instead of 1 mile.

"These damn Eurocrats must be mad if they think they can separate a Brit from his pint", Londoner Sam Patterson told the popular British tabloid, the Sun.

The main pro-metrication group in Britain, the UK Metric Association, told the Financial Times it was not "strongly lobbying" the commission.
"We'd prefer to work on persuasion rather than forcing people to do it", said Roz Denny of the group.

Legal action
Earlier this year, Ireland completed its conversion, leaving Britain together with the US among the few countries still using miles on the roads.If the UK fails to act, it risks an infringement procedure at the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg.However, a spokesman for the Department for Transport told the Sunday Times that "The derogation says we will go to metric when we choose a date. We are within our rights, and we have no intention of getting rid of the mile".

First of many refunds in Sunderland

Why, when Jimmy rang up to complain about the ticket, wasn't he immediately told that there had been a mistake and the ticket would be cancelled.
Sunderland Council have already said that tickets issued after they became aware in November 2003 that they were unlawfully issued, were issued by 'incorrectly trained' wardens. However, it appears from this that the enforcement regime at Parking Services continued to lie and further obtained money by deception.
The more this shambles continues the more evidence of this deceitful behaviour by Sunderland City Council and NCP will be uncovered.

Sunderland Echo
Saturday August 27th 2005

Refund just the ticket for Jimmy
GRANDAD Jimmy Conway was thrilled when he received an unexpected refund on his doormat.
Jimmy, who has 10 grandchildren, had given up the parking fine as a "bad loss" after he was given a £30 fine for parking in a taxi bay in Southwick a year ago.Now the 59-year-old former Army physical training instructor is one of the first of 700 motorists to receive a refund after a blunder by traffic bosses at Sunderland Council.Bosses admitted last week that they had no authority to issue the tickets because they do not have the correct legal orders in place to enforce parking restrictions in taxi ranks.

Mr Conway, of Broadsheath Terrace, Southwick, is a disabled driver and holds the necessary badge, which he displays in the front window of his Ford Escort.He suffers from the lung wasting disease emphysema, which he claims was caused by his service in the Gulf War of 1991.

He said: "I got the ticket about a year ago when I was shopping at Southwick Green."There was a taxi in the disabled parking bay near Kwik Save waiting for a customer so I just pulled up behind it. I never even gave a thought about it being a taxi rank."

Mr Conway says he only spent about 10 minutes shopping but returned to find a parking ticket on the windscreen of his Escort."I was fuming, absolutely fuming," he said. "I had my blue badge on display so the parking attendant could see it."But they paid absolutely no attention to me whatsoever. It was as if I wasn't there."Mr Conway then contacted the council to protest about his ticket but decided not to take the matter to an appeal after being told why he had been fined.

But after hearing about the blunder, which was reported by The Echo on Wednesday last week, he rang the council again and found out his was one of 700 tickets issued in error."I was just elated," Mr Conway said. "I really felt I'd won. I'm just so pleased they were proven wrong."But I'm disgusted with the whole situation. I feel the council is getting money for absolutely nothing."I know the wardens are only doing their job but half the time they look at you as if you're nobody."

Sunderland Council estimates it will have to pay back about £21,000 in fines issued wrongly.
27 August 2005

Friday, August 26, 2005

More questions for Sunderland Council...Who knew? That is the big question

Who knew?
Who is responsible?
Is it malfeasance (deliberately committing the act) or misfeasance (through ignorance or stupidity)?
Will there be more serious charges of obtaining money by deception?
What other offences have been committed under the Theft (Amendment) Act 1996?
The clock is ticking ... the NCP regime is on borrowed time ... more to be revealed.

Philip Browning
City Treasurer's Department
Sunderland City Council
Civic Centre


Further to our telephone conversation (1.50pm Friday 26th August 2005) I would be grateful for a response to the following questions ( obviously the questions to the City Treasurer are dependent on the answers from Parking Services to questions 1-7):

Questions for Parking Services / City Solicitor

1. Can the Council confirm that on or around November 2003 Parking Services / NCP / Sunderland Council became aware that they had been issuing tickets to Disabled Motorists / Disability Badge Holders in Loading Bays unlawfully?

2. How was it brought to your attention and who was made aware?

3. Why did you not immediately make this public and offer to refund the money?

4. Did Sunderland Council issue a notice to NCP to desist from issuing further tickets as they had no lawful authority to do so as the offence committed was one of obstruction under Section 137 of the 1980 Highways Act and not covered by the 1991 Road Traffic Act, therefore the Parking Attendants had no powers to issue such tickets?
If so, who issued the notice and to whom?

5. Can you confirm the number of tickets that had been issued by Parking Attendants prior to you becoming aware that they had been issued unlawfully and the number that have been issued since? Can you also confirm the Offence Code?

6. Can you please provide a full list of all instances where Sunderland Council have been made aware of incorrect legislation and incorrect signage and what actions have been taken? If no action has been taken to correct the legislation or the signage were explicit instructions issued to NCP and their Parking Attendants to desist from issuing tickets for the same offence?

7. Are there any other mistakes, errors, inaccuracies that Parking Services are aware of but have not yet made public with regard to the parking regime in operation?

8. Can you please provide all the information (under the Freedom of Information Act 2000) of all the evidence, including consultations, supplied to the Secretary of State with regard to Statutory Instrument 2002 No. 3266 The Road Traffic (Permitted Parking Area and Special Parking Area) (City of Sunderland) Order 2002 and all communications and discussions between Sunderland City Council and the Secretary of State regarding Sunderland City Council's parking regime from 1999 to present day?

9. How did the failure to implement a Taxi Rank Order come to notice in 2003?

10. Can you please provide a copy of the notice sent to NCP or minutes of any meeting with NCP officials on or around 31st October 2003?

11. Why was no decision made in November 2003 to immediately issue refunds regarding monies unlawfully obtained in relation to the failure to implement the Taxi Rank Orders?

12. Why after nearly two years have the correct Taxi Rank Orders not been put in place?

13. Are you going to refer the matter to the Police for investigation? If not, why not?

14. Are you going to ask the District Auditor to conduct a full investigation into the Parking Services / NCP operation? If not, why not?

15. Can you please provide copies (under the Freedom of Information Act 2000) details of all communications, written, e-mail and telephone calls between Sunderland City Council and the National Parking Adjudication Service?

16. Under the Data Protection Act ( for the name Neil Herron and the address 12 Frederick Street Sunderland, SR1 1NA and/or 39 The Westlands, Sunderland, SR4 7RP) can you provide details of all communications, written, e-mail and telephone between the following departments Sunderland City Council Solicitor's Office, Development and Regeneration (including Parking Services) and the City Treasurer's office, and bewteen any of thses departments and NCP?

Questions to the City Treasurer

16. If any of the questions above reveal further errors by Sunderland City Council's Parking regime can you please provide details for each of the financial years (2002-3 / 2003-4 / 2004-5) for the amount of monies received from Parking Fines for the offences detailed above?

17. I relation to the income of £22,240 (2003-4) and £630 (2004-5) when were you ( City Treasurer's Department) first made aware that these monies had been obtained unlawfully as the result of Sunderland City Council's failure to put any Taxi Rank Orders in place?

18. Have you been made aware of any other monies unlawfully received since the inception of the 'decriminalised' parking regime?

