Tuesday, 25 February 2014

PATAS w/c 17 February - sign trouble

hard to see signs
This week saw the council win more cases than it lost but that was mainly thanks to 17 cases where an application had been amde to the Traffic Enforcement Centre that was not warranted. It is pointless saying you made representations that were not answered some months ago if you cannot produce them when asked. As many get lost in the post there is nothing to stop you generating them again even if you can't remember the exact words and date, near enough will do as long as you are sure you did send some.

The week ended with 3 cases being sent back to the council to think about again, 50 cases (including the above 17) were upheld and 35 PCN were cancelled.

Where the council mainly went wrong in this week was with signs.

They didn't prove a sign was in place at the location so that PCN could not be upheld.

They did not prove that the CPZ existed. This is what you should write in your appeal.

"I did not see a CPZ sign on entering the zone and I would be grateful therefore if the council could please prove the extent of the CPZ and that all necessary pairs of signs were in place and legible to oncoming traffic on the day in question."

If you do that the council will, in theory, have to prove photographs of all entry points which they probably can't do and that will be enough for many adjudicators to cancel your PCN. Some adjudicators will ask you which your point of entry was but if you visit that area often, or if it was 6 months ago, how are you to remember. If you have the time walk or cycle round the zone (take the car if you must but park outside the zone or outside normal hours) and see if there are any places where the signs are dirty, where one is missing (there have to be 2 signs, one on each side of the road unless it is a one way road or less than 5m wide) or where is has been turned away from the traffic by being hit by a lorry. You will be surprised how often a sign is wrong.

If you attend a personal hearing and the council simply provide a map with marks indicating where the signs are located, ask the adjudicator how they can be sure the signs are actually in place as a map is merely an assertion, not proof that the signs were there on the day that you were.

In another case the council produced a picture of the wrong sign. Clang!

In Gervase Rd in two cases the signage was held to be confusing. This is in relation to bays for pavement parking as marked out on the pavement, or not as the case may be.

A photo of the wrong sign was produced. this is usually to your detriment unless you happen to know it is the wrong sign by visiting the location again.

A bay suspension was not proven. Signs for this offence are often vaguely worded as to the precise location of the suspended portion of the road or placed badly.

Saracens Zone signage was suspect. I suggest you appeal in the following terms "Please provide evidence that it was an event day and that this was communicated to me by signs at all of the entrances to the zone which show the date of the contravention".

There were some photos taken at night which did not prov the signage. Photos are not compulsory but they do go a long way.

In Lytton Rd there is a sign missing on a single yellow line. The traffic warden may well photograph the wrong sign to inadequately demonstrate the contravention.

Keep those appeals coming. Once you have missed the 14 day discount period there is no point in giving up the fight as you have nothing to lose; the full value of the PCN will be in play and even if you lose at PATAS you still pay the same amount, £60, £110 or £130 depending on whether you have a lower value PCN a higher value PCN or a bus lane ticket.

Yours appealingly

Miss Feezance

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

PATAS tighten the screw?

PATAS is the acronym of the Parking And Traffic Appeals Service and is the administrative support centre which assists the independent adjudicators to efficiently make their decisions. I noticed that the number of appeals in Barnet was down on the expected number in 2014 and that the success rate of Barnet Council was up and so I wondered if that was a Barnet thing or if it reflected some sort of change in view by the adjudicators at PATAS (although they are of course independent and must decide each case upon its merits the adjudicators will be bound to take account of any advice from the Chief Adjudicator). For convenience I will refer to the body of independent adjudicators as PATAS.

In Barnet's case it may be that the council have decided to accept a greater number of formal representations because the fees they have to pay to PATAS are hurting the budget too much, or that residents are getting better at lodging representations and so are less likely to end up at PATAS, except for those people who don't mount a robust defence and nothing takes the place of effort when it comes to challenging a parking ticket.

Anyway, I decided to look at the outcome of PCN appeals at PATAS from Tuesday and for the same Tuesday last year, for all London authorities for parking, moving traffic and bus lane contraventions and here are the figures:

Refused with recommendation46
Closed (witness statement cases)2751

At first blush it looks like PATAS have tightened up as 13 extra cases were refused. The picture, however, isn't that simple as I would have to go individually through all of the closed cases (those in which a witness statement was sent to the Traffic Enforcement Centre) to see if they were allowed or refused in order to get complete allowed or refused figures and I am not sure the light is worth the candle. It is interesting though to see a huge increase in the number of people resorting to the TEC (not always when they have any right to do so which is not an action to be advised).

