Thousands of car park fines are cancelled by council

Fremington man Tony Wood won an appeal after spending three months fighting a parking fine. Fremington man Tony Wood won an appeal after spending three months fighting a parking fine.

Thursday, June 12, 2014
8:00 AM

More than a fifth of tickets overturned by North Devon Council in last three years.

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MORE than 4,000 car parking fines have been cancelled by North Devon Council in the last three years, the Gazette can reveal.

Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request show that, in 2011-12 and 2012-13, around a quarter of Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) issued in council-run car parks around the district were struck off.

Last year, the figure dropped to 15 per cent.

Of the 6,097 tickets issued in 2011-12, 1,486 were cancelled. A total of 6,289 were issued in 2012-13, 1,601 of which were overturned.

More tickets were issued in 2013-14 (6,395) but fewer were overturned (988).

Of the 16 reasons given for cancellation, the vast majority of tickets were cancelled in cases where motorists could prove they had purchased a valid ticket (79 per cent in 2011-12; 73 per cent in 2012-13; and 59 per cent in 2013-14).

Other reasons listed include ‘mitigating circumstances’; ‘medical emergency’; ‘machine fault’; and ‘valid permit’.

The council said each case was looked at on an individual basis and discretion used to decide whether the PCN should be waived, depending on ‘evidence provided and extenuating circumstances’.

But last month, the authority was told to review its procedures after Fremington man Tony Wood won a three-month battle to contest a parking ticket issued in Barnstaple’s Cattle Market car park in February.

Mr Wood had 20 minutes remaining on his ticket but was issued a PCN after his ticket blew over on his dashboard.

The fine was eventually waived by the council after he appealed to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal.

Adjudicator John Parker criticised the council’s ‘inflexible policy’ and said Mr Woods’s case was not given ‘proper, informed consideration’ by the council.

Mr Wood said: “The council spent a lot of time and money dealing with something that could have been dealt with at the outset.

“They knew very well that they were going to lose but still went ahead with it.

“I would encourage anyone to do the same – it might take a bit of time but at least you will get justice.”

Meanwhile, holidaymaker Steve Burgess, whose valid ticket was blown off his dashboard on Ilfracombe Quay, was not as fortunate.

Mr Burgess, from Caerleon in South Wales, contacted the Gazette to air his ‘disgust’ at the treatment he received when trying to appeal a car parking fine.

He said a letter he wrote to the district council appealing the fine was not even acknowledged.

“There are clearly discretionary grounds for cancelling the charge but I felt I was bullied into paying it because if you don’t pay up and go to appeal you may end up paying double the amount,” said Mr Burgess, who was visiting North Devon with his wife to help him recover from a lengthy bout of chemotherapy treatment.

“I have paid the charge because I felt I had no option, but I would really like to get an explanation as to why this discretionary power to cancel the penalty charge was rejected in my case.

“I believe this is a very poor way to treat a visitor to the area who has really done nothing wrong. I can totally understand why people don’t return to the area.”

Diana Hill, the council’s head of property and technical services, said a PCN is issued for non-display rather than for not having purchased a ticket.

“We would like to remind drivers to please check that their parking tickets are clearly displayed before they leave their vehicles,” she said.

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