19. Can you please provide details of the income received by Sunderland City Council from Code 45 offences in the financial year 2002-3?

Further questions will obviously arise dependent on the answers received and as more evidence of malpractice comes to light.

Many thanks for your prompt attention and professionalism in response to all enquiries to date.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron

cc. Bob Rayner, City Solicitor
cc. Earl Belshaw, Parking Services
cc. Phil Barrett, Director of Development and Regeneration
cc. Cameron Waddle, Audit Commission

Sunderland Council's Parking Regime Going Through a Bad Spell

After a week of embarrassing admissions about acting unlawfully, with more serious allegations of cover-ups to follow, perhaps the Leader of the Council will be the first to re-sign or is that resign?

Bob Rayner Response to Neil Herron's Letter of 29th June 2005

Letter to Sunderland City Solicitor Bob Rayner 29th June 2005

House of Common Library - Bill of Rights and Metric Martyrs

House of Common Library - Bill of Rights Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Newcastle Journal, The Letters Editor

Dear Sir / Madam,

I caught a small piece in the Journal (24.08.05)...Blyth Valley Council are going to start fining people £75 for leaving their bins in the streets.

Perhaps another 'partnership' such as Sunderland City Council's with NCP, we may see the creation of Bin Wardens loitering around street corners ready to issue fines to 'law breakers.'

A feature of this "new politics" which is becoming endemic throughout all sectors of administrative bureaucracy is the brushing aside of annoying legal details in the pursuit of increasing revenue.

Most people do not have the time or the will to challenge the administrative 'Goliath' and the reluctant capitulation breeds anger and resentment.

Why let the law and the people's fundamental rights get in the way?

However, more and more people are starting to say,"Wait a minute, do you actually have the legal authority to do what you are doing?"

The Metric Martyr's Judgment handed down in 2002 stated that certain Acts of Parliament, including the Bill of Rights, are constitutional and can only be repealed with express words.

The legislation upon which Blyth Valley Council are reliant will not have repealed that act. Therefore, "all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures before conviction are illegal and void." In laymans terms, conviction means before a court, not a council official. Therefore, no court, no fine.

This "arrogance of office" is out of control and rapidly losing the respect of the law abiding public who bear the cost. It appears as though government, local and national, is no longer there to serve but to rule, and increasingly in a draconian and financially punitive fashion.

However, there is other legislation in place, and Blyth Valley council should be reminded that if they wish to pursue alleged offenders they should do so through the courts in a proper and orderly manner.

Section 137 of the Highways Act, 1980, states," a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway he is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding £50." Trouble is that Blyth Council know that their binmen would be in trouble and be 'an accessory to the fact,' as it is they who left the bins in the street in the first place!

Yours faithfully,

Neil Herron
12 Frederick Street
SR1 1NA.
0191 565 7143

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

National Parking Adjudication Service...on the record

At 5.23pm Tuesday 23rd August 2005 I received a call from Andrew Barfoot, Tribunal Manager for the National Parking Adjudication Service in response to a telephone call I made to him the previous day at his office on 0161 242 527.

I had discussed the case in Sunderland and had offered to meet with him and any NPAS representatives to give them an overview of the Sunderland situation and the very serious matters that were being raised.
He informed me that his boss was Caroline Shepherd, and he would call me back the following day.

The call that came in at 5.23pm today lasted around 11 minutes.
The conversation was amicable and covered a number of areas, the contents of which will be uncovered in due course. It ended with me thanking him for his courtesy in returning my call, unlike the Department for Transport and Secretary of State who appeared to be 'battening down the hatches and heading for the bunker.' The call ended.

I picked up the telephone to make another call.
It was still connected.
I was then privy to a converastion between the identifiable Andrew Barfoot and an unidentified female.
The conversation lasted approximately five minutes, the majority of which is clear, especially the voice of Andrew Barfoot.
The line then went dead.

Pressing 1471 revealed the telephone number...a mobile number 07771 *** ****. Quite why a mobile was being used and not the office telephone for a call to myself may be revealed in due course. Draw your own conclusions.

Obviously by what had been said, Andrew Barfoot, who confirmed his location as not in the office but now in the lift with a colleague, had not realised that everything which had been said had come straight through to this office.
I asked for the name of his boss.
She was in the lift with him. She was the female voice.
There was a silence of nearly a minute.

Caroline Shepherd came on the telephone.

Caroline Shepherd confirmed her name and when asked confirmed that she is answerable to the 'Joint Committee.' She gave her position as the Service Director at the National Parking Adjudicator
The address was given as Barlow House, Minchull Street, Manchester M1 3DZ.

She gave reassurances that my case would be dealt with fairly and I could appeal following the necessary due process. Her diction is clear and she is very well spoken.
I was informed that my cases will be dealt with by an 'independent' solicitor.
I informed her that I had heard all the conversation between herself and Andrew Barfoot...because he had left his mobile telephone on.

I repeated Andrew Barfoot's opening statement to her.

I stated that I had a full record of everything that was said.
(It will be in the hands of solicitors pending further action hence the reason it is not posted here in case it is prejudicial to proceedings).

At this point she offered her sincerest apologies and gave a solemn undertaking that what was said would not be prejudicial to any appeal that I brought before NPAS. Obviously this was a professional matter and they would undertake the necessary this point I interject and state that I will require a full written apology and the matter bringing to the attention of the Joint Committee.
She offered to discuss matters relating to 'concerns' but I said that I now wished the matter to be dealt with in writing.
The recorded delivery letter before action will be in the post tomorrow.

What was said by Andrew Barfoot, Tribunal Manager for the National Parking Adjudication Service leaves me in no doubt that they are not independent.

Yellow peril fines fiasco

Mar 17 2005
By Simon Armstrong, The Evening Chronicle

Drivers fined for illegal parking could get a refund because of a loophole.

James Neffendorf was slapped with a ticket for parking on a single yellow line in the centre of Newcastle.

He was convinced the £30 ticket was wrong because there were no restricted parking signs.

And he single-handedly took his campaign to court where he triumphed after a 15-month fight.

Now police chiefs have admitted there are questions over the signs' "legality", potentially costing the authorities thousands of pounds waiving parking fines.

The 52-year-old was ordered to pay £30 after leaving his Volvo Estate on a single yellow line while he went to watch a Newcastle United Sunday game.

The married dad-of-two had left his vehicle below the Central Library, just off John Dobson Street, in December 2003. He initially lost his case after appearing at Newcastle's magistrates court in October and was also ordered to pay £70 costs.

But, determined he was in the right, he took his fight to the city's Moot Hall and won after legal eagles accepted he should not have been booked because there were no signs outlining any parking restrictions - effectively rendering the yellow line meaningless.

The judge overturned the ticket after hearing officials had failed to follow section 64 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, and the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002, by not displaying any notification of restrictions.

James, of Darras Hall, Ponteland, said: "I knew there was a single yellow line there but because there was no sign I was convinced it was not a restricted area. I couldn't believe it when I got a ticket.

"I contacted both the police and the council about the law but neither seemed sure as to how things stood. I took the unusual step of getting in touch with the Crown Prosecution Service and they told me which regulation I needed to study.

"Effectively, every line needs a sign because without them they're meaningless.

"I was stunned when I lost at the Magistrates Court and had a real feeling an injustice had been done. The whole thing began eating me up and I was unwilling to let it rest.

