Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 29 Mar 2019
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint that the Council should revoke a Penalty Charge Notice because it did not give the complainant a 10-minute grace period before issuing the notice. This is because it is reasonable to expect the complainant to have requested a review of the Traffic Enforcement Centre’s decision not to allow his late witness statement.
- The complainant, whom I refer to as Mr B, says the Council should revoke the Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) he received for parking his scooter in a loading restriction area, as it did not allow him a 10-minute grace period.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- The Local Government Act 1974 sets out our powers but also imposes restrictions on what we can investigate.
- The law says we cannot normally investigate a complaint when someone can appeal, or could have appealed, to a tribunal. However, we may decide to investigate if we consider it would be unreasonable to expect the person to appeal, or have appealed. (Local Government Act 1974, section 26(6)(a), as amended)
- London Tribunals (previously known as the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service) considers parking and moving traffic offence appeals for London.
- We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. So we may also decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe there is, or was, 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:
- Mr B’s letters of complaint to the Ombudsman;
- The Council’s letter to Mr B dated 17 January 2019.
What I found
- The law sets out a clear and free appeal route for motorists who want to challenge a PCN. It also includes safeguards if something goes wrong during this process. For example, if a motorist does not receive a PCN and is unaware of it until enforcement agents make contact, they can make a late witness statement to the Traffic Enforcement Centre (TEC) at Northampton County Court. If the TEC accepts the late witness statement, it can order a council to reissue the notice to owner and cancel the charge certificate and order for recovery. This reinstates a motorist’s right of appeal against the PCN. The Ombudsman would normally expect a person to then use this right of appeal if they want to challenge the PCN.
- As I understand it, Mr B submitted a late witness statement, but the TEC rejected it. The Ombudsman cannot challenge the court’s decision. If Mr B did not agree with the TEC’s decision, he could have applied for a review by a district judge. Mr B paid the parking fine instead.
- While there is a fee for making an application to the district judge, it is reasonable to expect Mr B to have taken this action. This is because the district judge could have ordered the process to be taken back to an earlier stage, reinstating any right of appeal against the PCN. The district judge was better placed than the Ombudsman to reinstate the right of appeal to London Tribunals.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint. This is because it is reasonable to expect Mr B to have asked the district judge to review the TEC’s decision not to allow his late witness statement.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman