Parking law figures flawed

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IT’S hard to know what’s more shocking - that the figures were so wrong or that the Government failed to check them.

In October a new law will bolster the power of parking firms to pursue drivers who refuse to pay. It was drawn up after trade body, the British Parking Association, said unpaid tickets resulted in up to 90,000 court cases every year.

The Department for Transport used the figures to draft The Protection of Freedoms Act which aims to reduce the alleged burden on the courts.

But two Star readers did some digging and discovered the real figure for court claims lodged by private parking firms was just 845. And of those just 49 were heard before a judge, some 1,800 times lower than the maximum amount claimed.

David Carrod, working with Nev Metson, obtained the figures after submitting a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice.

Nev said: “It would appear that inaccurate figures were provided by the BPA and accepted without question by the Government to create a ‘problem’ that didn’t need solving.

“Ultimately this contributed significantly to Parliament being misled about the need for the registered keeper liability clause in the Protection of Freedoms Bill.”

The clause allows companies like Sheffield’s Excel Parking to pursue the owner of a car if he, or she, won’t name the driver at the time a ticket was issued.

BPA members can easily obtain driver details from the DVLA at a cost of £2.50-a-time. The total paid last year was £2,395,402.

A DVLA spokeswoman said they accepted the figures because the BPA was the recognised trade body.

She added: “Even though it now appears that this figure may not have been reliable, we believe that there was no deliberate intention to mislead.”

A BPA spokeswoman said the figure was an estimate.

She added: “The disparity between the figures supplied by the MoJ and the BPA could be explained by a number of things.

“For example, operators often pursue a great number of charges with one court case. In addition, the MoJ figures will not account for Scotland and Northern Ireland and are also likely to exclude hearings in small claims courts, where the vast majority of unpaid parking tickets would be pursued.”

But David Carrod responded: “The FOI request specifically referred to courts in England and Wales, and each case has to be the subject of a separate claim.

“Also, the ‘small claims courts’ are part of the county court system, and were included in the figures.”