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.
Civil Enforcement Officers (CEO's) have a difficult and unpopular job but are obliged to make sure drivers play by the rules to ensure safety and a fair turnover of parking spaces. Sadly a few people seem to regard CEO's as fair game for verbal abuse or even physical violence – if you feel unfairly done by take it up with the authority and not, in the heat of the moment, with the CEO.
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.
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.
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:
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.
(22 April 2014)
* J Floor, Argyle House, 3 Lady Lawson Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9TH, Tel: 0131 221 0409