It is also heartening to see an increased number of cases where the adjudicator has legally to find against the motorist but he recommends to the local authority that they don't collect the PCN. What the authority decided to do is only recorded on one of the four such cases from 2013 (too soon to know for 2014) and they did agree to forego the PCN.

Overall cases were up 15% but nothing much can be read into that. Best to look at annual PATAS figures for overall trends.

I will do this exercise again for another day on another day.

Yours appealingly

Miss Feezance

Monday, 17 February 2014

PATAS w/c 10 Feb 14 - TE9 skewing

The statistics were skewed this week by there being 12 of the above form which were referred to PATAS for a decision. If you said you made formal representations to the Notice to Owner when you didn't do so then you will be in difficulty when you are asked to produce them. If however you did nothing in response to the Notice to Owner (because you didn't get it or can't remember that far back and have had several PCN which all look the same) it is a simple matter to tick the "I did not receive" box and there is no evidence that can be produced to the contrary as they come by normal mail. All 12 cases were lost as the correct procedure had not been followed.

Anyway, it was another quiet week. 3 cases were referred back to the council with a recommendation that they cancel, 28 PCN were cancelled and 35 were upheld (including the 12 TE9 cases).

There was a bus lane sign missing in Cricklewood Broadway so that might be useful information for you.

The Western Parade dropped kerb (near the Barnet Odeon), a favourite spot for a traffic warden to ticket another victim, was held not to be dropped to the level of the carriageway so the PCN was cancelled.

Look at what the adjudicator said about the Saracens Event Day Zone:

The Council says in its case summary that it is the motorist's responsibility to familiarise themselves through the internet with the days on which events are taking place. In my view, that is an absurd proposition. It is the responsibility of the Council to properly sign event day restrictions.

Here is another example of the humanity displayed by the NSL Traffic Warden and by their Notice Processing Officer;

The appellant claims that she was 15 weeks pregnant and was suffering from sickness. She claims she pulled over to vomit. She takes issue with service of the pcn by post.

I accept the appellant's account that she pulled over to vomit. I find that she stopped to prevent an accident occurring. The exemption applies. It is unfortunate that the Enforcement Authority did not provide fuller notes and additional photographs. I allow the appeal.

The traffic warden's notes take a hit in the next adjudicator's decision;

The only document I received which appeared to emanate from the CEO was a description of the appellant - where among other things he is described as "Jewish". I do not know if there was any objective basis for such a description (e.g. the appellant's clothing). Given the duties imposed on public bodies by the Equality Act, I would respectfully suggest that the Authority consider whether there was any objective justification for including what may have been an expression of opinion by the CEO in his/her description of the appellant and whether it was appropriate.

Finally the adjudicator loses his rag over the endless stream of Saracens appeals which the council loses nearly every time:

The Authority issued a PCN for a contravention that cannot be proven. It then sought to enforce the PCN to the appeal stage in a manner for which it has been criticised over and over again, I cannot see how it can be said that their action to continue with enforcement proceedings to be anything but wholly unreasonable, vexatious and frivolous.

I am allowing the cost application, to the amount claimed (£63)

It is very rare for costs to be awarded against a council, usually only about 10 times a year for any one of them, and to be criticised on all three possible grounds. Barnet might break a record this year in the costs they have to give out.

I think that Barnet Council must be allowing more challenges and so it is worth your while to keep making them, especially in response to the Notice to Owner.

Yours frugally

Miss Feezance

Sunday, 16 February 2014

PATAS - w/c 3 Feb 14 - in shock

I am in shock. Barnet Council again won more cases than they lost, 31 PCN upheld and 28 cancelled with 2 recommended for cancellation. So overall the result is quite close to 50/50 but having already seen the following week's figures I know that Barnet Council improve upon them. Don't panic yet though as with the correct approach you can still win.

I was wondering what had happened.

One possibility is that NSL have got their act together. There were only 5 cases in which no evidence was offered but that may be more to do with it being just after Xmas, when loads of cases get binned off to get a clear desk before the holidays, so there isn't a backlog than better work as a close scrutiny of evidence packs will show.

Maybe more resource has been added by NSL so that they can deal with more Appeals. It reduces their profitability but better than than losing the contract for non-performance.

It is possible that the chief adjudicator has told the team of adjudicators to be tougher but they are independent so that shouldn't happen. Adjudicators have though been quicker as 2013 has run its course (improved working practices, whatever they are) and the average time per case, postal and in person, came down in 2013 from 22 minutes to 18 minutes so there are 4 fewer minutes in which to study your postal case. This may lead to a less thorough examination and I did recently see an Appeal result which was decided upon a Saracens time plate when it wasn't the weekend and so was patently wrong. With less of a rush that wrong decision might not have happened. This is why it is best to attend PATAS in person, as you can stop blatant errors and point out the strong parts of your case. You can go to late night Thursday or Saturday hearings if you cannot get in the week.

