Decision : Not upheld
Decision date : 28 Mar 2018
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: Mr X has complained about how the Council has dealt with a Penalty Charge Notice issued for a parking contravention. The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint as there is another body better placed to deal with the matter.
- Mr X has complained about how the Council dealt with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) it issued to his wife (Mrs X) for a parking contravention.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone can appeal to a tribunal. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to appeal. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(a), as amended)
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone could take the matter to court. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to go to court. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(c), as amended)
- We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe there is another body better placed to consider this complaint.
(Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have considered all the information from Mr X and the Council, including the Council’s response to our enquires.
- A copy of this decision was sent in draft to Mr X and the Council. I have considered the comments received in response.
What I found
- The Council issued a PCN to Mrs X in March 2016 for a parking contravention. Mrs X challenged the PCN using the Council’s online system. She said she had only been parked for a few minutes while she took her niece, who was unwell, home. Mrs X said she believed this would fall within the five minutes ‘grace’ period and asked the Council to cancel the PCN. She also asked the Council to respond to her at her new address.
- The Council wrote to Mrs X at her new address, rejecting her online appeal. It said it was satisfied the PCN had been correctly issued and it had no grounds to cancel it. Mr and Mrs X were unhappy with this response and asked the Council to reconsider. They did not hear anything further and assumed the matter had been resolved.
- In April 2016, the Council contacted the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to confirm the details for the registered keeper of the vehicle. Mr X is the registered keeper of the vehicle, however the DVLA still had his old address. Therefore, the Council sent all subsequent correspondence, including the enforcement documents, to Mr X at his previous address. Mr X did not receive any of the Council’s letters and was unaware the charge remained outstanding until an enforcement agent visited his home and took possession of his car.
- Mr X is unhappy with how the Council has dealt with the matter. He says it knew he had moved and should have at least sent correspondence to both addresses. Mr X says this has caused him a great deal of stress and he has had to pay significant costs in addition to the original charge.
- In circumstances such as these, where someone has not received the correspondence relating to the enforcement process, they can make an out of time witness statement to the Traffic Enforcement Centre (TEC) at Northampton County Court. Witness statements can only be made on certain grounds and, if accepted, the TEC can order the Council to take the case back to an earlier stage. This removes the charges added to the PCN and reinstates the right to appeal to an independent adjudicator at the London Tribunals. The adjudicator can consider any mitigating circumstances and refer the matter back to the Council to reconsider whether the PCN should be cancelled. The Ombudsman will not usually look at complaints where there is a right to appeal to a tribunal.
- Mr X made an out of time witness statement to the TEC, but this was refused. Mr X could ask his local county court to review the TEC’s decision and the court may restore the right to appeal to an adjudicator. However, the Ombudsman will not investigate this issue further as the court would be better placed to deal with the matter and I see no exceptional reason why it would not be reasonable for Mr X to do this.
- We will not investigate this complaint as the matter is best dealt with by another body.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman