That horrible moment when you return to your car, van or bike and find that nasty little penalty charge notice on your vehicle is every road user’s nightmare. Particularly, if you know that you didn’t do anything wrong. So how do you fight a parking ticket?
First of all, before you leave the scene – gather evidence using your smartphone. Take photos of the vehicle’s position, line markings, broken parking meters, nearby road signs and road markings. An absence of road markings and signs can also contribute to your innocence so carefully photograph the scene. Signs can be invalid if information on them is wrong. Check if there are any CCTV cameras nearby and ask for copies of the tapes from the camera owners, likely to be the local council!!!
Documents will back you up
Keep all paperwork and send copies to the council, for instance, parking tickets to prove the time you were at the scene. Any documentation that backs up your claim is useful. Another example, is if you were on holiday while bays outside your home or office were suspended you can provide your travel documents as evidence of your inability to know about the changes. Just make sure that signs were not put up warning of the suspensions prior to your absence. If your car was stolen then dumped somewhere and it got a penalty notice then, do give the council the crime reference number and police paperwork to prove you reported it lost/stolen. Perhaps passengers or witnesses can corroborate your story so you record the details and ask them to sign it with their contact information. Don’t pay the fine and then expect to be able to appeal as once you've paid you're considered to have admitted liability.
If you’ve been clamped or towed away, you will have to pay the fine to get your car back. This doesn’t mean that you are admitting any fault and you can still continue your appeal. If you don’t pay for your car to be de-clamped then it will be towed away and the costs to you will increase. Impounded vehicles create daily costs so do deal with the issue promptly.
If you pay a fine within 14 days you can usually pay half of it. But be sure that you are in the right as if you appeal the fine your case won’t be dealt with in a fortnight and you might end up having to pay the whole amount. In your appeal ask for this to be taken into account in case you lose as the success rate at tribunal stages is only 50%.
Types of penalties
Check who has issued the penalty notice. It could be the local council, Transport for London, the police or a private company. A Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) is issued by the local council or Transport for London when you have parked on public land. The police issue a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) and a Parking Charge Notice is issued by private companies.
These tickets operate under civil or criminal law depending on who issued them. Unfortunately, criminal tickets are much harder to successfully appeal. Check with whoever issued the notice to ascertain if it is civil or criminal so that you can follow the right procedures. Usually it’s a similar process and any differences often relate to timescales, correspondence and fine levels.
There are nine official grounds for appealing against civil penalties:
- The contravention did not occur – the traffic warden was wrong! This is when signs, markings etc work in your favour.
- The penalty exceeded the amount applicable in the circumstances of the case – you were overcharged.
- The relevant Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) is invalid – new restrictions have been implemented without proper procedures being adhered to. This is much less common.
- The council made a procedural impropriety – they screwed up by making an administrative error such as failing to include all the necessary information on tickets.
- You didn’t own the vehicle when the offence is alleged to have taken place. Be prepared to provide all copies of the log book or dealer receipt and proof that you informed the DVLA of change in ownership.
- The owner of the vehicle is a vehicle hire firm and the vehicle was on hire under a qualifying hiring agreement.
- The vehicle was stolen from you and you will need to provide proof that you notified the police, as above.
- The penalty has already been paid and on time.
- There may be some mitigating circumstances such as illness or bereavement or motor breakdown. Perhaps you were taken ill and were unable to return to collect your car. In these cases you will need to provide proof. Discretion does play a major role in appealing parking fines. for instance, if you were fined within three minutes of paid parking expiring. If you have financial difficulties and can prove this then you can also offer this up in your defence.
How to appeal
Send a copy of the notice to the issuer, along with copies of your evidence and a letter stating very clearly and factually why you are appealing the notice. The notice should give you instructions of how to appeal. Ensure you send the letter quickly and include the PCN number and your vehicle reg no.
You may be lucky and win at this point but you may not and then if you wish to persist you will need to take it to the next stage which is more formal. Don't continue unless you are 100% sure you are in the right. If you haven't paid the fee you will receive a Notice to Owner form and this again asks for the fine to be paid but also acts as a formal appeals form. At this point you have 28 days to pay or appeal using the formal appeals form. If you do appeal then make sure you include all your evidence and if you have been unable to obtain CCTV footage you can ask for this to be viewed.
Following this your appeal is either upheld or rejected. If it is rejected there is one third and final stage. You will be sent a Notice of Rejection of Representations letter and then a form called the Notice of Appeal. You complete and send this form so that you can challenge the ticket at an independent tribunal. There are four bodies which hear tribunals based on location; England and Wales, Scotland, London and Northern Ireland.
It is not like a court hearing and you are not required to attend. An independent adjudicator resides over the case and will give an immediate judgement. There are four possible outcomes; you win, you lose and have to pay the penalty within 28 days, the appeal is adjourned as the adjudicator needs more information or the appeal is dismissed and the adjudicator believes the penalty should not be paid, often due to mitigating circumstances. If you lose then the case is closed and it can go no further, unless there are special circumstances but this will often involve considerable legal fees. PenaltyChargeNotice.co.uk can give your further help and advice.