Fining motorists by post using CCTV camera evidence has been ruled “illegal”, The Telegraph can reveal.
Drivers may be entitled to refunds for millions of pounds of penalty charge notices (PCNs) after a ruling by a panel of lawyers that hears appeals against motoring fines.
A special test case found that Transport for London (TfL) had “illegally” fined motorists who had stopped on parking bays on red routes in the capital.
The transport authority, acting on behalf of Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, breached government guidance by using CCTV rather than traffic wardens to enforce road rules.
Ruling looks at DfT guidance
Laws limiting the use of CCTV to issue fines were introduced in 2015 because of what ministers described as “overzealous enforcement by local authorities”.
The judgment by London Tribunals has implications for drivers across the country and could be relied upon in appeals where a CCTV motoring fine has been issued. A London Tribunals spokesman said while its rulings do not set a legal precedent, “adjudicators may take previous decisions into consideration before reaching a conclusion”.
The ruling, on eight red route fine appeals, has emerged just one week after Rishi Sunak declared he was on “the motorists’ side” and ordered a review of low traffic neighbourhoods.
Analysis of TfL data suggests it issues about 435,000 PCNs of all types a year, which if paid in full at £160 would net £69 million.
Three adjudicators accused the authority of a “procedural impropriety” by issuing fines through CCTV rather than “civil enforcement officers” – or traffic wardens.
The ruling says the “most recent version” of Department for Transport guidance states that “approved devices” – or CCTV – should only be used “where enforcement is difficult or sensitive and enforcement by a civil enforcement officer is not practicable”.
Explaining how many motorists may have legitimate reasons for stopping, such as loading or unloading, they “may find it impossible to obtain the necessary evidence after the event” when the £160 fine arrives by post.
“A motorist parked in such a bay who encounters a civil enforcement officer may, there and then, be able to show that he or she is loading or unloading … or can readily obtain the evidence … to substantiate that claim,” the adjudicators said, scrapping all eight fines.