13 March 2014

The price of insolence, indolence or incompetence, is £236.35

The Adjudicator was not amused
Funny isn't it that motorists have to dance to the tune of the council, and their henchmen at NSL, as otherwise they end up in big trouble with the bailiff clamping a vehicle if a deadline is missed.

Somewhat arrogantly, perhaps, the council / NSL think they can ignore a tribunal. Whether it was deliberate or an accident Mr Mustard cannot say. He can only predict that if pressed they would say it was an administrative oversight for which, unless this blog comes to the attention of the parking manager and he asks NSL for the money, the taxpayer will bear the cost. This is another demonstration of how hard it is for the thin client side to effectively supervise a One Barnet contractor.

Here is what the adjudicator at PATAS had to say (and bear in mind how rare it is for costs to be awarded, a dozen times a year at most)

Mr G, the director of the Appellant company, appeared before me this morning in person. He had previously attended on 6 January 2014 when I made the following direction to the Council:

" The Council are to respond to the Appellants' submissions in his Notice of Appeal in writing and in particular address how and when they decided to start enforcing the contravention again and how they communicated this to the Appellant and other residents.  Further, they are to attend the adjourned hearing."

The Council has not responded and has not attended this hearing as directed. Mr G has submitted three sets of further correspondence and submissions - including as to the issue of costs - since the hearing in January and has clearly spent considerable time and effort in making his detailed arguments. I am unimpressed with the Council's failure to respond or to attend today as directed.

Given the abject failure by the Council, I assume that they no longer seek to contest this appeal and it is allowed.

In respect of Mr G's application costs, I note that, again, the Council has failed to respond.

Paragraph 13(1) in Part 2 of the Schedule to the Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) Representations and Appeals Regulations 2007 provides that the Adjudicator shall not normally make an order awarding costs and expenses, but may make such an order-
(a)    against a party (including an appellant who has withdrawn his appeal or an enforcement authority which has consented to an appeal being allowed) if he is of the opinion that that party has acted frivolously or vexatiously or that his conduct in making, pursuing or resisting an appeal was wholly unreasonable; or
(b)    against an enforcement authority where he considers that the disputed decision was wholly unreasonable.

I consider the conduct of the Enforcement Authority to have been wholly unreasonable and therefore, I do exercise my power to award costs in this appeal.

The Regulation cited above does not contain any provisions as to the rate to be awarded when an order for costs is made. There is no provision for loss of earnings. However, Adjudicators take as their guidance the Civil Procedure Rules as applied to Small Claims in the County Court. These allow for an award of £18 per hour for a litigant in person (i.e. one not represented by a lawyer) in respect of preparation for and attendance at any hearing, together with reasonable expenses actually incurred.

Mr G has limited his claim to £11.06 per hour and I therefore apply that rate to Mr G's claim. The Regulation limits any award to "the costs and expenses incurred by that other party in connection with the proceedings".

I consider the hours claimed by Mr G in his "Table of Expenses" served with his correspondence of 3 February 2013 to be reasonable.
Accordingly I make the following award:

Travel costs: £12.80
Postage etc costs: £24.47
Travel and Preparation Time:  18 hours @ £11.06 = £199.08

Total: £236.35

I therefore direct the Local Authority to pay Mr. G the above sum of £236.35 forthwith.

Things to note:

It is rare to see a council voluntarily turn up at PATAS. In the 40 times Mr Mustard has been to PATAS a local authority has only been in evidence once and the staff were from Haringey to learn what happens at an Appeal hearing. All they learnt from Mr Mustard's case, which co-incidentally was in front of the adjudicator who made the above decision, was that Barnet Council's agent NSL aren't very good at PCN enforcement, as he was granted his appeal within 5 minutes even after the adjudicator tried to stretch it out to make a bit of a show for the visitors from Haringey.

If you win your case and if the council have been unreasonable, perhaps for continuing to enforce at a location they know to be doubtful, the Saracens CPZ say, then you can apply for your costs in writing within 14 days of the Appeal hearing. Go for the full £18 per hour. You can only claim for your time from the moment that you receive the Notice of Rejection. If you decide to have a personal hearing, and they are a new experience that is worth having at least once in your lifetime, you can make a bit of an outing of it and try one of the many excellent Islington restaurants that are within walking distance. The hearing centre is right next to Angel tube station so easy to reach on the Northern line.

If Barnet Council keep having to pay out money for dodgy PCN they might become a little more moderate in how they issue them.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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