Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Hospital Parking Fines - Damned Liberty!

The following story shows how emotive hospital parking enforcement is ... and the hospital Trust is very reluctant to disclose how many 'fines' were issued last year.  The staff, Unison, patients and visitors are right to express concern that a private parking company is going to see them as Parking Charge Notice fodder and the residents in adjacent areas will be brought into the fray with displacement parking.
Let's watch with interest as the landscape changes on 1st October with the introduction of keeper liability.
A new war on motorists is about to begin!

Parking fines at Sheffield hospital double

Sheffields Northern General Hospital increases parking fines for badly and wrongly parked vehicles in it's car park
FINES for parking in ‘prohibited areas’ around Sheffield’s hospitals are set to more than double - despite a chronic shortage of spaces.

Vehicles are clamped with a £25 release fee but from Monday, October 1, a new company, Liberty Parking Services, is taking over enforcement.
Although offending motorists will no longer find their cars clamped, the contractor will be issuing £60 parking tickets, reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.

Trade union Unison, which represents a large number of hospital staff, said there is particular concern at the Northern General Hospital in Fir Vale.
Charlie Carruth, regional organiser for the union, said: “This is a terrible proposal and will impact adversely on staff and patients and their visitors. £60 is a big fine, particularly as a so-called prohibited area could be parking slightly outside the parking bays, not blocking an access route.
“This deals with the symptoms but not the problem of insufficient car parking around the Northern General, which is what we should be looking at.
“This change will cause hardship to low-paid staff struggling to find an appropriate space.”
One Northern General worker, who declined to be named, said: “It’s a nightmare to park as things are and people sometimes end up parking in somewhere that isn’t a marked space because there is no alternative.
“Depending upon the time of your shift you sometimes can’t get here by public transport.”
Members of the public parking at the hospital criticised the huge increase in fines.
Jim Glasby, aged 64, from Darnall, who was visiting a relative, said: “It seems wrong. It can take a long while to find a space, sometimes I’ve driven around for 20 minutes.”
Fellow visitor Jacqueline Taylor, aged 55, a sales assistant from Gleadless, said: “It’s a ridiculous and disgusting increase. How can they justify it?”
Residents in surrounding areas feared the increased fines could mean even more people parking in their streets.
Farid Hussein, aged 40, a taxi driver who lives on Idsworth Road, close to the Northern General’s Barnsley Road entrance, said: “On weekdays, you often can’t find spaces outside your home as things are.
“This change could mean more people parking there for the hospital and will make life worse.”
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals was planning to tackle the shortage of spaces at the Northern General with a new multi-storey car park, but the plans have been put on hold due to shortage of funds.

The trust declined to say how much money has been raised through parking fines in the last year.
However, a spokesman said it has provided 200 additional car parking spaces at the Northern General over the last 12 months.
The new fines will apply at all the trust’s sites, which also include the Royal Hallamshire, Weston Park, Charles Clifford and the Jessop Wing.

Neil Thompson, the trust’s manager for hotel services, said: “There are some people who simply choose not to park responsibly, don’t pay and in some cases even block access for emergency vehicles.
“Therefore, some means of enforcement is essential. We will have an appeal process in place with an independent arbitrator if needed.
“Signs will be put up before October 1 in all car parks to provide information about the changes.
“Money from fines will be reinvested into NHS care.”

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Shakespearean Tragedy set to Unfold for Parking Authorities Across the Land

3(2)(b) or not (2)(b) (i) is the question!
....3(2)(b), or not (2)(b) – that is the question!

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune, 
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles

Well, that was Hamlet’s soliloquy but Lancashire County Council is set to suffer slings and arrows of its own outrageous misfortune and the question is whether it will take arms using public money against its sea of troubles.

In their case 3(2)(b) or not 3(2)(b) … (i) is the question!

Whilst Shakespeare may not appeal to the masses a council Penalty Charge Notice blunder certainly will.

Quick to issue tickets to motorists for the most minor of contraventions, there aren’t many who will have much sympathy for councils who get it wrong and then try and plead the same whilst shedding crocodile tears.  Rules are rules an errant motorist is told when a minute late back to a meter or an inch over a line.

Well, ‘rules are rules’ also applies to councils who are required by law to comply strictly with Regulations to ensure that all of the necessary statutory information is conveyed to a motorist via the wording on their Penalty Charge Notices to ensure that they, the motorists, can pay the penalty or appeal if they choose without suffering any prejudice.
In the case of PCNs issued by Lancashire County Council it isn’t possible to discover any statement on them that provides the mandatory PCN information required by regulation 3(2)(b)(i) of the The Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) General Regulations 2007. 
A challenge to their PCNs has been brought to the attention of the High Court by Bolton motorist, Charlie Oakes, after he had his appeal against the validity of his Lancashire PCN rejected by Parking Adjudicator Stephen Knapp at a Traffic Penalty Tribunal hearing.  Charlie, pictured below with his PCN, was aggrieved especially as he was aware that other adjudicators have decided that nearly-identical PCNs were defective.

When he applied for Judicial Review of Mr Knapp’s decision the High Court agreed that there is a case to be answered.  Permission to proceed was granted by HH Judge Stephen Stewart QC on 30th August 2012. 

Charlie Oakes

Judge Stewart stated: “Permission is granted on the basis that the challenge cannot be said to be unarguable, since as Mr Knapp recognised, ‘other adjudicators considering this point have reached different conclusions some of which agree with the proposition put forward in this appeal.”’

Suspension of all parking appeals across the country by councils with similarly-worded PCNS

The National Motorists Action Group is taking a close interest in this case as the implications are far reaching and are a mirror of a similar case in 2006 after a Mr Moses challenged the London Borough of Barnet PCN over the incompletecontent of his PCN.  The subsequent High Court challenge saw Barnet’s deficient PCNs declared to be ‘a nullity from which no financial liability could arise.’ Councils with similarly incorrectly worded PCNs were forced to write off £millions of unenforceable PCNs.

The fact that Permission for a Judicial Review has now been granted to Mr Oakes creates a dilemma for Lancashire County Council, for many other local authorities, and also for the Traffic Penalty Tribunal because to continue enforcing similar PCNs and conducting parking appeals that result from them in the light of a pending Judicial Review could lead to motorists being prejudiced and paying Penalties which may later be found to be invalid. To continue could now have very serious consequences for those council officers and adjudicators who may have chosen not to disclose this new development to penalty payers and to appellants.

Many councils have produced adequately-worded PCNs so there seems to be no excuse for those which haven’t.  3(2)(b)(i) or not 3(2)(b)(i) - that is the question and it may well be Lancashire County Council and other council’s tragedy of their own making.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Permission Granted for Judicial Review

A major parking law case supported by NMAG, has been granted permission for Judicial Review by the High Court in Manchester.

The case concerns standard wording on PCNs (Penalty Charge Notices) that was drafted years ago by the Joint Committee of England & Wales, PATROL and has been used ever since by most local authorities outside London.  If successful, the case will mean that literally millions of motorists may be due refunds of up to £70 per PCN wrongly enforced.

The Court has agreed that on the face of it, there is a case to answer that the wording on the PCNs doesn't convey the information that Parliament has explicitly stated must be on every ticket.

Watch this space for more information...