4 August 2017

An apology of an apology

You'll remember the above cctv from the previous blog post. The car to watch is the one turning right into Avenue Road. Mr Mustard set you a little challenge as to whether or not it was a contravention and told you that Barnet Council thought it was and had sent a PCN in the post demanding £130. So far, 43 people have voted and 38 correctly say that it isn't a contravention and 5 say it is. So 5 motorists would have paid Barnet Council £65 each which they would not have ever seen again.

Here are the relevant rules from the TSRGD 2016:

Thus, the grey car turning right can enter the box, as his exit, the road to the right, is clear and he is prevented by completing the turn by oncoming vehicle(s).

Mr Mustard made both the formal representations in the name of the registered keeper (the driver if different cannot make them), they were short 'I have done nothing wrong' and also submitted a complaint, viz:

I have repeatedly been assured that an operative watches the cctv clip before taking the decision to issue a PCN.

I don't think it can have been the case for this PCN as no contravention has occurred, so that is the complaint.

If, in the alternative, operator 5** (recently employed I think) did watch the cctv clip and decide a contravention had occurred then I don't think they know what they are doing, is my alternative complaint.

The turning is not that busy, most of the people who will be caught are residents of the road, as in this case. I can't see they will cause traffic mayhem at this spot as Sainsbury shoppers are most of the turning traffic. I think you could turn off the contravention spotting for the right turn, all the others PCN at this location that I have seen are for people southbound on the High Rd which is really the intention of the box, to create a break for traffic to exit into Ravensdale Avenue.

If the PCN is unlawful it again raises the question as to whether an apology & cancellation alone is sufficient remedy and as you know I don't think it is.

Best regards

Mr Mustard

It only took 3 days for the complaint to do its work.

Here is what the council have sent in the way of an apology & explanation.

Interesting. Mr Mustard's first email on the subject was on 31 July not 29 July which was the date of the blog (Mr Mustard is pleased to see that Barnet Council read it). Error 1. Oops, Mr Mustard made an error. He really is very sorry. He hadn't appreciated, or remembered, that the motorist had made his own complaint about the PCN on the day of receipt. He has no excuse. He is pleased to confirm that there are not 11 errors in the council's letter, only 10, so that's all right then.

They have cancelled the 'Notice to Owner'. That is quite a trick as in moving traffic cases there isn't a Notice to Owner, only a postal PCN. Error 2.

Of course the decision sets a precedent as they agree that driving like this is not a contravention (almost what they say but read on) and so as this motorist is going to turn into his road like this at least 5 times a week he is going to continue to drive into the box and await oncoming traffic to clear rather than trying to bulldoze through it. Isn't safety the prime consideration, or is it revenue raising? Error 3.

It is not the motorist's responsibility, when turning right, to ensure the vehicle can travel freely through the box junction. It is his responsibility to follow the law which allows for entry, and stopping, when turning right and prevented by other stationary vehicles or oncoming traffic. Error 4.

It is not prohibited to enter the box junction and 'become stationary' (stop!) if you are turning right and.... Error 5.

Stopping in a box junction is not always a contravention. If you are turning right etc etc. Error 6.

It is not an 'exemption' to the box if you are turning right. It isn't, by definition, a contravention. See how the council think in this sentence. They start from the premise of wrongdoing, the public are always guilty as charged. Error 7.

There are no 'oncomming' vehicles, there were some 'oncoming' ones. Error 8.

Of course the officer (whose number Mr Mustard has rather generously partially redacted) needs additional training. He/she hasn't the foggiest what he/she is doing in respect of box junctions. Does he/she even drive and have any sympathy for the plight of the motorist watched by big brother on telescreens? This motorist was simply trying to get home fully in accordance with the rules of the road. Error 9.

One cannot 'assertain' anything. There is certainly an 'ass' involved but if you can't spell 'ascertain' then perhaps you should say 'find out'. Error 10.

Finally an apology 'on this occassion' for 'any inconvenience' as if there might not be any inconvenience on this 'occasion'. If a PCN isn't an inconvenience when it isn't legally issued, what is? Error 11.

"An apology without feeling is just a collection of words.", © Mr Mustard, 2017.

There is a symptomatic sickness at the heart of many local authority traffic enforcement departments (often jokingly called 'services') who think it acceptable to make illegal demands for money and then send out half baked, inaccurate, insincere, spelling error strewn letters and make no offer of amends for the time, stress and inconvenience of their illegal actions. Sadly there is no body with power and the teeth (the LGO would probably regard the cancellation and pseudo-apology as adequate recompense for this maladministration) to keep councils in line. It is only the bad publicity that councils fear & hate and so this blog will go on highlighting their misdemeanours to try and make them learn from their errors.

It is very difficult to get the money back once a PCN has been paid but if you have been wrongly caught turning into Avenue Road, N12 and you paid the PCN do please let Mr Mustard know, by email to mrmustard@zoho.com

The underlying problem here, as the parking manager is a good egg (Mr Mustard never writes about him, oops!) is that when he took over he was already lumbered with outsourced suppliers like NSL who are obliged to keep staff wages low in order to meet the financial imperatives of the contract. It is NSL who initially review the cctv to check if a contravention has occurred. It doesn't necessarily follow that the more expensive the employee the better the literacy level, tales of bin men with degrees are the stuff of legend, but it usually follows and he can't do everything. Clearly this response was delegated, sadly to the wrong person (and whether to a council or NSL employee Mr Mustard does not know).

Councillors, you are responsible for the decision to outsource. That makes this sort of situation more likely. You have ceded control, that was your mistake.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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