UK: Lovely Rita?

Last Updated: 5 April 2011
Article by Tony Cawley

Aladejana v LB Wandsworth, Wandsworth County Court (2010)

The claimant claimed that on or about 18 February 2007 his car, a Lexus MX400 had been stolen and was subsequently found abandoned on 19 February 2007.

However on 19 February 2007 a Council traffic enforcement officer issued a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) due to the car being parked without a parking permit.

Despite numerous reminders being sent to the claimant, the PCN remained unpaid. The vehicle was eventually impounded by bailiffs, taken to auction on 18 January 2008 and sold for £213.47.

The claimant initially claimed substantial damages of nearly £40,000 for the loss of his vehicle and consequential losses to his business. At trial, this sum had been reduced to £18,000 due to lack of documentary evidence.

The claimant's case

The claimant alleged that the local authority had negligently issued a PCN, when in fact the vehicle had been stolen and abandoned in the parking controlled area. He also alleged that it should not have impounded or sold the vehicle.

The claimant said that as the issue of the theft of and responsibility for the vehicle was not resolved until March 2008, the sale of the vehicle was unreasonable before that date.

The defendant's case

The defendant maintained that at all times the traffic enforcement officer had a reasonable belief that the vehicle had been parked without a valid permit/ticket and so issued a PCN. At the time the claimant's vehicle had not been reported as stolen and/or abandoned, it was merely parked in a parking controlled area without the correct permit.

Following the issue of the PCN, the defendant made enquiries of the DVLA to obtain the registered keeper's details and an address was returned. Unfortunately, this address was the claimant's previous address and he had moved on without notifying the DVLA.

The anomaly with the address caused a communication breakdown as the defendant submitted a Notice to Owner, effectively a request for payment, and continued writing to the claimant's previous address but he was not responding. However, the post was not being returned as undelivered or unknown at that address.

As the PCN had not been paid the charge was registered with the Northampton County Court Traffic Enforcement Centre in June 2007 and an Order for Recovery was made on 22 June 2007. The Order required the claimant to pay the penalty charge, and associated charges, within 21 days or to apply for a statutory declaration against the unpaid PCN. The claimant did neither.

A warrant of execution was entered on 1 August 2007 and the vehicle was eventually located and impounded by the bailiffs on 31 October 2007.

On 6 November 2007 the defendant received notification that an out of time appeal had been filed by the claimant on the grounds that he had never received the original request for payment. A stay was put on the bailiffs taking any further action until determination of the claimant's application. This took place in December 2007 when the application was refused.

Due to the unsuccessful application, the defendant then issued a further request for payment to the claimant and notified him that he had 14 days in which to pay or to notify of any intention to apply for an appeal. No payment or application notice was received and on 7 January 2008 the vehicle was sent to auction and sold on 18 January 2008.

The judgment

The judge held that after the claimant's appeal had been refused in December 2007, the claimant was then given yet another 14 days to pay the parking fine, or appeal further.

The claimant, for whatever reason, did not make any such application for a further appeal until March 2008. This failure to act within the 14 day period was sufficient for the defendant to continue with its due process without acting negligently.

The car was subsequently properly sold at auction.

Comment

Attention to detail is vital. But where it is apparent that the relevant authority has made the proper enquiries of a vehicle owner and there has been meticulous compliance with its own procedures, a council can robustly defend the actions of its parking staff.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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