If you are a UK driver.

If you are a UK driver, here are some figures that may shock you. Every year in England and Wales alone over 3 million fixed penalty notices and 7 million penalty charge notices (PCNs) are issued to motorists. With around thirty million licence holders, that means you have a ONE IN THREE chance of getting a ticket this year. And these figures don't even include prosecutions for those more serious offences, which are dealt with by summons. The great majority of these are not serious crimes. Most PCNs, for example, are issued for parking infringements. What is in no doubt, however, is that they are a huge money-spinner for councils, police and the government. In the period from 1997 to 2000 alone, revenue from motorists from court fines and parking tickets almost doubled from £13 million a year to £25 million. But did Britain's roads become twice as safe as a result? Not a bit of it! During the same period, the figures for those killed or injured on our roads actually increased. There is only one possible conclusion. Motorists are being hit in the pocket as an alternative form of taxation. Already taxed to the hilt through road tax and petrol duty - not to mention tolls and congestion charges - they are being made to fork out yet again to help dig high-spending councils and the government out of their budget deficits. Many readers will already have suffered at the hands of Britain's motoring law enforcers, with fines or convictions incurred while pursuing their lawful business and trying to earn an honest crust for themselves and their families. As well as the ever-increasing fines themselves, the 'hidden costs' can include higher insurance premiums, penalty points on your licence, and perhaps even disqualification. But here's the good news (yes, there is some!). There are many, perfectly legal ways you can reduce the likelihood of being charged with an offence, and this will reveal some of them. And, if the worst does happen, it will show you how to challenge a parking ticket or speeding charge, and even how to defend yourself in court should the need arise. And here's a crucial fact: the system depends on most people meekly accepting whatever charge is levelled against them and paying the fine and any other penalty. If you fight back, your chances of success are actually much better than you think! For example, around 50% of appeals against penalty charge notices taken to the National Parking Adjudication Service are successful. Of course, we are not advocating that anyone drives dangerously or recklessly. This guide is aimed at the vast majority of drivers who consider themselves law-abiding but are no longer prepared to put up with the state-sponsored harassment of motorists which driving in Britain now entails. For far too long, councils, the government and the police have had things all their own way as far as motorists are concerned. Now it's time for drivers to fight back!

Representatives.

