24 November 2013

Mr Toyota is innocent

Not the car of Mr Mustard's friend who is not called Mr Toyota
Here is the text of an email that Mr Mustard sent to his friends in the parking department to give them a sporting chance of doing the right thing before they read about it in the local papers.

Imagine you are Mr Toyota, step back in time to June 2013, you have an old but lovely car on your drive and you haven't heard of Mr Mustard and your life is normal. Suddenly everything changes. You are at work on 19 June 13 when your girlfriend telephones to say that a clamp has been applied to your car on your own drive. You telephone the bailiff to find that this is because you have an unpaid Barnet Council PCN from July 2011. This is the first that you have heard of it.

The bailiff demands £606 which you don't have at this moment.

That evening Mr Mustard comes to call at the suggestion of a mutual friend. He says the council are acting improperly but it will take more than that knowledge to get them to stop. He explains about the Witness Statement procedure although you are out of time because you didn't know about the PCN. You file forms TE7 & TE9 the next day.

On 20 June the bailiff comes back and removes the car by transporter.

The council file their evidence and ask that the Out of Time Witness Statement (which winds the PCN back to the beginning so that the PCN can be appealed) be refused.

The TEC (Traffic Enforcement Centre) is a sausage machine for PCN legal processing. They duly reject the Out of Time witness statement on 22 July 2013.

You have to buy another car as you can't run your business without one. You have people and equipment to ferry about.

On 3 August 13 you file the N244 form which says you want to argue your case in front of a District Judge at the Barnet County Court. You have to shell out a Court Fee of £80 which you'll never see again, even if you win. (Actually you could ask for costs but it is pushing your luck given that your car is at stake.) You get allocated a Court Date of 8 November 13. Your car will be rotting in the pound until then.

The 8 November arrives and you attend Court. The District Judge is unconvinced until you explain the complete lack of service of any document and then she grants the Order required. Your PCN will be rolled back to July 2011 and the bailiff will no longer be entitled to retain your car.

In the meantime having purchased another car you have no insurance for the impounded one, you have declared it as off road, the road fund licence has expired, the battery and tyres will be flat and it isn't legally drivable.

After a delay of 10 days the Court decision arrives. You speak to the council contact centre who tell you that doesn't mean that you are due to have your car back. You tell them the papers have a whiff of your story and you are inclined to spill the beans. You are put on hold for 5 minutes and magically now you can have your car back. You are sent on an email and telephone number chase round. The bailiff refuses to return your car. You have to go and get it. Where is it? Roydon in Essex, where else would it be?

Now you are hacked off. You have had the fright of your life when you car was clamped, you never received any paperwork prior to clamping nor the PCN itself, you have been without your car for 5 months, your girlfriend has been made ill with the stress, you have had to buy another car and you are £80 out of pocket on a £110 PCN and now the council expect you, Mr Toyota, to pay out to a car transport firm to get your own car back when you are totally innocent of any wrong-doing whatsoever.

That can't be equitable, surely?

Now happily Mr Mustard can report that the parking manager at Barnet Council pretty quickly came to the decision that the car should be returned to Mr Toyota free of charge (a goodwill gesture and not a precedent) and it is now back on the drive from which it was taken some 5 months ago. The fact that it was Mr Mustard who wrote probably helped.

The battery is flat as are 2 tyres, hopefully they will be OK once pumped up again. A bailiff has a duty of care for goods in their possession and Newlyn have clearly failed in that regard. They couldn't easily charge the battery without being in possession of the keys and a motorist is likely to be resistant to handing them over. However, it probably makes sense if in return the bailiff agrees to keep the battery charged and if you do end up losing the car a better price will be obtained for one that is in running order. There is absolutely no excuse for bailiffs not pumping up the tyres once a month. If vehicles are stored indoors they should be covered and if they are outdoors they should also be washed once a month especially if they are on an airport flight path or a quarry.

The price of innocence

So my question to all readers, and do please retweet this blog, is "can it be right that the bailiff removes your car and you have to go and get it back once your PCN is back at the first stage at which you can appeal it?"

You are now officially innocent. You have a PCN which you can appeal.

You have been deprived of your vehicle for 5 months. 

The car is in a pound 20 miles away.

You are already £80 out of pocket.

The bailiff wasn't wrong to take it as when he did as he had a valid warrant (actually in this case the warrant address was doubtful but we'll let that go) so we can't look to the bailiff for recompense.

However, the bailiff is only ever the servant of the council but is a mercenary who gets his pound of flesh (they usually take about a stone) from the motorist.

Surely the council should foot the cost of returning vehicles which they are no longer entitled to keep out of the super profits that the parking regime generates?

Mr Mustard couldn't find any case law on this and he thinks some might exist? If you know what should happen when your car is taken away and then you get the PCN put back to the beginning of the process i.e. should the car be returned or do you have to go to the pound to collect it, which might be 50 miles away? please email mrmustard@zoho.com

The one thing that Mr Mustard has realised out of this is that penalty for falling outside of the process is very severe indeed and completely disproportionate for whatever the trivial offence was in the first place.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

1 comment:

  1. In the past I've called a similar practice "Highway Robbery". And expressed public embarrassment that Haringey - my own local Council - had been guilty of fining motorists for unlawful lines and signs. Embarrassment which was deeper because I've been an elected councillor for nearly sixteen years.
      I hope that Haringey Parking Service has actually improved over the years and that our senior staff are now fairer and more approachable. (Perhaps due a little the efforts of a few councillors.)
      However, the PCN system as a whole is still unjust. The fines - yes let's be honest and call them fines - are actually punishments. And often out of all proportion to the "offences".
      These fines are also a stealth tax taken from an account - the Parking Account - which is supposed to be run to break even - not coin millions in profit . The justification given for this overcharging is, of course, understandable. It's aimed at back-filling cuts on essential public services imposed by a Central Government.
      So far, so incredibly stupid. But greed not stupidity is at work if councils and their contractors start clamping and lifting people's *essential* work vehicles from their own front drives for time expired PCNs.
      It reminds me of some Wild West plot with bounty hunters consulting their WANTED posters. Or maybe there's something medieval going on here? With the Sheriff's men empowered to use force to part animals, crops and groats from passing peasants. In Wood Green, this thought crossed my mind once before and I suggested it as a joke. http://bit.ly/1b0M5vt
      It didn't occur to me that an elected local council would actually do it.


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