"I would say anyone who has been booked for parking on a single yellow line in the city should challenge it because I think they are in the right."

During his appearance at the Magistrates Court last October, a council parking official provided a statement saying there were several signs located on the approach to the city centre warning motorists they are entering a "metre zone" with restrictions applying.

However, James, who works as a managing director of a computer firm, provided photographs to show they weren't in place.

Insp David Rickaby, of Newcastle Area Command, said: "We are aware of this case and there are a number of issues we are looking into at the moment.

"Although we are the enforcement agency for yellow lines, there are questions with the legality of the signing which we are looking into."

Peter Wightman, highways services manager, for Newcastle City Council said the authority - who put up the signs - is confident it is right, despite the court decision.

He said: "The city centre is covered by a metre zone and highway law states additional signs are not required to uphold restrictions unless they are different to the gateway signs to the zone."

The Department for Transport was unable to comment on individual cases and a spokesman would only say: "The Highway Code instructs drivers to consult nearby signs for guidance on time restrictions."
Posted by Picasa

The Letters Editor
Dear Sir,
I would like to first make it clear that by exposing, along with others, the fact that Sunderland Council have been unlawfully issuing parking tickets I am not advocating irresponsible or illegal parking.
Taxi ranks should not be obstructed nor should people blatantly disregard the needs of other road users and pedestrians.
But what we are now witnessing here in Sunderland is a draconian enforcement regime to generate massive profits for a private company, NCP.The city's businesses and taxis are being strangled and harassed and the regime is also driving away potential shoppers. Sunderland Echo has covered many stories of people, including funeral cars and disabled people that have been ticketed by over zealous wardens.
These 'decriminalised' enforcement regimes are springing up across the country and are nothing more than a back door tax (now over �1bn annually) on the motorist. You can appeal to an 'independent' adjudicator...funded by the local authorities in the scheme. It is not even the driver who is pursued, it is the registered keeper...someone who may not have even committed the alleged offence. Next door, in Newcastle, they operate a 'criminalised' regime where the driver is responsible and can challenge through the courts. As a casual motorist you would be unaware of the two wholly different schemes until you got a ticket.
The examination of Sunderland Council's parking regime stemmed from the ruling in the Metric Martyrs case which said that certain acts of Parliament - including the Bill of Rights - had primacy over other legislation, unless measures were specifically repealed. The Bill of Rights says that citizens cannot be fined without being convicted - and the regime the Council is operating under the 1991 Road Traffic Act offers no option to go to court.
Quite simply, if the Metric Martyr's judgment was correct then the RTA falls and the council could not levy fines.Or perhaps the men were wrongly convicted.
But further investigation uncovered an even bigger bombshell. Sunderland Council had not put in place the correct traffic orders to be operating the regime that they had in place. They have been forced to admit unlawfully issuing 700 tickets. This appears to be the tip of the iceberg. More serious allegations may follow.
Sunderland Council is operating a Controlled Parking Zone for the city centre. The Department for Transport have confirmed that a CPZ Order is required. Like the Taxi Rank Orders, none exists.
The late Steven Thoburn was one of only four people ever prosecuted across the country under the Metrication regulations. Sunderland Council at the time said, "The law is the law and must be enforced."
Let's hope that the elected members are fully aware of their responsibilities. After all, they were aware in 2003 that they were acting unlawfully and NEVER volunteered the money back to those that had been targeted...their hand had to be forced.
Is this the way to run a city?
Anyone who has had a ticket and needing advice can call on 0845 147 2006.
Yours faithfully,
Neil Herron
12 Frederick Street
0191 565 7143
 Posted by Picasa

Parking Fines Gaffe

Tickets issued after error discovered
By Ross Smith
(0191) 201 6286

Traffic wardens in Sunderland have handed out 78 tickets to people parking in taxi ranks after it was discovered they have no power to do so, the council confirmed yesterday.

Officers at Sunderland Council failed to put an order in place to allow parking attendants to issue fines for the offence.

They now face having to repay 700 fines given before the error was discovered in November 2003, at a cost to the authority of £21,000.

And yesterday, the authority admitted 78 tickets have been given out since then-saying it was a “mistake” by its contractors NCP.

A council spokeswoman said yesterday: “They have been issued in error by NCP. We instructed NCP to stop issuing penalty charge notices for vehicles parked in taxi ranks.”

The council had previously insisted no tickets were issued by wardens after November 2003.

She said the 78 motorists would be entitled to the same refund as those who were fined before the error was spotted. She said the council was still “looking into” why no refunds were offered before The Journal raised the issue last week- 21 months after the council realised the tickets were invalid.

Political campaigner Neil Herron uncovered the error.

NCP spokesman Tim Cowen said: “Of course we are disappointed that we have issued over 70 tickets with an incorrect code in the past two years, but the vast majority were issued by one parking attendant whose performance was poor and has now left the company. A handful were issued by new starters who has failed to take on board the briefing about taxi ranks and we have now updated our processes to ensure that all new starters fully understand the situation regarding taxi ranks.”

Association of British Drivers agrees with Herron. CPZ Order is required.

It appears as though the Sunderland ship is heading for the rocks. The following e-mail has been received from the Association of British Drivers:

Your message to the ABD's enquiry email address has been forwarded to the rest of the committee. As the ABD's traffic management specialist (with over 30 years' local authority service in highway and traffic engineering), it is probably most appropriate that I reply.

We have certainly been following the Sunderland case with interest. Having had a look through your website, I was not previously aware of the issue with taxi ranks, only the CPZ issue. As far as the latter is concerned, there is no doubt that a traffic regulation order is necessary to set one up. The purpose of a CPZ is to have a single, principal waiting restriction throughout the area, which can be signed at all the entry points, so that there is no need for individual signing of yellow lines. Only where a waiting restriction differed from the standard one for the CPZ would it need to be signed. This reduces the cost of installing and maintaining signs, as well as reducing unsightly sign clutter. This relaxation of the signing requirements is only legal if a TRO exists for the CPZ.

If a CPZ order has not been made but the individual waiting restrictions within it are covered by their own TROs, those TROs would still apply but would not be enforceable unless individual signing was in place. (In the case of double yellow lines, which for the last five years or so have only been permissible where a 24/7 restriction applies, no signs are required, so they may be enforceable anyway.)

To repeat again, and to keep it simple, Sunderland Council is operating a Controlled Parking Zone. There is no CPZ Order.

If they are reliant on previous orders they require the necessary individual signage for each of those orders. That individual signage is not in place.

When they changed the regime from criminalised to decriminalised the Secretary of State required that all the necessary Traffic Orders and signage were correct in order to create the Special Parking Area Order which would allow the initiation of the decriminalised regime.

It seems some one has been misinformed somewhere.

Is it that obvious? Where is the money?

Public Inspection of the Statement of Accounts 2004/2005 Posted by Picasa

As you can see from the letter, the income from Penalty Charge Notices AFTER they became aware that they did not have lawful authority to be issuing them is £630.
There is an admission that 78 tickets were issued after November 2003.
There has been a separate admission that 38 of these were paid.
If we believe that everybody paid immediately at £30 per ticket that comes to £1140...only £630 has been admitted to being entered into the accounts.
Where is the rest?