Representatives of three occupations can issue parking tickets: police, traffic wardens and local authority parking attendants. Tickets issued by the police and traffic wardens (who are employed by the police) Re called fixed penalty notices (FPNs). They are enforced through the criminal justice system. Tickets issued by local authority parking attendants are called penalty charge notices (PCNs). They are issued under the so-called decriminalised parking enforcement (DPE) system. Based on the Road Traffic Act 1991, this allows local authorities to enforce parking regulations themselves or to sub-contract this to private firms. DPE started in London in 1994 and has now become the most common system of parking enforcement throughout the UK. Defending yourself against parking tickets is initially similar in both cases, but the appeal routes are different. With FPNs, if your initial informal challenge is unsuccessful, your case will be heard in the local magistrates court. With PCNs, the ultimate authority is an independent tribunal. If you receive a parking ticket and believe it has been issued unfairly, here is your four-point action plan. 1. As soon as possible, and in any event within 14 days, send a letter of appeal to the address on the ticket, stating clearly and simply why you believe the ticket should be cancelled. Includes a range of model letters you can use for this purpose). 2. If your initial informal appeal letter is unsuccessful, write again. Sometimes the first letter merely receives a 'form' reply. A second letter has a better chance of being read by someone with the authority to cancel the ticket. 3. If your informal appeal/s are unsuccessful, you will receive a Notice to Owner (PCNs) or court summons (FPNs). You can still appeal, but only on specific legal grounds, e.g. 'the traffic order was invalid' or 'the contravention did not occur'. 4. If your formal appeal is unsuccessful, in the case of a PCN you will be given the opportunity to make a further appeal to the relevant parking appeals adjudicator. Even at this point, there is still every chance that your appeal will be upheld, as over 50% of appeals to the independent adjudicators are upheld. There are many grounds on which you may be able to appeal against a parking ticket. One of our favourites is the so-called 'leaves on the line' defence, which can be used successfully if you receive a ticket for parking on yellow lines. If the lines are obscured - whether by leaves, snow, road works or simple wear-and-tear - parking restrictions cannot be enforced. Only in October 2003, the BBC reported that thousands of motorists in Marlow in Buckinghamshire had been able to escape parking fines simply because fallen leaves had covered the double yellow lines in the town centre. The law states that, to be enforceable, yellow lines must be continuous - so if they are even partly obscured, you should have excellent grounds for appeal. This is one reason we recommend carrying a camera (a cheap, disposable one will do fine) to provide back-up evidence if it is ever needed. The area where the lines are faded or obscured should be near where you parked, however - if it is 200 yards away, it is unlikely your appeal would be upheld. Parking tickets may be a pain in the rear, but speeding tickets are an altogether more serious matter. For one thing the fines can be far higher (a maximum of £1,000, or £2,500 if caught speeding on a Motorway). For another, speeding is an endurable offence, which will result in penalty points being added to your licence. This in turn can lead to higher car insurance premiums, problems if you wish to hire a vehicle or apply for a job for which a 'clean licence' is required, and perhaps even disqualification. The great majority of speeding tickets nowadays are issued by speed cameras. If you are caught by a speed camera, generally the first you will know of it is when a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) arrives in the post. Legally this must be within 14 days of the date of the alleged offence, and the police also get an allowance of a couple of days for the post to deliver them. So if it's more than 17 days since you were flashed they are too late to prosecute you, unless you were driving a company car, hire car or someone else's car, in which case they are allowed more time to track you down. Although the police and courts place great faith in speed cameras, these devices can and do produce errors. In addition, the UK has a serious problem with registration numbers being illegally 'cloned'. It is perfectly possible that someone may have copied your registration number and be driving around with impunity, knowing that if they get caught speeding, someone else (the rightful owner of that number, i.e. YOU) will receive the ticket. If you receive a speed camera ticket and wish to contest it, therefore, one thing you MUST do is write as soon as possible to the prosecuting authority on the ticket requesting BOTH copies of the speed camera photograph. You should also ask how far apart in time the pictures were taken (as this information will be needed if you wish to double-check the speed calculation). Police authorities are required under the Criminal Procedures and Investigation Act 1996 to provide the photos, or at least give you the opportunity to view them, but some make it more difficult than others. The UK Driving Secrets guide includes model letters you can use which should normally ensure that you are able to get your hands on the evidence. If the pictures show that the car in question is not yours, one possible explanation is that your number has been cloned. You should notify the authority about this immediately, providing any evidence you may possess that your car was elsewhere at the time, and/or is a completely different make or model. It is also possible that the registration number on the photograph has been misread or is illegible. Again, you should get your appeal in as soon as possible. Finally, even if the photographs DO show your car, you may want to contest whether you were speeding. You can calculate the speed by comparing the position of your car in the two photos. By working out the distance the car has travelled in the interval between the two pictures, you can work out what speed the car would have been travelling at. The UK Driving Secrets guide includes a simple formula you can use to calculate this. Parking tickets may be a pain in the rear, but speeding tickets are an altogether more serious matter. For one thing the fines can be far higher (a maximum of £1,000, or £2,500 if caught speeding on a motorway). For another, speeding is an endorsable offence, which will result in penalty points being added to your licence. This in turn can lead to higher car insurance premiums, problems if you wish to hire a vehicle or apply for a job for which a 'clean licence' is required, and perhaps even disqualification. The great majority of speeding tickets nowadays are issued by speed cameras. If you are caught by a speed camera, generally the first you will know of it is when a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) arrives in the post. Legally this must be within 14 days of the date of the alleged offence, and the police also get an allowance of a couple of days for the post to deliver them. So if it's more than 17 days since you were flashed they are too late to prosecute you, unless you were driving a company car, hire car or someone else's car, in which case they are allowed more time to track you down. Although the police and courts place great faith in speed cameras, these devices can and do produce errors. In addition, the UK has a serious problem with registration numbers being illegally 'cloned'. It is perfectly possible that someone may have copied your registration number and be driving around with impunity, knowing that if they get caught speeding, someone else (the rightful owner of that number, i.e. YOU) will receive the ticket. If you receive a speed camera ticket and wish to contest it, therefore, one thing you MUST do is write as soon as possible to the prosecuting authority on the ticket requesting BOTH copies of the speed camera photograph. You should also ask how far apart in time the pictures were taken (as this information will be needed if you wish to double-check the speed calculation). Police authorities are required under the Criminal Procedures and Investigation Act 1996 to provide the photos, or at least give you the opportunity to view them, but some make it more difficult than others. The UK Driving Secrets guide includes model letters you can use which should normally ensure that you are able to get your hands on the evidence. If the pictures show that the car in question is not yours, one possible explanation is that your number has been cloned. You should notify the authority about this immediately, providing any evidence you may possess that your car was elsewhere at the time, and/or is a completely different make or model. It is also possible that the registration number on the photograph has been misread or is illegible. Again, you should get your appeal in as soon as possible. Finally, even if the photographs DO show your car, you may want to contest whether you were speeding. You can calculate the speed by comparing the position of your car in the two photos. By working out the distance the car has travelled in the interval between the two pictures, you can work out what speed the car would have been travelling at. The UK Driving Secrets guide includes a simple formula you can use to calculate this. If you demonstrate to the authorities that you intend to contest their allegations, they will back down. The fact is that the system depends on most people meekly accepting whatever charges are thrown at them. If the authorities see that you are not going to be intimidated, they may well decide that it is 'not in the public interest' to prosecute you. On occasion, however, they may refuse to back down. If you are still sure that you wish to contest the allegation, you will then have to go to court and present your case in front of independent magistrates. Again, your chances of success if you decide to do this are better than you think - but you do need to be properly prepared. The first thing you will need to do is research the relevant road traffic laws thoroughly. Start by arming yourself with an up-to-date copy of The Highway Code. This is available inexpensively from any stationer's, or you can view it free of charge on the web at http://www.highwaycode.gov.uk/ The Highway Code is a generalised guide to the law, so you should not rely on it totally in your defence. However, what it will do very well is tell you the law which relates to your particular case. At the end of each section in The Highway Code you will see an abbreviation such as LAW RT(ND)A. These letters indicate the actual legislation on which the relevant section is based - in this example, the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995. The section of the Highway Code titled 'The Road User and the Law' includes a key to all the abbreviations used, and the Acts and regulations to which they refer. Once you have found the laws which apply in your case, you should obtain a copy of the relevant Act or regulations.

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