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London Borough of Harrow (19 019 960)

Category : Transport and highways > Parking and other penalties

Decision : Closed after initial enquiries

Decision date : 30 Mar 2020

The Ombudsman's final decision:

Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate this complaint about a Penalty Charge Notice for a moving traffic offence. This is because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council and because the complainant could have applied for a statutory declaration.

The complaint

  1. The complainant, whom I refer to as Mrs X, says she knew nothing about a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) until it had increased to £195. She would like a refund or to pay at the reduced rate of £65.

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The Ombudsman’s role and powers

  1. We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start an investigation if we believe it is unlikely we would find fault. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
  2. 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)
  3. London Tribunals (previously known as the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service) considers parking and moving traffic offence appeals for London.

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How I considered this complaint

  1. I read the complaint and the letters the Council sent to Mrs X about the PCN. I invited Mrs X to comment on a draft of this decision.

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What I found

Moving traffic offence – PCN

  1. If the Council thinks someone has committed a moving traffic offence it issues a PCN. The person has 28 days to pay or appeal. If they pay within 14 days the charge is reduced by 50%. If they neither pay nor appeal the Council issues a Charge Certificate which increases the fine. The next step is for the Council to register the debt the court. If the person did not receive the PCN they can apply to the court for a statutory declaration. If the court grants a statutory declaration the process re-starts and the Council issues a new PCN. The person can then either pay or appeal.

What happened

  1. The Council issued a PCN in November 2019 for a moving traffic offence. The Council obtained Mrs X’s address from DVLA and sent the PCN to the correct address. The fine was £130. Mrs X did not receive this letter.
  2. In December the Council sent Mrs X a Charge Certificate. The fine had increased to £195. Mrs X received this letter. She contacted the Council to say she may have accidently made the prohibited turn in the road but she did not receive the PCN.
  3. The Council told Mrs X it was now too late to appeal. But, it said she could wait for the debt to be registered in court and then apply for a statutory declaration. Alternatively Mrs X could pay.
  4. The Council did not register the debt in court because Mrs X paid £195.
  5. Mrs X wants the Council to offer a full refund, or allow her to pay £65, because she did not receive the PCN.

Assessment

  1. I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council. The Council sent all the documents it was required to send and it sent them to the correct address. It is unfortunate that Mrs X did not get the PCN but the Council is not responsible for problems with the post. The Council also told Mrs X that she could apply for a statutory declaration. This was the appropriate advice for someone who has not receive a PCN.
  2. I also will not start an investigation because Mrs X could have applied for a statutory declaration and then either paid, in response to the reissued PCN, or appealed to the tribunal if she did not think she had committed a traffic offence. It is reasonable to expect her to have appealed because the tribunal is the appropriate body to consider disputes about PCNs. It is also reasonable to expect her to have applied for a statutory declaration because that is the correct action to take if someone has not received a PCN.

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Final decision

  1. I will not start an investigation because there is insufficient evidence of fault by the Council and because Mrs X could have applied for a statutory declaration.

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Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman

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