More likely is the fact that numbers are down. Barnet council are shelling out a small fortune in fees to run PATAS which are based upon the number of Appeals being made. The average weekly Appeals in February 13 were 68 and as they were double in the second half of 2013 what they were in the second half of 2012 it is possible that an order has gone out to allow more formal appeals and so the blindingly obvious winners (for the motorist) are now being allowed by NSL on behalf of the council. This might explain why only 61 cases were heard this year as opposed to the same week last year. What that tells you is that is even more worthwhile to put in your representations to the Notice to Owner as there might be an improved chance of them being accepted.

The result could possibly be a statistical blip. We will be able to tell in the long run.

Did you ever wonder what an adjudicator earns? I thought they might be paid by the Appeal but that is not the case. They earn £58.80 per hour (including employer's national insurance). This will increase on 1 April to £59.40

The only case I will tell you about this week is from Welbeck Road which has an artificial dead end in it (to stop rat running). The PCN was cancelled. the alleged contravention was being more than 50cm from the kerb. Well, the side of the car was but the nose of the car was up to the kerb that runs across the road from one side to another and that means the whole car was not more than 50cm from the kerb. The adjudicator said "The authority has misunderstood the prohibition completely". They do am lot of that in order to issue PCN? To keep your money you need to know more than NSL or the council do.

Yours appealingly

Miss Feezance.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

PATAS - w/c 27 Jan 14 - not so good

Gosh, a quiet week and one in which the council somehow, and most unusually, managed to win slightly more cases than it lost at PATAS. It would only have taken 2 upheld PCN to have been cancelled for the situation to have been reversed so I don't think we can read into this that NSL have got their act together. It might show a New Year toughness on the part of the independent adjudicators but it shouldn't as they should treat each case fairly without favouring either party.

Let us look at why the lost cases were lost, and maybe what else could have been appealed.

In the first lost case the word of the traffic warden that they handed the PCN to the driver was believed over the motorist. If they had a passenger they could have produced a witness statement (it only has to be a simple signed letter).

In the next case the 50% was paid late. You must pay on time if you want the discount; within 14 days!

There was no proof that the hire had finished so that the hirer wasn't liable. Next time produce some.

There were six TE9 cases (witness statements to take the PCN back to the start due to some procedural failure). These failed as the motorist hadn't done things on the proper timetable. Solution, do PCN stuff straight away.

In a bus lane. Don't.

In a loading bay when not unloading (2 of). Don't do it.

Blue badge not displayed. Don't forget.

After filing a witness statement the motorist expected a new PCN. that is not how it works. The next step is either a Notice to Owner, a referral to PATAS or the tracing of the payment made.

Car in a motorcyle bay. Stay out of them.

On double yellow lines. Stay away.

In a CPZ. Look out for the signs as you drive past them.

A change of story about whether you were collecting your sick brother or your frail mother. Don't change your story; tell the truth.

A regular customer who wasn't unloading. I don't recommend deliberately trying to avoid payment as you will lose sometimes and it costs.

Permit now showing (3 of). If you have one, display it.

On the footway. Stay off, you get annoyed at pedestrians in the road I suspect.

Went to get change. In a cashless borough? Oh dear me no.

Paid 1 minute after the PCN was issued. This decision seems harsh.

Claimed unloading but no proof. Supply proof which could simply be a letter from whoever you were delivering to or collecting from.

Didn't see all of the sign. Take a good look next time.

Despite it being 8 at night and the photographs being terrible the adjudicator worked out the position of the car on streetmap and saw the time plate there and accepted it was still there. A bit naughty this decision in my opinion. Not much you could do about it except a current photo if there isn't a sign.

Paid for pakring but then parked in a residents bay not a pay bay. Look at the signs.

Now most of the cases could probably have been won with a bit more effort by the motorist and if they had looked to find a second argument to go with the one they relied on. It is always a good idea to read up about the type of ticket you had and see what other defences have worked. Also google the location in case others have had PCN cancelled there. Finally you can crowdsource help by registering on pepipoo and other people will help you completely free of charge to pick holes in the council's case. You have to make some effort but it greatly improves your chances of winning.

I don't want to keep posting how well the council is doing!

Yours appealingly

Miss Feezance