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Is it fine to not pay a parking fine?

Parking-Fine

In short, the answer is no. Parking in Scotland whether on public or private land can have unfortunate consequences therefore the rules should always be adhered to in the first instance. Failure to abide to the parking restrictions in a certain place will most often result in an immediate parking fine. If this happens, it would always be advisable to pay the penalty as soon as is practicable since the charge is likely to be discounted for early acceptance of the breach.

However, if you are able to prove that you were in fact not in breach at all and have relevant evidence to support your claim then it is possible that you can be absolved of certain parking fines. Nevertheless, there are clear differences between parking fines on both public and private land which should be acknowledged before you decide whether you are liable and willing to pay or not.

Parking on public land

A local authority is responsible for managing parking on public land throughout many areas in Scotland. However, where a local authority is not responsible, the onus falls onto the police instead. Therefore, parking tickets can be issued by either a local authority parking attendant, a police officer or else a traffic warden. Parking tickets themselves result from a failure to follow the parking restrictions as have been stipulated and can vary from one local authority to another. A penalty charge notice (PCN) is a type of parking ticket issued by a local authority parking attendant and is therefore regarded as a civil matter. However, parking ticket fines themselves are dependent on the policy of the specific local authority of which a suspected breach occurred.

Penalty charge notice (PCN)

A PCN is a type of charge against a driver that has failed to abide by parking restrictions in a public place and can be issued by a local authority parking attendant. The PCN will often be placed on the windscreen of the vehicle in breach with 28 days to make payment. There is the opportunity for a driver to appeal against the notice if they were not the driver at the time of the offence or there is some other evidence of their innocence. However, a failure to neither appeal nor pay at all can result in a ‘notice to owner’ reminder as well as a ‘charge certificate’ which will then double the fine. Furthermore, if a fine is not paid within the time limit then a local authority has the power to register the debt with the court without a court hearing and thus recover the charge itself using sheriff officers.

Fixed penalty notice

Nevertheless, in certain public areas, the police are in fact responsible for enforcing parking restrictions ahead of the local authority. As such, failure to adhere to the parking rules and regulations becomes a criminal matter rather than a civil one thus often resulting in a fixed penalty notice being issued to the driver in breach instead of a PCN. A PCN is considered a penalty for contravention of certain rules and regulations and although still a formal parking ticket can be challenged. A fixed penalty notice is considered more severe and often results from an illegal parking fault on the part of a driver which therefore warrants a penalty charge. Usually a police officer or traffic warden will place the notice on your windscreen allowing a period of 21 days to respond.

Options if you receive a fixed penalty on public land

Having been issued with a fixed penalty notice, there are three options which become available to a driver in breach:

  1. Pay the fixed penalty

If you accept that you are liable for a parking offence then you should pay in full the amount requested on your fixed penalty notice. There is often a discount available if you pay the fine within a certain period of time. Failure to pay the fine before the 21 days will result in a ‘notice to owner’ reminder that you still have a fine outstanding and further delays in payment can result in the fine being increased by 50% or even warrant a court appearance if you fail to pay at all.

  1. Request a court hearing

It is possible to request a court hearing if you do not agree that you committed the offence in the first place. In order to opt for a court hearing, you must fill out the relevant part on the reverse of the fixed penalty notice and send it to the address provided before you receive a summons to attend court. Legal Aid is not normally available for driving offences although it would be advisable to receive some legal advice prior to a hearing.

  1. Deny that you are the owner of the car

If you were not in fact the owner of the vehicle when it was in breach of parking restrictions you can send a statement to the court called a ‘statutory declaration’ stating this fact and you will not have to pay the penalty. If your car is stolen prior to the breach then this must be evidenced through your insurance or police report to prove that you were not in fact the guilty party. Furthermore, if you lent your car to another then you would have to make a ‘statutory declaration’ of this fact and have the relevant person countersign the declaration which would then facilitate a court hearing for the actual driver of the vehicle when it was in breach of such parking restrictions.

Parking on private land

Parking on private land is often overseen by the owner of the land or else an outside company that is employed to manage the car park. Parking tickets otherwise referred to as a Parking Charge Notice (PCN) may be distributed to drivers where they have parked without the owner’s permission or have breached any parking conditions as stipulated by the owner.