Traffic wardens in 'Argos points for tickets' row

The Sunday Times - Britain
Will Iredale
April 10, 2005

ONE of the country’s biggest parking contractors is motivating its traffic wardens by offering gifts from Argos if they help to “increase revenue”.

A National Car Parks (NCP) document explaining the scheme says points to purchase Argos products can be given to staff for the “issued number of tickets per shift/day”. The scheme has been designed to reward traffic wardens who achieve agreed targets.

NCP denies the scheme is “points for tickets”, but says the Argos points are distributed for all-round performance. Some wardens are, however, anxious to give out as many tickets as possible in the hope of getting extra Argos points.

One warden who works in Islington, north London, said last week: “The more tickets you give, the more points you get. It goes to your Argos card.”

NCP is one of several contractors employed by local councils to issue tickets and works for 30 local authorities around the country. The “Argos Scheme” was introduced by NCP last year in many of the areas where it operates.

A “launch briefing” document obtained under Freedom of Information laws states: “The proposed incentive scheme is designed to motivate employees by rewarding those who make a difference by achieving particular targets or agreed standards.

“Examples of the type of activity points will be awarded for (include) . . . issued number of tickets per shift/day.”

A second document explaining the Argos scheme and sent to all NCP employees states: “Where you demonstrate your excellence at work, contribute to increased revenue or cost savings, or have gone the extra distance, you will be rewarded.”

Under the scheme, one point is the equivalent of £1. Managers are given a certain number of points per month which they can award to their staff as they wish, who then use their points to shop in Argos.

Some wardens have understandably been anxious to give out extra tickets in the hope of getting more Argos points. A spokesman for NCP said last week the scheme was never meant to encourage wardens to give out more tickets, but to reward wardens for all aspects of their performances, including good timekeeping, appearance and maintaining a good relationship with the public.

He said the proposal to give out points for tickets per shift was never followed by managers. Tim Cowen, a spokesman for NCP, said: “It is about rewarding people for working well, and has never been and never will be to do with the number of tickets issued. I can categorically say that does not happen.”

Cowen said “increased revenue” referred to giving more accurate tickets, and said any traffic warden who believed they could get Argos points for tickets issued was wrong.

NCP has been criticised in the past for bonus-related schemes. Two years ago it promised a Vauxhall Corsa worth £12,000 to the warden who imposed the most fines in Westminster, London. Other prizes in the “Champions League” scheme included a £1,500 holiday and a wide-screen television worth £800.

The incentives helped create a ticket blitz. Papers released under the Freedom of Information act to The Sunday Times reveal that one traffic warden based in Westminster issued 1,444 tickets in October 2003 — an average of over 60 a day.

The Champions League scheme was, however, shelved last summer after NCP became concerned it would be unpopular with motorists.

Monday, August 22, 2005

They're paid to book you!

Milton Keynes Today

PARKING attendants in Milton Keynes ARE rewarded for issuing the most penalty notices.

Despite repeated denials since the introduction of widespread pay parking in the city, the Tuesday Citizen can reveal an incentive scheme introduced by Vinci Park, Milton Keynes Council's parking contractor.

According to documents seen by the Citizen, a parking attendant is awarded one point for every ticket he or she issues.

In addition, they will receive 10 points for being in work on time every day; 100 points for having no errors issuing penalties and 100 points for no days off sick a month.Points are also deducted for lateness, unauthorised leave and penalty notice errors.

It is understood the top attendant each month receives a £20 bonus.A chart also seen by the Citizen shows the top attendant, apparently in one week, notched up 299 points.

Another document shows a graph with Vinci Park's daily targets and the total number of parking tickets issued – against "the expected level of performance".

Last year more than 46,000 penalty notices were issued.

City transport boss Cllr Graham Mabbutt said the suggestion of 'league tables' was news to him.

"It is not the council policy to have incentives for parking tickets and the council does not have a target for Vinci to reach in terms of the number of tickets issued."

Edmund King of motorists' lobby group The RAC Foundation said: "Financial incentives actually lead to more abuse of the system with more tickets issued incorrectly."Our general view is that parking regulation should be based on general compliance and not on the number of tickets. The number of tickets issued is not an indication the parking regime is working well."

He added the system puts pressure on the attendants to issue more tickets and can lead to more confrontation with motorists.

However, he added: "I would not like to comment on their internal mechanism for operating."

A spokesman for Vinci Park said the scheme is being trialled in Milton Keynes from this month and aims to reward employees "for their work in the community and the quality of their work".

He added: "A parking attendant is not just there to issue parking tickets and we have recognised this by introducing a system based on aspects such as punctuality and low absenteeism, which will benefit the public through providing a better service in Milton Keynes."

Sunderland Council and NCP now admit to 78 offences

It started just a week ago when on Saturday 13th August the Newcastle Journal ran the story that we had been building up for a while...that Sunderland Council's parking regime was unlawful.
They were operating a Controlled Parking Zone for the city centre. We had argued that to do so they needed a traffic order.
Sunderland said they didn't.
The Department for Transport confirmed that they did.

As the story broke the press and media went into feeding frenzy with TV, radio and all the press covering the story.

Then we received a telephone call...from a former Parking Attendant. They added more information...that Sunderland Council had had a meeting with NCP regarding the fact that there were no traffic orders in place for the city's taxi ranks. This meant that issued tickets were unlawful, but rather than admitting this, they covered it up. They knew in October 2003.

Further problems now arise because they did immediately not contact the motorists to refund this money. They only began doing this once we had exposed it in the press, but it begs the question, "Why the cover up?"
An audit trail is now being conducted into where this money went, but the problem is that the Council's accounts were signed off for 2003-4 with officials knowing full well that it would contain items of unlawful income.

Sunderland Council were forced into making a humiliating admission. However, one must not be confused by the smokescreen. The Taxi Rank Orders are only a part of the whole Special Parking Area...which created the 'decriminalised' operation.
The Controlled Parking Zone is only a get the approval from the Secretary of State's approval for the whole 'decriminalised' regime, all the necessary orders and signs needed to be in place. This is clearly not the case.

Late on Friday Sunderland Council were forced to admit that they continued to issue tickets (Code 045) on the City's taxi ranks after they became aware.

The following questions have to be asked:

Why, if Parking Services and NCP were aware they were acting unlawfully, were these code 045 'offences' not immediately refunded? We have received confirmation today that they are aware of 78 (of which 38 have been paid). Could this be regarded as attempting to obtain, and obtaining monies by deception?

Who was responsible for covering up the fact that 700+ tickets had been unlawfully issued?

Why weren't all NCP Parking Attendants given explicit instructions not to issue further tickets?

Why have no steps been taken to put in place the correct Traffic Orders for the Taxi Ranks since November 2003? Could it be that this would highlight everyone to the fact that the decriminalised regime could be classed as unlawful if the Secretary of State has been misled?

Lots of questions. Not many answers forthcoming.

Sunderland may have to repay £2m in parking penalties

Christopher Booker's Notebook
Sunday Telegraph
21st August 2005

Sunderland may have to repay £2m in parking penalties
Sunderland city council, running the largest city in the North-East, was deeply embarrasssed last week, having been forced to admit that it must pay back to motorists thousands of pounds which it had extracted from them in illegal parking fines. Furthermore, evidence given by the Department for Transport indicated that Sunderland's entire city centre parking regime, from which it has raised £2 million in penalties, may also be illegal.

