London in R320m fine flop
ALL IN VAIN: More than 350 000 fines may have been issued illegally by London councils.
LONDON, England - Thousands of road users might be let off the hook due because parking fines been wrongly issued. This is thanks to London local councils who “made up” signs not approved by government.
According to the London Daily Mail, the number of tickets being dished out by wardens has climbed significantly over the past few years with statistics showing that fines worth R1100 are being issued every 4.6 seconds.
People who have fallen victim usually found themselves parked in spaces that have been suspended for road works, but an investigation has found thousands of “suspended parking bay” notices have not been cleared with the Department for Transport (DfT).
In London alone almost 350 000 parking fines – totalling more than R320m – may have been unlawfully issued because of the invalid signs.
Caddick Davies motoring solicitor Neil Davies said: “From a legal perspective councils are on very shaky ground, because the signage they used is effectively made up. They may be relying on the fact many people don’t challenge parking notices.”
The DfT provides a ‘book’ of designs for road signs that authorities must follow, according to the Daily Mail.
The loophole stems from the fact that a template for a ‘suspended parking bay’ sign has never been produced, meaning councils must get each individual notice cleared by the DfT before it complies with traffic signs regulations.
The Daily Mail said “a typical London council suspends more than 1500 parking bays a month and at least 28 authorities did not apply for clearance for their signs before 2012.”
In January 2010, driver Suzanne Campbell took London’s Camden Council to the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service hearing after being ticketed in a suspended parking bay. Adjudicator Edward Houghton said: “In the absence of a compliant sign the vehicle was not in contravention and the appeal must be allowed.
“No doubt the council will give consideration to obtaining the Secretary of State’s authorisation.”
Sadly not everyone will be able to claim their money back as those who were fined years ago will lose out due to the 28-day appeal notice window.
Davies said “Both councils and the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service could use their discretion to hear historic appeals, adding: “There’s certainly a strong moral argument for councils to refund those monies.”
The Daily Mail also reported that a BBC investigation found a rush of applications for authorisation from London councils after the Campbell ruling, but at least 14 authorities still have no clearance.
During 2012, authorities raised over R5b from 6.8 million parking charges in 2012, but a quarter of those given out in 2011 were disputed and 39% of challengers won their appeals.