How to challenge a parking fine
THEY are the bane of any professional driver’s life: the yellow ticket stuck to your windscreen. It’s frustrating, costs pointless money, and involves you in unnecessary paperwork.
We’re talking here about the PCN – or Penalty Charge Notice (a ‘parking ticket’ to you and me). It’s always deeply annoying, while remonstrating with the person in the uniform fixing the yellow bill to your windscreen won’t help.
But as a professional driver, you should be able to recognise the tell-tale signs of an invalid PCN, which has the potential to save you money. But what should you do – apart from wanting to kick the car or punch the parking attendant (sorry, Civil Enforcement Officer), neither of which is advisable.
Anton Balkitis and Lucy Wood are specialist transport solicitors at law firm Rothera Dowson Solicitors and experts in this field. They suggest that before you get back behind the wheel, you should check the area for parking signage.
“Is there any? If so, is it clear, easy to spot, in a good state of repair?” says Anton. “If not, there’s a possibility that in the eyes of the law the contravention did not occur. You should also try and get photographic evidence – the camera in your mobile will do - if the sign is misleading or illegible due to vandalism for example. If you don’t do this, you won’t stand a chance of challenging the fine.”
Lucy adds: “Another way to find out whether or not the PCN is valid is by checking if it has been filled out correctly. It should list the reason that it was given, the amount of fine to be paid, the deadline for payment, a reduced fee amount for payment within 14 days, a statement of notice if the fine is not paid within 28 days, and lastly a return address. If it is missing any of these details, you have legal grounds to appeal as the ticket is invalid.”
Challenging the parking ticket
Once the PCN has been issued the council will serve a ‘Notice to Owner’ to the business or owner of the vehicle. The Notice to Owner will contain a form that enables you to challenge the PCN, which the Local Authority either accepts or rejects. If it’s rejected, there are two options.
You can either pay the fine and get on with life; or appeal to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal. However, if you do appeal you’re likely to lose the reduced rate because this will have expired by the time the appeals process concludes.
Furthermore, if the appeal is rejected for a second time you’ll be billed for the full amount as opposed to the reduced sum. The Local Authority has the discretion to freeze the PCN at the lower rate until the appeal is resolved, and there’s no harm in asking. Some may do it automatically.
What happens next?
You as the vehicle owner – or the chauffeur or private hire business if they own the car - need to respond to the rejection within 28 days, either taking the decision to pay the fee or to make an appeal.
“If you don’t,” warns Anton, “the council is likely to take debt recovery steps, making it really important to have a procedure in place ensuring PCNs don’t end up at the bottom of a pile of paperwork. It’s also worth remembering that once a fine is paid, the option to appeal is retracted as this is considered an admission of guilt.”
Lucy adds: “The key to winning an appeal is supporting evidence: obtain photographs of signage, road markings (or lack of them), and particularly important for courier taxi drivers, a delivery receipt or witness statement if you received a ticket while making a delivery. The tribunal is sometimes more lenient if there are mitigating circumstances that attributed in some way to the PCN, so include these in the appeal.”
Anton continues: “The Traffic Penalty Tribunal is the last chance to get the PCN overturned, so make sure as much supporting evidence has been gathered before filing an appeal. If you fail at this stage it’s usually a good indication that you should pay the fine and get on with life. Pursuing it further will be time-consuming and may incur legal costs.”
Of course, if you do succeed in appealing your PCN, you get that nice warm feeling of keeping cash in the bank and the glory of winning a small victory in the PCN war: professional driver, one, parking attendant, nil.