This is the latest victory for Neil Herron, who was roused to become a tireless grass-roots campaigner when, in July 2000, Sunderland officials seized a set of non-metric scales from the market stall run by his friend Steve Thoburn. Following the appeal court's judgment in the "Metric Martyrs'' case, which ruled that "constitutional statutes" such as the European Communities Act and the Bill of Rights can only be overridden when Parliament explicitly votes to do so, Mr Herron's attention was drawn to the legality of automatic penalties, such as parking fines.

These seemed to contradict the Bill of Rights, which lays down that no one may be fined except by judgment of a court. Enquiring further, Mr Herron discovered that Sunderland had not obtained the necessary statutory order to set up its "decriminalised" Controlled Parking Zone. This suggested that the 61,000 fines imposed since 2003, totalling some £2 million, might also have been illegal.

The council insists that such an order was not necessary. But the Department for Transport has confirmed to the Newcastle Journal that it is. The council admits that it realised in November 2003 that 738 fines imposed for parking on the city's 14 taxi ranks were illegal, and has now promised to reimburse those fined up to that time, to the tune of £21,000. But Sunderland will only admit to having imposed a further 38 fines on taxi ranks since then (though other, unofficial sources maintain that the true figure is much higher).

Mr Herron says: "My enquiries suggest this is only the tip of an iceberg. If Sunderland has not complied with the proper procedures for setting up its decriminalised parking zone, it could theoretically have to hand back £2 million. And it seems that many other councils across the country have similarly failed to comply."

Earlier this month MPs on the Commons Transport Committee announced that they will be looking into the "legitimacy" of parking schemes this autumn.

A third of councils now operate decriminalised parking schemes, and the total sum raised from parking fines in 2004 was £1 billion. Mr Herron plans to give evidence to the committee, and suggests that anyone wanting to know more should contact him via Sunderland council may be regretting that day, five years ago, when they seized Mr Thoburn's scales.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Cover up alleged over parking fines

Cover up alleged over parking fines

By Julie Wilson, Sunderland Echo

Council bosses knew nothing about £21,000 parking fines blunder almost two years before they offered to repay the cash, it has been revealed.

About 700 tickets handed to motorists who parked in Sunderland taxi ranks will be overturned after the city council admitted its traffic wardens had no power to issue them.

The council this week offered to refund the fine, totalling £21,000 to motorists who received a £30 ticket for parking at a rank since February 2003.

It has now emerged that the council discovered the mistake nearly two years ago.

The council has admitted that it uncovered the error in November 2003, but says it has only just found out that the cash had not been repaid and is looking into the issue.

The council says no tickets for the offence have been handed out by parking attendants since the error was discovered.

The parking fines blunder came to light after an investigation by political campaigner and former "Metric Martyr" Neil Herron, who said the correct legal order to enforce parking restrictions in taxi ranks had not been put in place.

Mr Herron, 42 of The Westlands, Barnes, in Sunderland, said it appeared the council had been "covering this up for nearly two years."

He added: "I think their now needs to be a full, thorough investigation by an independent outside body. I believe this is the tip of a very large iceberg."

Conservative group leader Coun Peter Wood said: "It's appalling. I can't think of any legitimate excuse, quite frankly.

"I will speak to the chairman of the environment review committee, Coun David Tate, and ask that the matter appears on the next agenda."

The Echo revealed the parking ticket blunder earlier this week.

A council spokeswoman said: "A number of penalty charge notices were issued incorrectly to motorists who were illegally parked in taxi ranks.

"Although parking in taxi ranks is illegal, it is not currently an offence for which a fixed penalty is applicable under the decriminalised parking enforcement system.

"As a result we will be taking steps to identify and reimburse the motorists concerned.

"We have identified that about 700 penalty charge notices were paid after being issued by parking attendants acting in good faith against drivers who were breaking the law and causing inconvenience to taxi drivers and the public by parking in clearly designated taxi ranks."

Posted by Picasa

Council Accused of rank cover-up

Council Accused of rank cover-up

Error came to light 21 months ago

By Ross Smith
, (0191) 201-6286

Council bosses were accused of a cover up last night after it was revealed that they knew £21,000 had been collected from invalid parking tickets nearly two years ago.

Traffic wardens had been handing fines to drivers parked on taxi ranks in Sunderland, but had no power to do so - and the error was discovered in November 2003, the council has admitted.

But since then, the correct orders have not been put in place.

And a decision to repay the 700 fines handed out before then was only made public this week after The Journal made enquiries about the anomaly.

When asked why the offers of repayment had only been made 21months later, when news of the error appeared in The Journal a council spokeswoman said: "It's something that we're looking into."

Political campaigner Neil Herron, whose investigations uncovered the loophole, said: " It appears as though they've been covering this up for nearly two years.

"If they're supposed to be transparent and honest, why the obfuscation and the wriggling?
"I think there now needs to be a full, thorough investigation by an independent outside body.

"They haven't volunteered this money back - it had to be forced out of them.

"I believe this is the tip of a very large iceberg.

Conservative group leader on the council Peter Wood said: "It's appalling. I can't think of any legitimate excuse, quite frankly.

"I will speak to the chairman of the environment review committee, Coun David Tate, and ask that the matter appears on the next agenda of that committee.

"Frankly, the best thing would be for the chairman himself to put it on the agenda and summon [director of development and regeneration] Phil Barrett and any appropriate colleagues to give a full explanation in a sufficiently contrite manner."

The council says traffic wardens have issued no tickets for the offence since the error was discovered.
Officers responsible for taxi licensing, as well as police, do have the power to hand out fines.

Mr Barrett said: "Work is currently in hand to introduce an order which would enable ranks to be enforced using the decriminalised parking scheme.

"However; a statutory and legal process means this will take some time." Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Another Sunderland Council/NCP Clanger

Here are two photos of an NCP Car Park in Sunderland.

Here is a Press Release Report Detailing a York City Council Clanger
By Alistair Keely, PA
Anti-metric protesters claimed another victory in their campaign today after a council was forced to modify 30 rights of way signs.
The York City Council signs were erected with distances in kilometres instead of miles.
Council chiefs today admitted they got it wrong.
A spokeswoman said: ``We can confirm that 30 new signs were erected with distances given in metric measures.
"This was a genuine error and as soon as it was brought to our attention,we took measures to amend it.
"Giving information on a footpath sign such as the distance and destinationis discretionary and we thought the public would appreciate this extra detail.
"The Ordnance Survey maps that we use to measure the footpaths are metric and the walk packs that we sell describe walks in kilometres so it made sense to the officer who ordered the signs to give corresponding information.''
The council said it would not replace all the signs, but has ordered plastic discs displaying the imperial distances and these would be placed over the metric numbers over the next few weeks at a cost of £229.
Campaigners argue that it is illegal to erect any highway signs with metric measurements, including those on public rights of way, under section 131 of the 1980 Highway Act.
Peter Rogers, a supporter of Active Resistance to Metrication, welcomed the council's decision.
"Each time we are successful, it is a small but significant step towards eradicating them from our country.
"The imperial weights and measures of this country are part of our traditions and part of our culture.
"The attempts to impose metric signs is one by stealth and deception and has been going on for many years.''

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sunderland Council press release

Sunderland Council press release
17th August 2005


A Number of penalty charge notices were issued incorrectly to motorists who were illegally parked in taxi ranks and as a result we will be taking steps to identify and reimburse the motorists concerned.

