Penalty Charge Notice (PCN)

Enforcing parking, and some moving traffic offences as a civil rather than criminal matter

A PCN doesn't result in a criminal record or points on your licence

A PCN doesn't result in a criminal record or points on your licence

Most parking/waiting restrictions in the UK are now enforced as a civil rather than a criminal matter – a PCN doesn't result in a criminal record or points on your licence.

A PCN is a penalty for contravention of regulations.  It can be paid or contested by appeal or by defending a claim for payment under the small claims track of the county court.

The way that councils progress PCNs, from how they are served through appeal/payment to debt recovery in the case of non-payment, is laid down in regulations.

As well as parking/waiting offences in most parts of the UK, PCNs are used for some moving traffic offences – bus lanes, no entry, restricted turn, yellow box junction etc. – particularly in London.

A PCN can be issued by post as well as by hand or applied to the car windscreen.  You have 28 days to pay or challenge.

The Secretary of State for Transport confirms the level of penalty – up to £70 outside London, and up to £130 in London.  The penalty is halved if paid within 14 days.

If unpaid, a PCN penalty will be treated as a civil debt and the enforcement authority will endeavour to recover this through the county court system. Ultimately this can result in a visit from the bailiff if the debt remains unpaid.

In areas where the local authority doesn't have civil parking enforcement powers parking is enforced by the police or police-employed traffic wardens who will issue a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) enforced through the criminal justice system.

Endorsable parking offences – parking on red routes or zig-zag markings for example – are also enforced by the police or traffic wardens through the criminal justice system.

Appealing a PCN

Prompt payment (within 14 days) will halve the payment due but if you get as far as making a formal appeal and fail, the penalty will be increased by 50% if you don't pay by the deadline.

If you intend to appeal, don't be tempted to pay the penalty charge first.  The case will be closed as payment is taken as an admission of guilt.

An appeal will only be granted if one or more specific statutory grounds for appeal apply.  There are many including that you were not the owner of the vehicle at the time or that the vehicle was being driven without your consent.  The websites of the independent adjudicators (see links below) give full details of the statutory grounds of appeal.

1. Informal appeal

If you believe that you have grounds to appeal then the first step is to make informal written representation to the enforcement authority (the local authority that issued the PCN).  This must be done within 14 days.

Lodging an informal appeal does not automatically extend the 14 day period of entitlement to pay the reduced penalty.  Many local authorities will extend the period but this is discretionary – check before appealing.

2. Formal appeal

If the enforcement authority rejects your informal appeal, you will receive a 'Notice To Owner' (NTO) that officially orders you to pay the original charge – with 28 days more to pay.

The NTO will include information on how you can make a formal appeal to independent adjudicators.

The specific body to which you make your representation depends on where in the country the alleged contravention took place.  It will be one of the following:

The AA says

Independent adjudications are a good thing and help to keep councils in check.  Unlike the independent appeals service for private parking tickets (POPLA), the civil appeals process for PCNs is regulated.

  • In general only around 1% of PCNs get to the formal appeal stage but around half of those who do appeal win their case. Problems with ‘signs and lines’ is the most common ground for appeal.
  • The ‘quality’ of PCNs appears to vary significantly from council to council - as many as 75% of appeals are upheld in some areas but less than 30% in others.  High motorist win rates, whilst welcome, usually indicate low quality PCNs forcing drivers to waste time and effort appealing.
  • Use of CCTV and automated mass enforcement has resulted in unnecessary appeals - for example a blue badge may not be visible to the camera but would have been seen clearly by a parking enforcement officer on the ground.
  • It is important to appeal if you think the PCN is not right - gather evidence and make an informal appeal to the council without delay.
  • A PCN can be cancelled at any stage. A council that knows it's made a mistake should do so promptly rather than continue to fight the case, only to fail to provide evidence (turn up) at appeal so the driver wins by default.

(8 January 2013)


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