8 May 2014

"a somewhat unusual case" says the PATAS adjudicator

The notes of a recent adjudication. Remember that lawyers, as adjudicators are so qualified, are prone to make masterly statements that mean much more than they say:

"I find it surprising that a number of letters and emails appear to have gone astray"

This is a somewhat unusual case. Mr S accepts that his wife parked their vehicle in a residents' bay without displaying a valid permit. He further accepts that a Penalty Charge Notice was correctly issued by being placed on the windscreen. However, one of the  children took the PCN and lost it so that Mr S was unable to make the necessary payment. On 17 October (within the 14 days period for payment at the lower amount), Mr S emailed the authority explaining the situation and asking how to pay the penalty charge. He did not receive any response.

The authority says that it did not receive this email. However a copy of the email is produced at page 5 of the Notice of Appeal and I find that it was sent. On 6 November the authority sent the appellant the Notice to Owner. It appears that this, in its turn, was not received by the appellant.

Eventually a Charge Certificate was sent and to the appellant responded (on 13 December)  by pointing out that he had emailed the authority on 17 October, and repeating the account of how one of his children had lost the PCN thus making it impossible for him to pay. This letter does not appear in the correspondence enclosure but is produced by the appellant in his Notice of Appeal. He does not appear to have received an answer. On 14 January 2014, he wrote again asking why he had not had any response form the authority, then sent yet another letter on 13 February.

On 6 March the authority finally responded to the appellant. It is clear that the writer of that letter, Ms Davis, had not troubled to read Mr S's representations, as she seemed to believe that Mr S had suggested that the PCN had not been properly served either by being handed to the driver or by being attached to the vehicle. He had made no such suggestion. What he had said was that he (or one of his children) had lost the PCN and that he had emailed the authority asking how to pay the penalty charge and had been ignored.

The authority states, correctly, that it is only obliged to accept payment of £55 if such payment is made within 14 days of the issue of the PCN. However the authority for its part is obliged to consider all representations made by an appellant. I find it surprising that a number of letters and emails appear to have gone astray, but even leaving that aside, the total failure to consider the representations made by Mr S as to how he had lost the PCN amounts to procedural impropriety. Had the authority told Mr S that it was his fault that the PCN had been lost and that he must bear the consequences, that would have been reasonable. What was not reasonable was to reject his submissions on a complete misrepresentation of what he had said. I do find that procedural impropriety is present in this case and for that reason I will allow the appeal and order that the PCN been quashed.

Mr Mustard sends all of his challenges by email* to barnet@nslservices.co.uk because the computer sends an auto acknowledgement which he keeps and thus none of his communications can be "lost"; the odd item will go astray but so many on one file, it simply wasn't credible and that is why the adjudicator brooked no nonsense.

One should be able to implicitly trust  a local authority but when it comes to parking, especially managed out of sight by a contractor and with different companies scanning documents and printing them, quite simply, you cannot.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

*In the strict letter of the PCN and other Notices this is not allowed but is custom and practice. It is about time that the notices were changed to reflect reality.

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