We have identified that about 700 penalty charge notices were paid after being issued by parking attendants acting in good faith against drivers who were breaking the law and causing inconvenience to taxi drivers and the public by parking in clearly designated taxi ranks.

Although parking in taxi ranks is illegal, it is not currently an offence for which a fixed penalty is applicable under the decriminalised parking enforcement system. Enforcement action is taken by the police or Council officers responsible for taxi licensing.

We are endeavouring to contact and refund those drivers who paid a penalty charge notice that was erroneously issued. Anyone who has received a parking ticket while parked in a taxi rank in Sunderland and believes they are entitled to a refund should contact Parking Services on 0191 553 1521.

Said Director of Development and Regeneration, Phil Barrett: “Although the issue of these tickets was an error and is regrettable, it affected only a very small proportion of the 61,000 plus tickets issued since the decriminalised parking system came into force in February 2003. It is an anomaly relating to the implementation of just one aspect of the city’s parking system. The decriminalised parking system itself remains legally robust and valid, ensuring the safe and efficient moving and parking of vehicles throughout the city for the benefit of public and businesses alike.”

Sunderland’s taxi ranks are located at:
Sunderland Railway Station (opposite entrance)
Rear Fawcett Street (west side)
Rear Fawcett Street (east side)
Park Lane
Union Street
Southwick Green
Whitburn, Seaburn
High Street West (adj to Chambers)
Crowtree Road
Rear Fawcett Street (east side)
Athenauem Street
Union Street
High Street West (adj Londonderry)Park Lane (fronting Chase)

A Fine Mess

A Fine Mess
Sunderland Echo,By Simon Marks,

Hundreds of motorists will have their parking fines overturned after blundering council workers wrongly dished out penalties totalling £21,000.

Sunderland council today admitted it had no authority to hand out 700 tickets to drivers who had parked in taxi ranks across the city.

They are now calling on any of the motorists who paid a £30 fine for parking at a rank since February 2003 to come forward for a refund.

The admission comes less than a week after political campaigner and former 'Metric Martyr' Neil Herron claimed the entire parking-warden system in Sunderland is illegal because specific legal orders have not been made.

But council bosses have dismissed that claim, saying its whole parking system remains 'legally robust and valid', although it confessed it made an error with the taxi-rank enforcement.

The latest blunder has come to light after more investigations by Mr Herron, 42, of The Westlands, Barnes, who said the correct legal order to enforce parking restrictions in the taxi ranks, had not been put in place.

A Spokeswoman for the council said: "A number of penalty charge notices were issued incorrectly to motorists who were illegally parked in taxi ranks.

"Although parking in taxi ranks is illegal, it is not currently an offence for which a fixed penalty is applicable under the decriminalised parking enforcement system.

"As a result we will be taking steps to identify and reimburse the motorists concerned.

"We have identified that about 700 penalty charge notices were paid after being issued by parking attendants acting in good faith against drivers who were breaking the law and causing inconvenience to taxi drivers and the public by parking in clearly designated taxi ranks."

Phil Barrett, director of development and regeneration, the department responsible for enforcing parking restrictions, said: "Although the issue of these tickets was an error and is regrettable, it affected only a very small proportion of the 61,000 plus tickets issued since the decriminalised parking system came into force in February 2003.

"It is an anomaly relating to the implementation of just one aspect of the city's parking system.

"The decriminalised parking system itself remains legally robust and valid, ensuring the safe and efficient moving and parking of vehicles throughout the city for the benefit of public and businesses alike."

Mr Herron Said: "The question has to be asked why motorists should be having to beg for their money back when the council has acted unlawfully.

"They should've been refunded straight away. This is the tip of a large iceberg and heads will have to roll."

Coun Peter Wood, leader of the Conservative group on the council, said: "Proper parking arrangements are very important to keep traffic running smoothly.

"When the wheel comes off like this you really begin to loose faith in the people who are meant to be administering these schemes."

Anybody who thinks they may have been charged wrongly should contact the council, tel: 553 1521
Posted by Picasa

House of Cards ready to fall?

Sunderland City Council are now under serious pressure. The Newcastle Journal's reporters were working late last night pulling the story together...front page to follow shortly. Sunderland Echo runs front page as well.

Sunderland Council have been forced to admit that they do not have any traffic orders in place for the taxi ranks in the city...and also admit that they will have to pay back the money to the motorists.
Only 700 though.
Only 21,000 though.
Well, that is just the start of their problems and here is why.
They are aware that they accrued this money unlawfully...and if it is in their accounts then the accounts cannot be signed off.
...also, they have misled the Secretary of State by telling him that all the traffic orders were correct and in place in order to initiate the Special Parking Area Order which created the decriminalised regime.
I am reliably informed that Sunderland Council are not actively looking to refund the fact one of the officers said "How do you expect us to find the person who sent us a cheque?"
Quite simple.
Cross reference the ticket with the registered keeper details! That is what they do when they send the tickets out.
What a mess!

Drivers' Parking Ticket Victory

Drivers' Parking Ticket Victory
By Ross Smith (0191)201-6286

A Blundering North council is being forced to refund £21,000 in parking fines after admitting it failed to put proper rules in place.

Sunderland Council last night confessed legal orders necessary to fine people for parking in taxi ranks had not been correctly implemented.

That means 700 parking tickets handed out for the offence since 2003 are invalid.

The council is now asking anyone who has paid a £30 fine for parking on a taxi rank to get in touch for a refund.

The news comes days after The Journal revealed claims that all parking tickets within Sunderland City Centre could be invalid due to the absence of proper legal orders.

The council insists that is not the case but has admitted the error relating to taxi ranks.

Director of development and regeneration Phil Barrett said: "Although the issue of these tickets was an error and is regrettable, it affected only a very small proportion of the 61,000 plus tickets issued since the decriminalised parking system came into force in February 2003.

"It is an anomaly relating to the implementation of just one aspect of the city's parking system.

"The decriminalised parking system itself remains legally robust and valid, ensuring the safe and efficient moving and parking of vehicles throughout the city for the benefit of public and businesses alike."

The council is now taking steps to correct the error. It said that parking on the city's 14 taxi ranks is illegal - but that traffic wardens currently have no power to hand out fixed penalties.

Last night, political campaigner Neil Herron, who raised the claims about the absence of parking orders, said: "I think this is the tip of a very large iceberg which is about to be uncovered."

Conservative group leader on the council Peter Wood said: "Proper parking arrangements are clearly important in the city to keep traffic running smoothly.

"When the wheel comes off like this, then really you begin to lose faith in the people who are meant to be administering these schemes."

Anyone who thinks they are entitled to a refund should call (0191) 553-1521.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Advice on setting up Traffic Regulation Orders

Perhaps Sunderland Council should visit Bath and North East Somerset's website and find what is required to create the correct, and legal, parking regimes.

Driven out by traffic wardens

Driven out by traffic wardens
Sunderland Echo
27th July 2005

AN angry shop owner says over-zealous traffic wardens have forced him to close his store after just one month.

Shoppers in Sunderland will have one less store to choose from when Beat The High Street shuts for good after its stock is sold off.Owner John Finn has put a big sign in the window of his furniture shop on High Street West, spelling out to customers and Sunderland Council – in no uncertain terms – his reasons for jacking in the business so soon after opening.The home-made sign reads: "Due to traffic wardens. Closing down. Goods less than cost. Nice one Sunderland.

