By RAM Tracking on 1 May 2013
I think most people want to believe traffic wardens are doing something wrong, like giving tickets minutes before they actually should, or lurking around a corner waiting for you to leave a vehicle. Well in a weird way, it turns out this could be true.
Back in February the BBC reported that 350,000 parking fines may have been issued “unlawfully”. These fines, it seems, where issued by local council boroughs who had suspended certain parking areas for building work. This isn’t illegal, but to do this a council would normally have a sign approved by the Department of Transport. It turns out that many local boroughs were bypassing the DfT and printing the signs themselves. Anyone who used the “suspended” parking areas – usually company drivers making deliveries – often received a fine. A fine they probably shouldn’t have been allowed to receive.
Neil Davies, of Caddick Davies Solicitors said: "From a legal perspective councils are on very shaky ground, because the signage they used is effectively made up.”
These “unlawful” fines are costing businesses millions. In fact, Fleet operators could have saved an estimated £3 million in the first six months of 2012 by challenging parking fines in London, according to a Freight Transport Association (FTA) survey.
Businesses it seems are the most likely to be hit because they have to make deliveries. Finding space to park for a delivery is notoriously difficult in London. Geoff Wright, fleet services manager of Lloyds Pharmacy has said “Streets that were built in Victorian times were not designed for multi-drop deliveries five-and-a-half times a week”, and the FTA called the situation a “real problem”. Parking tickets are considered part and parcel of delivery making in London. The amount of money this costs is nothing short of ridiculous.
Kelly Fleet Services appeal about 85% of fines they receive and approximately 60% of those are overturned. Over the past five years it has saved £800,000. They are just one company of many.
It’s not just businesses that are being hit hard, it’s people too. So far, the offending councils have been able to get away with this because most normal people would not challenge a parking fine. Sometimes challenging a parking fine means you can lose your ability to pay the fine at the reduced rate. The challenging process can sometimes even take months. For many, the effort just isn’t worth it. When you look at these “unlawful” fines within this context, it’s clear that the local councils are taking advantage of people.
The BBC asked Richard Bentley, an ex-police officer and signing consultant, about the actions of these councils: "Each council is fully aware they have to apply to the secretary of state if they want to use signing that isn't set out within the regulations. It is astounding authorities ignore the very laws there to help them."
In 2010, Suzanne Campbell successfully appealed a ticket she had received in Camden. The judge ruled that the use of an unauthorised sign meant that the fine could not be upheld.
Since this ruling, local Boroughs have been trying harder to receive authorisation, with some succeeding and others not. As of February 2011, these are the Boroughs of London that still do not have authority to produce these signs: Greenwich, Southwark, Westminster, Barnet, Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Hillingdon, Kingston-upon-Thames, Merton, Redbridge, Sutton and Waltham Forest.
The first thing you should do is decide whether the parking fine might be legitimate or not. This sounds a little simple, but in some cases the driver is clearly at fault. Before you make a claim, think about your situation and whether you think you were or not.
Ideally you’ll want to consider the possible position you might be in when you’re actually parking. If you are not 100% confident that you are parking legally, take photographs of any signs and parking lines just to be safe. This will work as evidence if you later have to make a claim.
Another thing to consider when you park is the presence of CCTV. Because of advancements in technology and an increasing need for security CCTV is everywhere now. Since 2003 London has been operating one of the most advanced and sophisticated CCTV systems, just to monitor congestions charges. This system can be your ally in a parking ticket claim. Learn which company operated the CCTV in the area you received the fine. If CCTV can be used to prove someone is guilty, it can also be used to prove that someone is innocent.
If you are a driver for a company and you’re unsure what you should and shouldn’t be doing you could always request some training. Alternatively the company you work for could try approaching the local councils and explaining why you need to use the areas you’re being fined for. They may allow an exception for you. This might be possible if there are no available alternatives.
Most important of all though is to try and identify the local areas that you feel may be in breach of DfT regulations. You should take photographs, note locations, and report suspicious signs. If you make a claim and it turns out your council is unlawfully fining motorists, please identify local news services of this so that they can raise awareness.
This is worth doing even if you don’t live in London. If a handful of councils are prepared to do this in London, it would be safe to assume that many nationwide would do the same.
Haringey – one of the councils that now has authorisation to print suspended parking signs – has put together a resource on how to make a claim.