Camden council has failed to get the Court of Appeal to overturn a judicial review relating to a suspended motorcycle bay.
In 2015 a High Court judge found in favour of Robert Humphreys after he argued that adjudicator Teresa Brennan at London Tribunals had been wrong to reject his appeal against a penalty charge notice (PCN).
Humphreys had parked his moped in a motorcycle bay near Euston station on 15 August 2013 for three weeks until 3 September. During that period a suspension notice was posted on the bay on 24 August, with a PCN issued to the moped on 27 August 2013.
Last month a panel of three judges threw out Camden's calls for the original decision by Judge Coe to be quashed. The judges questioned why the council had taken no part in the judicial review in 2015 but had then subsequently lodged an appeal. Lord Justice McCombe noted that the council had given no explanation as to why it “took no steps to participate in the proceedings in the High Court” once it knew about the judicial review.
Lord Justice Beaston pointed to an “absence of any explanation” by the council as to why it had taken no part in the previous hearing “despite receiving the claim form and grounds some 11 months before the hearing”. He added: “Its position in doing nothing but now seeking to take points which should have been taken in the Administrative Court is one which seems difficult to reconcile with the overriding objective.”
Although the panel agreed on this fundamental point, there was a difference of opinion over whether or not the PCN issued to Robert Humphreys was valid. Two of the three judges questioned the original High Court decision by Judge Coe, which had stated that adjudicator Teresa Brennan was wrong to reject Humphrey’s appeal.
She had stated that the PCN was issued while the bay was suspended, so the contravention had occurred. But she noted that the suspension was not in place when Humphreys parked in the bay and recommended that Camden cancel the PCN. The authority chose not to follow her recommendation, which prompted Humphreys to take the case to judicial review. Brennan had noted the council's argument that Humphreys should have arranged for someone to check the status of the bay during his three-week absence.
Lord Justice Beaston said Brennan’s decision that “there was a contravention were adequate”. He said the judge in the earlier hearing had “erred” in concluding that there was no contravention and the “adjudicator’s reasons were flawed”.
He said that the offence of parking in a suspended motorcycling bay is set out in the Traffic Management Act 2004, the 2007 General Regulations and Camden’s Waiting and Loading Restrictions.
Lord Justice Briggs agreed with this conclusion. But he said that the “unusual facts of the case” show that motorcyclists parking in bays for longer than a day or two “may well need better warning of the possible consequences than is currently provided either by the signage of by the Highway Code”.
Conversely, Lord Justice McCombe was unconvinced that Humphreys had committed a contravention. However, he added it would be “unfortunate to decide the matter, setting a precedent which, if wrong could not be upset except in the Supreme Court”.
“It would be far better, I think, for the council to wait for another similar case and to contest the proceedings properly with further argument and perhaps with professional representation being available in the opposite party”.
A Camden Council spokesperson said: “Camden Council has taken further legal opinion and based upon this and the summing up of the appeal court judges we will not be pursuing this matter any further.
“Whilst the Court of Appeal did not accept the council’s appeal, the court acknowledged the potential importance of the legal points the council was raising on behalf of motorists and local authorities and two out of three judges supported the council’s position on the points of law.
“However, the council will be implementing various procedural improvements that have been identified as a result of this decision to strengthen the council’s parking enforcement activities for the benefit of the wider community.”
Camden council’s legal costs were £22,032 inclusive of VAT.
Parking campaigner Edward Williams said: "At a time when social care is in crisis and homelessness is on the rise, Camden employed a QC and spent a fortune in public money over a petty argument about a parking ticket. There was never a realistic chance that Camden would win in the Court of Appeal. Had they bothered to turn up to the original High Court hearing then things might well have been different. This was truly staggering incompetence."
The Court of Appeal's decision can be found here.
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