Can anyone tell me why this is anything other than a crime?
Some councils have earned hundreds of thousands of pounds by enforcing unlawful traffic and parking restrictions, the BBC has learned.
Fines are said to have been levied despite incorrect road markings and on parking bays which are too small.
Councils have been levying charges and fines that are simply not legal - and it looks as though the amount could run into the millions. Haringey, Sheffield and Camden alone have unlawfully taken at least £715,000.
You want to know the worst part? London Councils don't even seem to think there's anything wrong with that.
Nick Lester from London Councils, which represents authorities in the capital, argued that handing the cash back was not necessarily in the public interest.
He said: "Where there's only a technical error, a small issue, where no-one was genuinely misled, the council can take the view, is it really a good use of public money to repay the penalty?
"Is that really what they should be doing?"
Mr Lester* should take a swift lesson in the law. It's not "public money" being used to repay people, it's a question of giving back the money councils wrongly extorted from them. The distinction about it supposedly being "only a technical error" is also false; the law, especially when it comes to levying fines and road regulations, has to be specific and it has to be followed properly or else it means nothing. Something is either a crime or it's not - if it's not a crime then you can't fine them. Fining the innocent isn't a technical error, it's a total injustice.
If it's true that some councils continued charging fines even after they discovered they had no legal right, heads should roll and criminal investigations should follow.
The article is also very revealing about the flaws in the National Parking Adjudication Service (NPAS). Instead of insisting councils go back through their records to repay every fine they illegally charged, they recommend motorists to appeal their fine if they think it was unjust. It's amazing that even the Chief Parking Adjudicator recognises that the system is weighted to deter people from appealing:
she said that many motorists would not want to take the risk of taking their case to tribunal because it would mean losing their 50% discount - and that the onus was on local authorities to put things right.
This has lifted the lid on a serious problem. Councils can't be allowed just to decide what should be a crime and what shouldn't, and they must not be allowed to just flout the law like this. It's completely wrong that there is a penalty for appealing, too - especially considering that 60% of appeals succeed, which suggests that wrongly levied fines are endemic.
*You can contact Nick Lester here to put him right, should you wish: firstname.lastname@example.org