Parking on private land is recognised as a contractual relationship between a driver and the landowner. Such agreed terms are found on a sign displaying the conditions of which a driver accepts after he assumes a parking position within the car park. Failure to adhere to any of the rules can result in the landowner issuing a PCN since both landowners and parking operators do not need to have a licence to distribute a parking ticket. Often a driver will be issued with a parking ticket via post or left on the windscreen of the vehicle in breach. Typically, it will include the name of the landowner or the outside company employed to issue such parking tickets.

Private residential roads which are owned solely by private landowners are entitled to impose reasonable terms and conditions upon people making use of their land. Failure to adhere to such terms and conditions may therefore result in a parking ticket. Some private landowners may ask the local authority to assume the road as if it is public thus overseen by a traffic warden otherwise they may come to an agreement with a private parking operator to manage the parking restrictions for them. Even some NHS car parking facilities have parking restrictions despite the fact that some NHS hospital car parks are free to use. The NHS boards often employ another party to manage the NHS car parking facilities for them therefore it is still possible  to be issued with a parking ticket if you do not abide by the rules as they are displayed.

Options if you receive a PCN on private land

Unlike fixed penalty fines on public land, parking tickets on private land are not deemed a criminal offence. Although a PCN is similar to a fixed penalty as issued by the police, it does not have the same effect. Instead a PCN is a notice that a private landowner or a private parking operator intends to raise proceedings against you in a civil court but will allow you to pay the PCN as an alternative. The PCN will state that you have 28 days to pay the charge and the notice will detail how much and where you are able to make payment. Furthermore, there are generally three options available to a driver who has been issued with a PCN on private land:

  1. Pay the PCN

If you accept liability that you were in breach of the conditions imposed on a particular private parking area, then you should pay the fine in full as soon as is practical. Often there will be a discount if you pay the charge within the first 14 days therefore it would always be beneficial to accept this offer if available to you.

  1. Ignore the PCN

Alternatively, if you do not accept liability for a parking breach on private land then you can decide to do nothing thus not pay the charge nor reply to the parking operator. In this case, a company may continue to send requests for you to make payment but you can still choose to ignore these. Private parking operators may then wish to take you to court but generally disregard this option since the amount of money in dispute is relatively low. However, it would be advisable to retain your parking ticket and any other relevant paperwork in case you have to go to court, especially if you have a defence such as the parking restrictions were not visible within the parking area. It is also likely that the original charge against you will be augmented if the dispute goes to court.

  1. Challenge the PCN

Everyone who receives a PCN in a private car park has a consumer right to challenge the ticket although the reason must be evidenced and not simply as a result of you thinking the charge is unfair. Despite the fact that there is no specific Scottish legislation on parking, the general principles of contract law are borrowed and thus apply between both the driver and the private landowner or parking operator. As such, it is possible to challenge against a PCN if it can be argued that the rules and parking restrictions were unclear in a specific car park therefore it was impossible to recognise what the conditions were at the time. It is also possible to challenge against a PCN if you disagree that you were in breach of any of the rules in the first place, such as you had not left your vehicle therefore had not parked although it may be difficult to prove this fact. You may also challenge a PCN if you were not in fact the driver although you are the registered keeper of the car. There is no obligation to identify the driver although a company may still wish to pursue court proceedings yet you are able to defend your position. Other reasons for challenging a PCN may include the fact that your car broke down, you became ill, there was no way to pay since the parking meter was not in use and there was no parking attendant in sight. To be successful in your challenge against a PCN, there must be a definitive reason that can be evidenced as proof of your state of affairs. Challenging a PCN on private land would first begin with an informal appeal to the parking operator or the private landowner asking them to withdraw the ticket having provided them with sufficient evidence of your innocence.

Ultimately, it is advisable, unless you have a reasonable explanation of your failure to adhere to certain parking restrictions whether it be on public or private land to pay the fine. It would also not be fine to simply acknowledge fixed penalty notices since they can be issued by the police and disregard penalty charge notices which can be issued by both local authority else private landowners. Both types of parking fines are as a result of a contravention to parking restrictions in Scotland therefore are mostly warranted.

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