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A good result but the process was not entirely satisfactory

Our correspondent writes ...

If you have arrived at this page after reading our article about traffic wardens, then I have to start with a confession. The lady in question is, in fact, my mother-in-law. She, like many other victims, would have paid the parking penalty at the reduced rate even though she knew she had been deliberately targeted by the traffic warden who issued the PCN.

That's what happens in most cases because most people who are unfairly caught feel it will be a complete waste of time appealing to the local authority. And, as we found out, appealing to Bexley certainly was a waste of time. The traffic warden lied, the council's parking staff lied, they went out of their way to be obstructive at every stage so an appeal to PATAS was the only remaining option.

Naturally, local authorities know most people are scared to appeal so they continue to collect (often illegally) massive revenues from as many victims as possible. As an incentive to make you pay up, they quickly remind you that if you lose your appeal the penalty will be much higher. That alone should tell you the whole system stinks!

In this case, I convinced my mother-in-law that appealing was a matter of principle. The council staff may not have principles (as they frequently prove) but many other people do.

So our appeal to PATAS went ahead and the hearing was arranged for 8th September 2008.

I lodged a very hefty wad of defence papers to PATAS on 7th May and they sent copies of all the papers to Bexley Council about five days later. Local authorities are supposed to send a copy of their evidence to the appellant within three weeks but, despite repeated requests to Bexley, they did not send it until 3rd September, five days before the hearing in London. Worse, they sent it by 2nd class mail so it arrived on the Saturday morning giving me only two days to study it before the hearing on Monday morning!

When I studied the Bexley evidence pack it was full of untruths and went to great lengths to try and smear my name, i.e.

  1. "Confusion was caused by the appellant's representative repeatedly submitting correspondence to the Council outside of the statutory process."
  2. "The appellant's representative has gone to great lengths to subdivert the statutory process on numerous occasions."
  3. "The actions of the appellant's representative were in fact detrimental to her case."
  4. "The appellant's representative seeks to make spurious unsubstantiated claims against the Council that hold no relevance to the issue of the PCN." (twice)
  5. "The council will not be drawn to respond to such allegations by the vexatious and continued attempts of the appellant's representative."
  6. "The appellant's representative has yet to follow the correct procedure for addressing the non-PCN related aspects of their evidence submission despite guidance being provided." (Strange that I have a written response to an FOI request for this information saying it would be refused)
  7. "The Council maintains that it has followed correct and proper procedures despite the hindrances caused by the appellant's representative's continued sub-diversion tactics."
  8. "The appellant's representative's actions were actually becoming counter-productive to the appellant's case."

The word 'vexatious' was used several times in relation to my efforts to establish the truth but this is how public servants tend to react when an outsider tries to make them work for a living or justify their existence. They conveniently forget who is supposed to be working for who and who is paying their wages, and try to throw the blame back on the person who dares to challenge them. The fact is that employees of local authorities will never admit to their mistakes and they will lie through their teeth to cover up their incompetence. They know they will not be disciplined or dismissed and indeed another FOI request to Bexley Council revealed that only one contractor per annum was dismissed for failing to comply with any legal requirements that had an effect on the work they carried out on behalf of Bexley Council. No Bexley Council staff were ever disciplined or dismissed for failing to meet any regulatory or statutory requirements that applied to their jobs. This probably explains why the three main Bexley employees involved in the fraudulent extraction of parking penalties are still employed!

barnehurst cpz The hearing took place on 8th September and the PATAS adjudicator was Mr Carl Teper. In fairness to him, he went through my 'vast and far ranging' submission (his words) in depth and ultimately allowed my appeal. I had produced much evidence that yellow lines in the controlled parking zone did not meet statutory requirements and were therefore illegal. But the clincher was the missing sign at one of the entry points to the CPZ (click image right to see the larger picture). On the balance of probability, Mr Teper decided, the sign had been absent on the day of the alleged infringement.

As far as we can establish there never was more than one sign at this entry point so this means the whole CPZ was illegally operated by Bexley Council and revenue was gained by fraudulent means during all the years the CPZ has been in place.

The law clearly states that every CPZ entry point where the road is wider than 5 metres must have a sign on both sides of the road. This particular spot is the main road between Bexleyheath and Erith and is clearly wider than the stipulated dimension.

So we won the day but amazingly Mr Teper stated that he had allowed the appeal only because the sign was missing. If I had relied on evidence of the poor state of the yellow lines in the CPZ, he would have denied the appeal.

I find this statement is very unsatisfactory because Teper is effectively saying that motorists cannot break the law but local authorities can! The regulations relating to lines and signs are absolutely specific. They state that lines must be continuous, must meet certain width criteria, and must be properly terminated. There are no tolerances allowed so Bexley's efforts fail miserably. (if you missed the pictures on the other page click the link below to see them now)

Sorry, Mr Teper, but your statement was inexcusable.  You cannot have the enforcement agency breaking the laws they are supposed to be enforcing.

Of course, the adjudication procedure is funded by revenue from parking penalties so adjudicators do have a vested interest. They are also solicitors and regular visitors will already know how much I distrust solicitors!

When it was all over I received a letter from Greg Tippet, Bexley's Assistant Parking Manager, responding to an FOI request. I may publish this later but I thought it was worth mentioning here that the letter starts with the Council maintaining that the entry point sign was in place on the date of the alleged offence.

Some people just cannot stop lying!!

Visitors' comments:

Natasha of London writes:

I would like to congratulate you with your efforts concerning the PCN appeal. I have a PCN that was sent to me in the post, stating that the traffic warden did not have the opportunity to serve the ticket to me. This has naturally meant that I have missed my 14 days opportunity to pay this fine at the discounted rate. However, the PCN in question was issued as I apparently parked on a yellow line. This did in fact occur but was at 18.30 when usually single yellow line parking restrictions do not apply.
I want to appeal to PATAS as I believe this fine is illegal as there are no signs displayed that state parking restrictions are in force at any hour, on a single yellow line and I do not even have any photographic evidence from the council concerning this fine. Any advice would be be very helpful.

Editorial Comment:

If it's not too late, you should appeal to PATAS as the success rate is very high. Your PCN should have been accompanied with a photograph of your vehicle and the appropriate sign. However, don't assume that all yellow line restrictions end at 6:30pm - some are in force at different times of the day.
You should go back to the place you committed the infringement and check the signage and linage. Councils regularly abuse the parking regulations and wardens get away with murder unless people complain. Don't forget, most of them are on a bonus - despite what the council says.

"Many men stumble across the truth ... but most manage to pick themselves up and continue as if nothing had happened."

Winston S Churchill

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