RAC Cars News


Town Hall Car Parks Issuing Illegal Fines

By raccars Published

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Government ministers have accused town halls in Britain of issuing illegal parking fines, which could have cost thousands of motorists up to £100. The problem lies with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras, which have been illegally installed.

According to ministers, drivers fined by this system could be entitled to refunds, applying to fines going back as far as 2010, when local authorities began installing the ANPR cameras. The cameras record the registration plate numbers of vehicles as they enter and exit car parks, but have not been government approved. This means local authorities cannot legally use them.

Car parks use ANPR cameras to replace human staff in the same way that police forces do. ANPR cameras in car parks note when cars enter and leave and requests the details of those who have underpaid or not paid at all from the DVLA. The penalty notices sent out by operators are not, in fact, official council fines but give the appearance of being so, as some authorities have tried to circumvent the illegal status of the cameras by using private contractors to manage the cameras and chase fines. However roads minister, Robert Goodwill, has made it clear to local authorities that the system remains illegal and that councils are legally responsible for the cameras and fines, no matter how they are run. Mr Goodwill reminded councils of their obligation to comply with government regulations as their car parks are situated on public land, and stated that council run car parks are held to a different code of practice from privately run car parks.

Motoring organisations are encouraging drivers fined in this manner to appeal against their penalties in court and have accused councils of ripping off drivers. They claim the ANPR system is lazy and that council run car parks should employ staff to do the job properly.

Local councils earned £635 million from car parks in the last financial year. At least 30 local authorities in England use automatic number plate recognition cameras in these areas. Two of these, Cheltenham and Welwyn Hatfield, have agreed to review their use of the ANPR system after receipt of Mr Goodwill's letter.

The RAC Foundation is also concerned about how private car parks are run, suggesting than fines for overstaying on private land could be unenforceable. Overstaying usually incurs a penalty of £100, reduced to £50 for quick payment, but the Foundation believes these penalties could be overthrown in courts.

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