"Mr Finn, from Hetton, told the Echo that customers and delivery drivers had been ticketed incessantly, without any leniency or common sense to allow for loading and unloading bulky goods at the store."The wardens are like breeding ants," he said. "When you get any deliveries they're straight out to the lorries issuing tickets."

Mr Finn said a female customer was left in tears last week after she was ticketed while a wardrobe she purchased was being brought from the shop's third floor, because he claimed the warden said there was no evidence of goods being loaded.

Mr Finn said he had had enough after watching wardens at work near the shop on Friday, and estimated they collected £2,000-worth of parking fines."They didn't give anybody any time to do anything. They just waited around the corner."He added: "They must be on commission to go to this extreme. "And they're absolutely over the moon when they give out a ticket. It's disgusting. "I told one that they were scaring people away from shopping in Sunderland – and they just laughed."

Mr Finn said his premises, which used to be a chippie, will stay empty and he will move to a retail park site."We've definitely finished here. And under no circumstances would I ever have a place in Sunderland city centre again."This is not about safety, it's purely a money-making scheme."

Traffic wardens are run by National Car Parks (NCP), on contract from the council. A council spokesman said: "Parking restrictions are in place in the interests of road safety and reduction of traffic congestion to make life easier and safer for pedestrians and road users alike, not to penalize business. "A well-managed road system contributes to the vitality of the city centre."He added: "Waiting restrictions are in place which allow loading and unloading for shops in High Street West, and there is also ample car parking spaces nearby for customers."

SINCE Sunderland traffic wardens were "privatised" in 2003 there has been a barrage of complaints from motorists, many highlighted in the Echo.They include amputee Harry Dixon, from Newbottle, who was given a ticket because his disabled badge "was on the wrong way round," according to parking chiefs.

A photographer, who had a "wedding party" sign in his car, got a ticket while he was filming nuptials at Sunderland Minster.

And Vision Bar, on Green Terrace, had its unique Smart car ticked three times while it was parked to be auctioned off for the Grace House Hospice Appeal.
27 July 2005

Monday, August 15, 2005

Sunderland Parking Regime About to Go Into Freefall

The telephone hasn't stopped all day. Businesses who have suffered from the Sunderland Council / NCP Draconian parking regime wanting information...AND disclosing further evidence of breaches and malpractice.

One call was from a Traffic Warden whistleblower. It was disclosed that a separate issue involved tickets issued on taxi ranks. Not only did Sunderland City Council not have a Controlled Parking Zone Order in place, but they did not, and still do not, have any Traffic Orders in place for any of the taxi ranks over the whole of Sunderland. They became aware of this in December of 2004...and 8,000 people had been ticketed since February 2003.
Not one person has been offered a refund.
Meetings were held between Sunderland City Council and NCP and the matter 'hushed up.' This does mean however, that the Council officials are fully aware that they have items of unlawful income in the City's accounts which now cannot be signed off by the District Auditor. The sum involved will be at least £240,000.
I am sure that there are going to be 8,000 seriously angry people...and that is before the whole house of cards falls!
Whispers have it that the gallows are being prepared.

Parking Tickets Could be Illegal

The following story made front page of Saturday's Newcastle Journal. The implications are enormous. Sunderland City Council have created a parking regime for the city centre without legislative authority. This means that NCP are enforcing a regime and issuing tickets unlawfully. The Council's accounts cannot be signed off if there are unlawful items of income, and the District Auditor will be forced to investigate.
Traders in the city whose businesses have been seriously affected by the Draconian enforcement regime may have a case for a class action, or could withold their business rates. This could be replicated across the country.
What we are witnessing with all of these de-criminalised regimes is the arrogance of office and a regime created simply to raise revenue...most of which goes as profit for private companies. Revenue is not reinvested in the towns and cities to create more, or upgrade parking facilities.
This is the beginning of the people fighting back.


Campaigner says he has found a loophole

By Ross Smith

PARKING tickets issued in the North's biggest city could be illegal,
according to investigations by a prominent political campaigner.

Activist Neil Herron believes he has found a loophole which will invalidate
all fines in Sunderland city centre.

He is gambling more than £1,000 of his own money to prove his case, by
refusing to pay for 27 tickets dating back to March. It could mean that
parking tickets dating back as far as 2003 in the city are illegal.

Mr Herron came across the potential anomaly in the city's parking regime
while investigating the judgment against him in the Metric Martyrs case.

Sunderland Council has set up a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) around the
city centre. It means road signs are placed on the perimeter warning
motorists they are entering the zone, and explaining the waiting
restrictions within it.

But the council has never put in place a Controlled Parking Zone Order to
enact the zone - which Mr Herron believes renders it, and all parking
tickets within it, invalid.

The council insists that is not the case, and that other legal orders make
the zone effective.

A letter to Mr Herron from Sunderland City solicitor Bob Rayner said: "Your
premise that there should have been an order declaring a CPZ is incorrect."

But the Department for Transport last night appeared to contradict Mr

A spokeswoman told The Journal: "We wouldn't comment on an individual case.
Parking restrictions are a matter for local authorities.

"But the general policy is that to introduce a Controlled Parking Zone,
local authorities need a Controlled Parking Zone Order, as set out in the
Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984."

Mr Herron said: "I'm not going to pay the fines because I do believe
Sunderland Council haven't got the necessary traffic regulations in place
to implement its regime.

"If they're that confident of the ground they're on, then I invite them to
come after me.

"But I have 27 tickets and haven't heard from them yet."

A Sunderland Council spokesman said: "Waiting restrictions are introduced
with powers contained within the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. A
restricted area is commonly known as a Controlled Parking Zone. This,
however, is an engineering, not legal term and describes an area in which
all roads are subject to waiting restrictions introduced by various traffic
regulation orders in the interests of road safety and reducing congestion."

'Martyr' who found a new cause
By Ross Smith

NEIL Herron began campaigning against car park tickets as a result of the
judgment in the so-called Metric Martyrs case, in which he and a group of
Sunderland traders were prosecuted for using imperial weights and measures.

The ruling said that certain acts of Parliament - including the 1689 Bill
of Rights -had primacy over other legislation, unless its measures were
specifically repealed.

The Bill of Rights says citizens cannot be fined without being convicted -
but parking fines administered by councils offer no option to go to court.

Mr Herron began collecting parking tickets in a bid to prove his case.

It was during the course of his investigations that Mr Herron found that a
specific CPZ Order was not in place in Sunderland.

The zone covers an area from Silksworth Road in the north-west of the city
centre, to Sans Street in the north-east, West Lawrence Street in the
south-east and the Park Lane interchange in the south-west.

Signs explaining to motorists that they are entering a CPZ and that waiting
is prohibited between 8am and 6pm on Mondays to Saturdays are displayed on
its perimeter.

The council says it has linked various localised parking regulations
through a consolidated order, made in 2003. But Mr Herron claims that,
without a specific order declaring a CPZ, individual signs must be placed
on each street where there are parking restrictions. Without them, fines
are not valid, he believes.

