Motorists could demand the refund of more than £100m in parking fines, after what experts described as an “explosive” tribunal ruling left local government traffic officials in “absolute panic”.
Councils have handed over parking management to private companies, but in many instances have also asked them to handle any appeals against penalty charge notices (PCNs). This process is supposed to be handled by councils, partly because it would be a conflict of interest for a company to examine its own possible mistakes.
The Traffic Penalty Tribunal is the second point of appeal and an adjudicator, Christopher Nicholls, has spelled out that council contractors must not be left to process PCN objections. His ruling stated: “I find that no reasonable local authority could have concluded this contract met the terms of its regulatory and public law duties.”
As a result, 13 motorists in Gloucestershire were awarded their parking fines and costs after their initial appeals were turned down by the county council’s contractor, Apcoa. The motorists were repaid sums ranging from £42.50 to £155.67.
The decision has widespread implications for people who may have been incorrectly fined.
Barrie Segal, who has acted for tens of thousands of angry motorists complaining about fines through his Appeal Now campaign, “conservatively” estimated that incorrectly issued fines are worth around £30m annually. He believes those who did not pursue their fines after the first rejection could claim back well over £100m, going back five years.
13 laws you didn't know you were breaking
13 laws you didn't know you were breaking
1/13 1. Salmon handling
It's illegal to handle salmon in suspicious circumstances, according to the Salmon Act of 1986. While this is clearly related to selling fish gained through illicit means, the law is oddly broad in its wording
Thomas D Mangelsen/The Masters of Nature Photography/Natural History Museum
2/13 2. Unattended alarms
It is an offence under a provision of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 to leave your property with a burglar alarm activated unless you have named a “key-holder” responsible for shutting it off if you are away
20th Century Fox
3/13 3. Queue jumping
Shoppers queue in the early morning outside Selfridges department store in central London in search of a bargain in the post Christmas Boxing Day sales
4/13 4. Lane hogging
Last year the roads safety minister Stephen Hammond warned that drivers who hogged the middle lane of motorways, drove while using their mobile phones or tailgated other road users faced on the spot fines and three points on their licence
5/13 5. Mat shaking
Many rules brought in by the Metropolitan Police Act 1839 have since been repealed or revised by newer laws. One which hasn’t, however, makes it illegal to beat or shake any carpet rug or mat in any street in the Metropolitan Police District
6/13 6. Washing lines
Also under the Metropolitan Police Act 1839, it is illegal to erect a washing line across any “thoroughfares” in the city
7/13 7. Door knocking
Seen by many as a harmless (if annoying) children’s game, knocking on someone’s door and running away is actually illegal under the 1839 law. It makes it an offence to 'wilfully and wantonly disturb any inhabitant by pulling or ringing any door-bell or knocking at any door without lawful excuse'
8/13 8. Singing in the street
Again under the Metropolitan Police Act 1839, it is illegal to “sing any profane, indecent, or obscene song or ballad” in the street. Bad news for stag parties and football fans, then
9/13 9. Being drunk in the pub
This often-cited law strictly-speaking actually makes it illegal for the owner or manager of a licensed premises to “permit drunkenness or other disorderly conduct” – meaning it is not an offence to be that drunk person yourself. It is, however, illegal to buy a drink for someone who is drunk
10/13 10. Bad references
It is sometimes said that it is illegal for an employer to give a bad reference – meaning many will simply decline to provide one. Though this isn’t strictly the case, a false bad reference is considered libellous – so employers need to be prepared to back up their words in court
11/13 11. TV licences
The law states that you don’t need a TV licence if you use your TV only to watch DVDs, play video games or use ‘catch-up’ services. But if you stream anything live at the time it is broadcast – even if it is on a laptop and you don’t own a TV at all – you’re breaking the law
12/13 12. Horn misuse
The police are very clear on this –according to their explanation of the rules, “a horn should only be used when warning someone of danger, not to indicate your annoyance at a manner of driving”
13/13 13. Tax discs
As of 1 October, it will be illegal to 'transfer' car tax when buying a second-hand vehicle. Anyone who fails to immediately tell the DVLA when they sell their car could face fines of up to £1,000
If the sums are correct it would amount to a major dent in a lucrative source of revenue for councils, which have suffered from spending cuts since the coalition took power. In 2012-13, councils raked in £353m in parking fines, up nearly 12 per cent on 2010-11. Critics claim councils are using these penalties as a revenue-raising measure.
“This decision is absolutely explosive in terms of catching out the councils,” said Mr Segal. “Clearly, councils are ignoring their responsibilities and the decision sets out that this is completely wrong.” A parking appeals officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “There has been absolute panic – people are going: ‘Oh my God, we might have to hand all this [the fines] back.’”
Solicitor Richard Auton, of Walker Morris, said councils “may have to have a good look at what they have done” in their contracts with parking contractors, and that legislation “does not say they can give authority for appeals to anybody else”.
A Gloucestershire council spokesman said: “Following the decision of the tribunal, the council has implemented the tribunal’s recommendations and apologised to the motorists involved … [This is] a perfect exposition of the law, including the statutory duty, common law duty and public duty.”
A spokesman for Apcoa said: “Naturally, as a private contractor, Apcoa operates within the guidelines set by the British Parking Association, and are compliant with the Traffic Management Act 2004.”Reuse content