|Confused? Bay markings = can park. Yellow line; you can't|
My first appeal against a PCN
I have been driving for about 17 years in the UK and this is not the first time I received a PCN but it was certainly the first time I decided to appeal against a PCN. I felt annoyed and hard done and was determined to take the matter further.
Receiving a PCN really strikes you hard and you tend to be cautious in not repeating the same mistake again. But somehow we appear to be caught out every now and then and it almost becomes part and parcel of driving- like paying an extra car tax!
I parked my car on Park Road in West Hendon at about 1pm on a weekday. Of course in my judgment I assumed that my car was legally parked in accordance with the signs put up by Barnet council. Upon returning to my car, I was dismayed to see a PCN ticket planted on my windscreen. I immediately started to inspect all the signs on the road trying to figure out how I had breached the parking regulations.
Unfortunately despite my efforts, I could not be sure that it was an error of judgment on my part and thought that this confusion needed a second opinion. I took a few snaps on my mobile to get a second opinion from my husband.
We both agreed that the signs on the posts were misleading and it gave an impression that it was okay to park on this road except during the prohibited hours i.e. restriction applies only between 10am and 11am. However, there was another small sign placed in a rather inconspicuous place indicating that this is a pay and park zone between 9am and 5pm. My husband and I drove to the same road during the day just to reconfirm our judgment and took some photos to send with our appeal letter.
I sent my appeal letter within two weeks by recorded delivery and enclosed photographic evidence. There was no response from Barnet council for weeks and I began to think and hoped that Barnet had agreed with the points I raised in my letter but unfortunately I was wrong. About 4 weeks later, I received a letter from Barnet demanding a payment and there was no reference to my appeal letter. I attempted to phone Barnet parking section but the person answering the call was in a call centre and could not help me and simply instructed me to put my query in writing.
Eventually I did receive a response from Barnet who offered me to pay the reduced fine. Barnet stated that they did not have my address to respond to my first letter which is why it took a long time for them to respond. This sounded very bizarre to me at first but later I learnt that when you receive a PCN, the council do not have your home address and only obtain your address through the DVLA if a payment is not received by them. My understanding was that if the council are able to write to my address for payment then surely they must have my address - plus I assumed that as long as I provided the PCN number they would be able to trace my address on their database. Unfortunately I omitted to put my address on my first appeal letter because of the above rationale - remember to always put your correspondence address in appeal letters!
When I received a large bundle of paper from the appeals service - I felt a bit nervous. My appeal was scheduled for 5pm on a school day - this meant that I had to organise someone to pick up my children from school and my husband took time off work to accompany me. I really had second thoughts about going to the tribunal and even asked my husband to phone the appeals service to ask if it’s too late to pay the reduced fine over the phone. I began to regret not paying the reduced fee of £30 because after working out the payment for postage, travel costs to get to the parking centre for two people, time off from work etc. we were not really saving a lot of money. However, at the same time, I did feel quite strongly about challenging this PCN because of the confusing signage and felt it was unfair to expect me to pay.
Just one day before the date of the hearing, my husband heard about Mr Mustard and made contact with him to see if he was able to offer any advice. Mr Mustard was only given information about the date and time of my hearing and to our surprise he managed to find out so much information that it took us by surprise. He explained that all the hearings are listed on the website of the appeals service.
Mr Mustard offered to meet my husband on the morning of the hearing. My husband took the bundle of paper from appeals service as well as our own copies of document which Mr Mustard helped to organise. My husband described Mr Mustard as someone who is very friendly, genuine, knowledgeable and intelligent (and not sufficiently modest to delete the preceding line - Ed). Mr Mustard gave my husband several tips and helped to draft some key points to present to the appeal. This certainly boosted my husband’s confidence in representing me.
When we went to the appeals service, it felt quite odd and uneasy; I kind of felt like I was in trouble with the law and was being brought to face the judge! There were a few more people who were waiting to be seen. We were asked to switch off our phones and given a sheet of paper telling us how to address the adjudicator i.e. refer to them as sir or madam.
The adjudicator greeted us and went through some factual information. He then gave us an opportunity to explain why we think the PCN was issued wrongly. Mr Mustard had helped us to write three pertinent points in our defence which was presented to the adjudicator who suggested that it would be best to go through one point at a time. We chose the strongest point first which was that there were conflicting and confusing signage in place, plus there is a single yellow line going across a pay and display zone. The adjudicator listened to our points attentively and within a space of few minutes agreed that he believes that there is a conflict here and said that we do not need to go through the two remaining points and that he would ask for the PCN to be cancelled. I would estimate that we were in the room for about five to six minutes.
The feeling of winning the appeal felt so good and it made you think that justice was served. We know that if it wasn’t for Mr Mustard’s help then we would have lacked the confidence to present our case and the technical advice provided by Mr Mustard was so incredibly helpful.
We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Mr Mustard for his wonderful support.
Mrs A was lucky that Mr Mustard happened to be available at short notice but that isn't always the case. He does have to work sometimes and he could be anywhere in the UK. He will, however, always try to help anyone who asks.
What this guest blog shows is that if you go to PATAS with a half decent argument the adjudicator will carefully and in an unbiased manner carefully consider what you have to say and if he/she agrees, decide in your favour. Mrs A had two other arguments which weren't tested but one of those might also have worked and you can think of the Appeal like a penalty shootout where you have, in this case, 3 balls rowed up and you only have to kick one of them into the net to get your PCN cancelled. The council will almost always not even attend the match.
So, don't be afraid of going to PATAS as you will win more than 50% of the time, so on the average it is worth fighting.