Ross Smith
Regional Affairs Correspondent
The Journal

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Parking: Press Notice Houses of Parliament

Transport Committee


Finding a Space for Parking Policy

The Government’s transport strategy gives little priority to parking policy, yet most drivers have experienced difficulties finding a place to park at some point, and increasing numbers of local authorities have applied to the Secretary of State for powers to take over aspects of parking enforcement from the police.

About a third of local authorities in the UK have adopted decriminalized parking enforcement since the mid-1990s, and parking fines raised nearly £1 billion in 2004. Surpluses generated by parking fines can be kept by the local authority for transport related spending. More flexibility on how the surplus could be spent was introduced with the Transport Management Act 2004. Concerns have been raised over the standard of enforcement activity undertaken by some councils and contractors, in particular there have been suggestions that wheel clamping has been used inappropriately, and that the surpluses that can be raised through parking enforcement have become the main motivation for local authority parking control.

The former Transport Committee in its report on Traffic Law and Enforcement recommended that the Government issue guidance to local authorities about the civil enforcement of traffic contraventions. It advised that this guidance should ensure proportionality in enforcement and proper discretion in applying measures. As more local authorities adopt decriminalized parking enforcement there is a risk that public perception of parking may deteriorate if action is not taken to promote the legitimacy of parking control and transparency in the way orders are enforced.

In light of these developments, the Transport Committee has decided to inquire into the current effectiveness of parking provision and enforcement policy. In particular, the Committee wishes to examine:

• Are local authorities carrying out parking control reasonably, fairly and accountably? How is performance evaluated?

• What action would raise the standard of parking enforcement activity? Is Statutory Guidance needed to promote consistency?

• Is the appeals process fair and effective? How could it be improved?

• Is it appropriate that local authorities should keep the revenue generated from parking fines?
Is there any evidence that the opportunity to raise revenue through decriminalized parking enforcement has inappropriately influenced authorities’ parking policy and enforcement activity?

• What criteria should be used to determine the level of parking provision that should be provided?

• What are the wider impacts of current parking policy and illegally parked vehicles?

• What role should parking policy play in traffic management and demand management?

• How can public understanding and acceptance of the need for parking policy be achieved?

Interested parties are invited to submit written memoranda to the Committee before Monday 3 October 2005.

Memoranda should be a maximum of 6 A4 pages in length.

Please submit a single hard copy of your memorandum by post to the above address, and an electronic version preferably by e-mail to or alternatively on a disk with the hard copy. If you are unable to submit an electronic version of your memorandum, please take particular care to ensure that your submission is legible. All submissions should be final and complete; the Committee does not accept draft memoranda or subsequent amendments. Memoranda submitted to the Committee should be kept confidential until published by the Committee.

Press Notice 04/2005-06 9 August 2005

Dr John Patterson, Clerk of the Committee

© Parliamentary Copyright

Friday, August 12, 2005

Herron Convicted! Another can of worms opens

After coming back home to relax after an eventful holiday (full story here) there was a little surprise waiting for me...and another massive can of worms about to be opened.
I had moved house in July last year and sent off all necessary documentation to the relevant authorities, including my driving licence and vehicle registration document.
When taxing my vehicle this year it became apparent that the documents had not been returned by Swansea. Up until that point neither of the two documents had been required and therefore it was not apparent that they were missing.

Swansea were contacted. They had not received them. Replacements were arrranged. When my driving licence came back, there was a surprise... the licence had been endorsed with 3 penalty points and a £120 fine. I had been convicted in my absence.

The Newcastle Journal has not yet quite grasped the enormity of convicting people in their absence but you can read the Journal story here.

The letter has gone off to the Magistrates Court and can be read below...

The Westlands
11th August, 2005

The Listings Office
South East Northumberland Magistrates
NE22 2LX

Dear Sir / Madam,

Reference: Case Number 1924619

Driver Number: HERRO 603223 NA9GN

Further to telephone calls with Dot and Cathleen in your office of 10th August 2005 I would like to confirm the following before taking matters further.

On return from holiday my post contained my replacement driving licence, which had been returned by the DVLA in Swansea.
I had moved to the address above in July 2004 from 13 Peartree Mews, Ashbrooke, Sunderland.

All necessary and relevant authorities and utilities were notified at the time of the change of address, including the DVLA. My driving licence, along with my vehicle registration document was sent using ordinary post.

In July 2005 it became apparent when attempting to gather the paperwork to tax my vehicle (M3 NAH) that the registration document had not been returned, nor had my driving licence.

I made enquiries with DVLA. They had no record of receiving my documents. They informed me that many items of mail go missing every year and it was not their responsibility as it had been sent by ordinary post. I was advised to go to the DVLA centre at Gosforth to tax my vehicle and receive a replacement registration document. I also was forced to pay the £19 for a replacement licence.

I was somewhat amazed when I received my licence back. The licence had been endorsed.
The Convicting Court Code 2349 the DVLA identified as South East Northumberland Magistrates Court.
I was shocked to find that I had been convicted on 31st May 2005, fined £120 and now had three penalty points.

During the telephone conversation with Dot and Cathleen it transpired that a Notice of Intended Prosecution / Request for Information had been sent to the 13 Peartree Mews address. When no reply was forthcoming a Summons was sent to the same address.
When nothing came back regarding an alleged offence from 18th October 2004 it appears as though I have been convicted without any further attempts made to contact me.

What really concerns me is that this is a criminal matter and a court has convicted in my absence without establishing if any attempt have been made to contact me other than two letters sent to an address via ordinary post.
If there is reliance on ‘good service’ to mean that the Royal Mail, by virtue of the fact that they have not returned the mail to sender, have delivered the letters then I think this is an unacceptable state of affairs, especially in light of the number of items of mail which go missing every year. Reliance on such a flawed system as the sole basis for a subsequent case and conviction without ever establishing contact with the defendant I believe is a breach of my human rights.
Why was there no checks done of the Electoral Register which would have revealed the new address?
I could have been dead, in hospital, out of the country, incapacitated or one of many other scenarios.
It appears from information given to me by Sunderland Magistrates that every effort is made to trace a person once a fine has been levied, but the same resources are not used to find the person initially.

Just for clarification and information, I have detailed Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights below

Article 6
In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interests of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or to the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.
Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:
- a to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;
- b to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence;
- c to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;
- d to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;
- e to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.

I would therefore wish you to detail the procedures now available to me to have this matter brought before the courts.
I do wish to have the case re-heard, under section 142 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 I do believe, and would be grateful if you could provide me with the necessary forms and procedural guidelines to call the necessary witnesses.

For reference and information:

142. Power of magistrates' court to re-open cases to rectify mistakes etc.
(1) A magistrates' court may vary or rescind a sentence or other order imposed or made by it when dealing with an offender if it appears to the court to be in the interests of justice to do so; and it is hereby declared that this power extends to replacing a sentence or order which for any reason appears to be invalid by another which the court has power to impose or make. . . .
(2) Where a person is convicted by a magistrates' court and it subsequently appears to the court that it would be in the interests of justice that the case should be heard again by different justices, the court may so direct.

I would also be grateful if you could provide me with the necessary legislative definition of ‘good service’ which is taken into account by Magistrates or the Crown Prosecution Service with reference to items assumed to have been delivered by Royal Mail, as it goes against the grain of natural justice that a criminal conviction can be obtained on the basis of such scant evidence without ever establishing contact with the person alleged to have committed the offence.
I look forward to your response.
Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron

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