How to appeal a parking fine

Parking ticket under windscreen of car window wiper

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For some of us it’s pure rage. For others it’s simple dismay. For all of us, the emotion triggered by the sight of a parking ticket tucked under the windscreen wiper will be entirely negative. It’s a rare driver who has not received at least one parking ticket, whether they have parked for too long on a yellow line, trespassed into a resident’s parking bay or overstayed their welcome in a pay & display car park. No wonder we’re downcast by the bright yellow harbinger of bad news. The fines can be hefty at more than £100 in some cases. But you could spend even more – a lot more – if your car is towed away and held in a car pound. But what if you think the ticket is unjustified? Motorists will be pleased to hear that there are several ways to appeal a parking ticket and, in some cases, the success rate is 50%. Here's how to appeal a parking fine.

Who issues parking tickets?

Millions of parking tickets are handed out every year and the issuer could be one of a number of organisations including the local council, the police, or a private company. If you receive a parking ticket on the street it will usually be issued by a traffic warden employed by the police or a parking attendant employed by the council. Parking attendants issue Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) through the civil justice system. Police traffic wardens enforce more serious parking rules, such as Priority or Red Route regulations. They issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) through the criminal justice system and an FPN can lead to points on your licence.

Paying a PCN

PCN parking tickets are the most common and are usually fixed to the windscreen of the offending car. However, you can also receive a PCN through the post, usually if you are caught breaking the rules on camera. You typically have 28 days either  to pay the charge or challenge the PCN parking ticket. If you settle the bill within 14 days (21 days for those caught on camera), you normally pay half of the penalty amount. So, if the fine is £50, it would be reduced to £25 if you pay promptly.

How to appeal

If you think a parking ticket is unfair, you should not pay the fine – though you will obviously have to pay the charge to release the car if it has been clamped or towed away. Instead, you should appeal. Make sure you act promptly, though. If you write within 14 or 21 days of the penalty, the council should honour the early-payment discount if the final decision goes against you, though this is not guaranteed. You can help your case by collecting as much evidence as possible at the scene. For example, take a photo of any unclear road markings, or the parking meter and your pay & display ticket. Don’t harangue the car park attendant, however angry you are. Once a ticket has been issued, it cannot be revoked. And if you drive off before the ticket is attached to your vehicle, you will still be liable.

Grounds for appeal

There are several grounds for appeal against a PCN. For example, you might have been too ill to drive, or perhaps you stopped to help someone in an emergency. You could also dispute the ticket if your car was stolen at the time or you were no longer the owner. If the parking ticket fell off the windscreen or was not visible, you are technically responsible. But it is always worth an appeal because councils have discretion over parking fines.

The first stage of appeal

There are normally three appeal stages and it is important to stick to any deadlines or you risk losing the case. The first stage is an informal appeal. You should complain in writing or online, explaining why you think the ticket was unjustified, including any evidence such as photos, receipts or witness statements. If you contact the council within 14 days you might only have to pay the 50% of the charge, even if your appeal is rejected. But check the details with the relevant council.

Formal appeal

The council could accept your appeal at this stage and cancel the PCN. Or, it could reject your informal representation and send a Notice to Owner. You can either pay the charge at this point, or you can make a formal appeal within 28 days. The council should explain how the process works. Anyone who has received their parking ticket by post should begin the appeal at this formal representation stage, using the instructions that accompanied the PCN.

Parking adjudicators

If the council rejects your formal appeal, you will receive a Notice of Rejection, requesting that you pay the original penalty. But all is not lost. If you are still convinced the charge is unfair, you can make a further appeal to independent adjudicators within 28 days. Try to make a timely decision. If you do nothing within 28 days, the council has the right to increase the fine by 50%. And if you still don't pay or appeal, it can register the debt at the county court and ultimately send the bailiffs round.

The Notice of Rejection will include some information on how to present your appeal to the adjudicators. It will also tell you which of the four adjudication services will handle the appeal. The Traffic Penalty Tribunal deals with parking adjudication in the UK and Wales, though there is a separate service for London – PATAS. Northern Ireland has its own TPT and parking tickets in Scotland are dealt with by the Scottish Parking Appeals Service. You can select either a postal or personal appeal hearing. Adjudication service staff will then send you formal acknowledgement that your appeal has been received.

If you request a postal hearing, you will be notified of the week in which your parking ticket appeal is due to be decided. If you've asked for a personal appeal, you will usually receive at least 21 days’ notice of when and where the hearing will be held. The success rate at this last tribunal stage is 50%. So if you strongly believe your ticket is unfair, it could well be worth pursuing.

Fixed penalty notice

Fixed Penalty Notices are different from PCN tickets. They are issued by police officers or police traffic wardens and are dealt with through the criminal justice system. If you want to dispute a Fixed Penalty Notice, your only option is usually to go to court and plead not guilty. Some police forces, however, operate a more informal system allowing you to write a letter outlining your case. If you can make an informal appeal, the details will be enclosed with your FPN. Again, include any evidence to support your case and contact the police within 14 days of receiving the penalty notice.

Court summons

If there is no informal appeal option, or your appeal is rejected, you will either have to pay the ticket or opt to have your case heard in a magistrate’s court. You will then receive a summons and a Plea and Mitigation form, which you should complete. You do not need to attend the first hearing, as it can be done by post. But you should plead not guilty and signal whether you intend to call any witnesses to the trial. The magistrate will then list your case for trial, where you can present your case. If you are found guilty, you will be ordered to pay the parking fine and possibly court costs. A ‘not guilty’ verdict means all charges against you will be dropped. However, you will still have to pay any legal costs you may have incurred in fighting your corner.

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