Parking Tickets Posted after Drive Aways ~ Adjudicators Vindicated in TfL Challenge

27 Mar 2007 | by Caroline Sweeney

The Administrative Court gave judgment in a further test case involving ‘penalty charge notices’, more commonly known as ‘parking tickets’, which affects millions of people every year: R(Transport for London) v The Parking Adjudicator.

The general rule is that a parking attendant must serve a parking ticket on the spot by fixing it to the vehicle or by giving it to the person appearing to be in charge of the vehicle.  In London, there are two statutory exceptions permitting service by post.  One is concerned with contraventions observed by camera.  The other is where “a parking attendant attempts to issue a penalty charge notice in accordance with section 66(1) of the [Road Traffic Act 1991] but is prevented from doing so by any person” (s5 London Local Authorities Act 2000).

TfL brought judicial review proceedings against the Parking Adjudicator claiming that the adjudicator had adopted an unlawfully narrow interpretation of their power to serve by post under the second exception.  The issues were the meaning of “attempts to issue” and “prevented”.  Tfl argued that where an attendant had merely begun to note the vehicle details in a handheld device or notebook, that constituted an ‘attempt to issue’ a ticket.  Further, that merely by driving away, the driver ‘prevented’ the ticket being issued and Tfl were entitled to serve a ticket by post in such circumstances.

The Administrative Court upheld the decision and reasoning of the Parking Adjudicator on all points and dismissed Tfl’s application.  Merely preparatory acts, such as jotting down notes, do not amount to an attempt, applying the common law and common usage.  Given that the meaning of ‘issue’, in its statutory context, must refer to the act of ‘fixing’ or ‘giving’, it cannot be an ‘attempt to issue’ if the attendant is inputting details into a computer device or making notes. To make an ‘attempt to issue’, the attendant must be in the course of physically affixing the ticket or giving it to the person appearing to be in charge.  It follows that a ticket cannot be served by post if the ticket has not been completed by the time the vehicle is driven away.

The Judge also upheld the Parking Adjudicators’ interpretation of ‘prevention’ as involving violence or the threat of violence, in this context.  The judgment confirms the narrow scope of the power to serve parking tickets by
post, and minimises the risk of local authorities using the provision to issue tickets when an attendant has not had sufficient time to ascertain that a contravention has in fact occurred.

Ian Rogers appeared for the Parking Adjudicator.