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.

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