Millions of parking tickets are issued in the UK each year, presenting a valuable revenue-gathering opportunity for local authorities.
The reason for the huge amount of these universally-loathed forms of traffic control is the decriminalisation of parking tickets in the 1990s. Previously, parking tickets were a criminal matter and parking offences were enforced through the magistrates’ courts. Today, the police retain the power to issue parking tickets, but the overwhelming majority are issued by local authorities as a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN). Consequently, most parking attendants are employed by the council rather than the police.
PCNs are given for many reasons—parking on double yellow lines, parking in restricted areas, overstaying loading times or simply not displaying a valid ticket properly.
Usually, motorists have 28 days to either pay the charge or challenge the PCN. If they choose to pay within 14 days (21 days for those caught on camera), the amount is reduced by 50 per cent.
The bureaucracy involved in appealing them, the fact that the fine doubles if they are not paid on time, and the fact that they are pitched at a reasonably affordable level of about £60, leads the vast majority to pay up without grumble even where they think the ticket is unfair. Consequently, only about one per cent of parking tickets are challenged each year. Most people simply can’t be bothered with the trouble of lodging an appeal.
However, it is possible to challenge parking tickets and win. In fact, half of all contested parking tickets are dropped, according to some sources.
Reasons for appealing the ticket include: the date, time, location or vehicle description is not correct; it is not the ticket recipient’s car; there were medical reasons, for example, that the driver had to be rushed to hospital; or that the road signs weren’t clear, for example, that they were partly or totally obscured by trees.
However, parking enforcement laws are fairly strict. The parking attendant has no duty to give motorists a few minutes grace when their time is up, they can ticket you immediately. Similarly, if you park and then find you have no change for the ticket machine, then that is your bad luck. There is no obligation on the part of parking attendants to allow motorists to go to a nearby shop to get the correct change.
If you believe you have been given a ticket unfairly, you may want to return to the scene of the issue, and gather as much evidence as you can. For example, are there any faded or misleading signs? If you see a council parking attendant approaching with a ticket, and you manage to drive off before they can stick the ticket on your car, then you will be able to have the ticket cancelled. The ticket must be either handed to the driver or fixed to the vehicle in order to be valid. However, this does not apply if the ticket is issued by the police or a police-controlled traffic warden.
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