London driving fines: motorists may be eligible for refunds after CCTV-based fines ruled 'illegal' by lawyers

TfL issues around 435,000 PCNs annually, which would generate £69 million if paid in full at £160
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Thousands of drivers may be eligible to refunds for penalty charge notifications (PCNs) after it was determined that fining drivers by post using CCTV evidence is "illegal". The move follows a decision by a panel of lawyers who review appeals against motoring fines.

In a test case, it was found that Transport for London (TfL) had "illegally" penalised drivers who had parked their cars on red routes throughout the city.

By employing CCTV instead of traffic wardens to enforce traffic laws, London Mayor Sadiq Khan's transport authority violated government regulations, say London Tribunals.

Laws restricting the use of CCTV to levy fines were introduced in 2015, with ministers saying giving “overzealous enforcement by local authorities” as the reason.

Three adjudicators accused the authority of “procedural impropriety” for imposing penalties using CCTV rather than "civil enforcement officers."

They ruled that Department for Transport guidance says "approved devices" like CCTV should only be used “where enforcement is difficult or sensitive and enforcement by a civil enforcement officer is not practicable."

A CCTV camera observes a woman walking in the Embankment area of central London in 2007 (Photo: Leon Neal/AFP via Getty Images)A CCTV camera observes a woman walking in the Embankment area of central London in 2007 (Photo: Leon Neal/AFP via Getty Images)
A CCTV camera observes a woman walking in the Embankment area of central London in 2007 (Photo: Leon Neal/AFP via Getty Images)

Many drivers may have valid reasons for stopping, including loading or unloading, but “may find it impossible to obtain the necessary evidence after the event” when a £160 fine arrives by post.

The adjudicators overturned all eight fines in the test case, saying "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."

Drivers across the nation could be affected by the decision, which could be cited in future appeals if a motoring fine was issued based on CCTV images.

Though London Tribunals' verdict does not set a legal precedent, “adjudicators may take previous decisions into consideration before reaching a conclusion," a representative for the organisation said.

The decision on eight red route fine appeals comes a week after Rishi Sunak said he was on "the motorists' side" and ordered a review of low traffic neighbourhoods.

According to TfL data, it issues around 435,000 PCNs annually, which would generate £69 million if paid in full at £160. TfL lost 420 cases between June 2022 and March 2023 where CCTV footage was used.

In 2013, the Traffic Penalty Tribunal, which hears PCN appeals for England and Wales, found that “camera enforcement appears to be used as a routine” despite recommendations that it should only be used as a last resort when utilising traffic wardens could be challenging.

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