Long-term readers might recall our rather excellent guide on dealing with private parking fines, in which we recommended ignoring both the ticket and all subsequent correspondence. Sadly, that’s not really a viable option if you’ve been fined by the council or police. In this guide, we’ll look at how to contest non-private tickets that you feel have been issued unfairly.
Who the hell left this on my windshield?
Is there anything more annoying than returning to your car to finding parking ticket? Well, maybe a few things, but it’s still fairly rubbish.
The first step is to identify who issued the ticket. It should be clearly stated, but do be careful; some private companies will sneakily use the term ‘Penalty Charge Notice’ (that’s what the councils call ‘em), or even print an abundance of shields in an attempt to appear all scary and cop-like. Unlike those from private companies, official council and police tickets state that they’re issued under an act of parliament.
The registered owner is responsible for official tickets, as opposed to the driver, unless it’s a hire car, in which case the firm will either forward the demand to you, or pay it themselves then send you an invoice (possible including a cheeky admin charge). As such, if you get a parking ticket while driving a hire car and intend to dispute it, it’s a good idea to let them know as soon as possible; payment of the fine will negate the option to appeal.
Should I appeal a parking ticket?
If you’ve clearly made a hideous mistake, there’s little-to-no sense in appealing. In fact, in order to guarantee the half-price rate, it’s best to pay up within the first 14 days. Sometimes the reduced rate is available for a further 14 days if your initial appeal is rejected, but there’s no hard-and-fast rule.
On the other hand, if you’re sure you’ve been screwed, stick to your guns; a whopping 70% of cases brought to the Industrial Tribunal are awarded in favour of Joe Public.
You definitely should not pay the fine if you intend to appeal, as doing so is an admission of guilt. Unless, of course, you’ve been clamped or towed, in which case you need to pay ASAP to avoid incurring further charges. You can still appeal once your vehicle has been released (more on this below).
As well as the usual gripes, like missing signs and faded lines, there are mitigating circumstances that can have your ticket over-turned. For example, you were:
• broken down
• tending to an emergency or clearing an obstruction
• dropping someone off at hospital
• too ill to move the car
• at a funeral, or recently suffered a bereavement
• on holiday, during which time the parking restrictions were amended
If you have any evidence of the above (e.g. doctor’s note or death certificate), be sure to include it with your appeal.
You might also choose to appeal if your parking ticket fell off. Technically it’s your responsibility to make sure it’s visible at all times, but you might get lucky.
It’s a good idea to take photos of the scene, even with a mobile phone. Relevant snapshots include:
• unclear signs
• unclear or faded road-markings
• lack of signs
• the position of your car
What are the grounds for appeal?
The available grounds for appeal can vary, depending on whether your ticket falls under civil or criminal law. Councils generally issue Penalty Charge Notices (civil law), though a few use Excess Charge Notices (criminal). The police’s Fixed Penalty Notices fall under – you guessed it – criminal law.
For criminal law tickets, it’s best to contact the issuer to clarify the procedure for appeal. It’s usually much the same as the civil route, but with slightly different timescales and amounts.
For tickets issued under civil law, you can choose one of the nine categories listed on the Traffic Penalty Tribunal website. The most common is ‘The alleged contravention did not occur’, which covers disputes about signs and markings.
How do I appeal a parking ticket?
You know who issued the ticket, whether it’s governed by civil or criminal law, and you’ve chosen the grounds for your appeal. Time to get writing.
Penalty Charge Notices (council-issued, civil law)
Stage 1: informal appeal
If you’ve been clamped or towed, you’ll have to pay up and skip straight to Stage 2. Otherwise, simply write a letter to the council (within 28 days) and state why you feel the charge is unfair.
As mentioned before, if the appeal is rejected you might still have 14 days to pay the reduced amount. It’s worth considering, as you’ll waive that option by going formal.
Stage 2: formal appeal
Formal appeal is necessary if:
• you failed to submit an informal appeal within 28 days
• your informal appeal failed
• you received the ticket by mail
• you were towed or clamped
Fill out the form (received in the mail or provided by the tow/clamp people) and attach any evidence. If necessary, you can include a separate letter with further details. The council then has 56 days to respond. If it doesn’t, you win!
Stage 3: independent tribunal
If your formal appeal fails, you’ll receive a Notice of Rejection of Representations letter, along with a Notice of Appeal form. By now you’ve lost the chance to pay half price anyway, so it won’t do any harm to continue the fight. Also; it’s free, and there’s no obligation to attend the hearing in person.
There are four possible outcomes:
• you win – result!
• you lose – boo!
• appeal adjourned – happens occasionally if the adjudicator requires further information before making a decision
• appeal dismissed – usually as a result of mitigating circumstances
The adjudicator can only ask, not force, the council to waive the charge. It then has 35 days to make a decision. Again, if the council doesn’t respond, you win by default.
Excess Charge Notices (council-issued, criminal law)
Stage 1: informal appeal
Much the same as the Penalty Charge Notice above, except you’ll only have 7 to 14 days to act, depending on the council. Like before, you’ll probably have the chance to pay the reduced amount even if the appeal is rejected.
Stage 2: appeal to a more senior official
Some informal rejections give you the option to appeal to a more senior official. The process will be outlined fully in your rejection letter. If it’s not an option, or if it’s rejected, we’re on to the last stage…
Stage 3: the Ombudsman
So the council has sent a letter demanding payment, and there are no more routes of appeal. However, if you still feel strongly that the council has acted unfairly, you can contact the Ombudsman. The most common reason for Ombudsman intervention is procedural error, but it’s always worth a shot.
Police Parking Penalties (issued by the police, criminal law)
Unfortunately, the chances of successfully appealing here are slim. You’ll almost certainly end up attending a court hearing, and you can easily incur further costs. If you’re determined to fight, it’s a good idea to seek legal advice beforehand.
Stage 1: informal appeal
Not always an option. To clarify with the issuing force, call the number on the ticket.
Stage 2: formal appeal
If your informal appeal is rejected, or if it’s not allowed, you’ll receive a Notice to Owner form. On it, you’ll find the option to pay the charge, nominate an alternative driver (typically the owner of a hire firm), or request a hearing at the Magistrates Court. The latter is only recommend if (a) legal counsel suggest you have a good case, and (b) you have balls of steel.