One parking adjudicator criticised the example of a driver who stopped briefly at a school three days running to drop off his grandchild only to receive a set of three penalty charge demands amounting to hundreds of pounds at a later date and then discover for the first time that he had been wrong to have done this. If the CEOs had got out of their secretly-filming vehicle and operated appropriately and effectively on foot the driver would have learned of his unintentional mistake at the outset, been grateful for the CEO’s advice and not repeated his mistake.
This example shows misuse of CCTV parking enforcement where the procedure is to make no effort to prevent contraventions (which is the primary objective of parking enforcement) but to allow contraventions to take place unhindered to initiate the sending out of subsequent demands for penalty payment on an industrial scale.
CCTV is just too easy a way for local authorities to raise revenue from the comfort of a car or control room. Drivers have been issued parking PCNs (which they have then had to challenge) for legitimately driving through a bus stop without actually stopping and also for legitimately waiting for an obstructing vehicle to emerge from a side street! Council CCTV operators have even been known to decline to record a case of violent crime occurring because they were ‘too busy’ issuing PCNs.
NMAG believes that the only way to curb the excesses of local authorities in their over-eager use of enforcement by CCTV would be the payment to the motorist of an automatic compensation sum in the case of every successful tribunal appeal against a PCN.
Unlawful CCTV cameras
All CCTV equipment employed in parking enforcement must be certified by the Secretary of State as an ‘Approved Device’ to enable its lawful use for parking enforcement. The evaluation and certification of such CCTV equipment to be used by an enforcement authority is undertaken on behalf of the Secretary of State by the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) which is an executive agency of the Department for Transport (like the DVLA). The VCA issues to the enforcement authority a Certificate which confirms their CCTV equipment to be an ‘Approved Device’ after having checked and found that it complies with all of the statutory specifications for the camera unit, the recording equipment and system, and other parts of the complete set of CCTV equipment.
Regulation 6 of the 2007 ‘General Regulations’ prohibits the issuing of a PCN on the basis of CCTV observation unless the CCTV equipment employed has been validly certified as an Approved Device.
Notably, the London Borough of Richmond on Thames operated two Mobile Enforcement Vehicles (MEVs) in which the CCTV equipment was satisfactory but they did not possess an Approved Device Certificate that related to the actual CCTV equipment installed. This was revealed at a 2011 parking appeal which established that none of the 18,500 PCNs issued since March 2009 had been lawfully issued. Further to that, when the Council changed these vehicles in January 2012 to an entirely different type with different CCTV equipment (all of which actually was suitable for CCTV enforcement) they failed even to apply for the necessary Approved Device certification. Every PCN issued as a result of these non-Approved-Device replacement CCTV vehicles was likewise unlawful for having been prohibited by the 2007 Regulations.
In this celebrated case the fault lay in the poor performance of a Council officer (also a Director of the British Parking Association Ltd (BPA Ltd) and a ‘fellow’ of the Institute of Parking Professionals (IPP) who resigned after the fiasco. However, the subsequent conduct of this council in correcting the situation (and subsequently) has been exemplary.
Other defective CCTV equipment used for enforcement
Some London boroughs councils which, in unfavourable contrast to Richmond, have known that their CCTV equipment Authorised Device Certifications were/are defective for various reasons but they have wilfully continued enforcement with the bluster familiar to the motoring public that everything is in apple-pie order.
The CCTV processing equipment of some councils has been repeatedly proven to produce video evidence that does not comply with the CCTV performance specifications that are required for certification as part of an Approved Device despite their possession of an Approved-Device certificate. Video disc evidence such as DVDs presented by some enforcement authorities in evidence at London parking appeals will not even play on a DVD player as the published Parking and Traffic Appeal Service (PATAS) rules say they must! Even when they are played on a computer some do not show essential data information that is specified to be necessary for Approved Device equipment.
These failings have been repeatedly exposed at parking appeals but, apart from allowing the individual appeals, the PATAS tribunal has been routinely content to allow this wrongful enforcement to continue unhindered. It has been deemed by the tribunal sufficient to order cancellation of the single PCN of a motorist who has appealed in the knowledge that hundreds or thousands of other motorists in that same borough are wrongly penalised in the same circumstances.
It is further troubling that, whereas most parking adjudicators will properly not uphold a CCTV PCN at an appeal when the council’s DVD evidence is proved to be defective evidence, there are some adjudicators who have disregarded the tribunal’s own rules and bizarrely argued that it doesn’t matter!
Moreover, some Approved Device Certificates are absurd for certifying equipment that is not even certifiable and some show incongruous date information despite the accuracy of date information being usually crucial to the validity of any certificate.
As a result, CCTV parking enforcement by some London boroughs has been chaotic with the PATAS tribunal having allowed an enormous number of appeals some automatically en bloc.
When a Parliamentary question was raised about the accuracy and reliability of CCTV Approved Device Certificates issued by the VCA it resulted in the customary official response to every critical enquiry that everything was in satisfactory order. However, in response to continuing concerns raised by adjudicators and campaigners in PATAS parking appeals about the validity of some CCTV Approved Device Certificates issued by the VCA and the proven inadequate performance of CCTV equipment that has been certified, the DfT agreed in February 2012 to convene a technical working party to investigate these issues that have continued to be of concern to the motoring public.
Enforcement authorities penalise motorists relentlessly for anything less that scrupulous conformity with their parking restrictions. NMAG considers that anything less than scrupulous conformity by enforcement authorities with all of the prescribed statutory and related requirements for their CCTV enforcement is unacceptable and results in the justifiable contempt of the motoring public.
As the Secretary of State has declared, most parking enforcement should not be undertaken by CCTV in the first place. NMAG considers that when it is, a council should first put its own house in order before demanding extortionate penalties from transgressions of motorists.
Recent alarming camera developments
Two alarming departures from accepted normality have emerged, both potentially of dubious lawfulness (at least in some situations).
Members of the No To Mob campaign group have discovered that ordinary (non MEV) cars being operated by some London boroughs have a hand-held domestic video camera resting on the dashboard, this being used for secret surveillance of motorists! NMAG views this as appalling conduct by these councils on the part of all concerned and that it justifies these councils being held in contempt by the motoring public. It also possibly puts them in conflict with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
Another worrying novelty on the streets is a miniature video camera hidden secretly in the badge of on-foot parking enforcement CEOs in some council areas.
NMAG has no quarrel with any CEO who conducts his enforcement duties correctly and we deplore any abusive and threatening behaviour directed against them (albeit that it has too often been understandable). Obviously-worn body cameras used for personal protection are understandable but the use of such a semi-clandestine device hidden device is easily open to abuse. Vigilance is obviously necessary to ensure such badge cameras are used only in accordance with the Information Commissioner's CCTV Code of Practice. (as should all CCTV surveillance of motorists and their vehicles).
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