How do you know if you have any unpaid tickets?
You would think that it would be easy to know if you have received a parking ticket (penalty charge notice is the legal name – sometime abbreviated to “PCN”) and whether it is paid or not because you will know when you get back to your car and find one on the windscreen! But that isn’t always the case.
In the case of the ghost ticket which is a parking fines scam I highlighted nearly 8 years ago, the ticket is not actually put on your car or handed to you even though it is printed out. Then some 28 or 30 days later you get a document called a Notice to Owner in the post telling you that you haven’t paid the penalty charge notice – a ticket which you know absolutely nothing about. So that’s one way you can get a ticket when you don’t know about it and sadly it’s the result of that very popular scam.
In London, in particular, there are hundreds and hundreds of closed-circuit television cameras which issue parking tickets Clearly you won’t know when one is issued until you receive it in the post. But even that has its problems because with the uncertainty of our UK postal system you may never get that ticket and the first you hear about it is when you get a document called a Charge Certificate or even worse an order for recovery from Northampton County Court saying that you haven’t paid up!
So how can you find out if you’ve been issued with a penalty charge notice? You would think that the simple answer is you merely phone up the Parking Department of the city you are in. That may work in the United States and outside London but in London there are 33 separate local councils that issue PCNs as well as Transport for London. So if you have a suspicion that you might have been caught on camera or worse that a parking attendant (in England and Wales they are now called civil enforcement officers) has scammed you this is what to do.
Let’s assume you know or think you know roughly where you might have been caught on camera or been seen by a parking attendant.
Telephone the local authority that has jurisdiction in the area where the camera was situated and ask for the parking enforcement department.
Give your name, vehicle registration number and your address and simply ask for details of any penalty charge notices that have been issued for that vehicle in say the last month. I say the last month, you could just as easily ask for the last three months because with the advent of CCTV issued PCNs you may have well received more than one ticket. Moreover you could equally have been the victim of more than one ghost ticket. I remember acting for one member of the public in a case before the parking adjudicator where the poor fellow had received eight ghost tickets.
Hopefully the council officer dealing with your enquiry will give you the information but they may say that they can’t give out information on the telephone because of data protection legislation. If that’s the case then you simply have to ask them to send the information to your registered address which will be the one registered for the vehicle concerned.
I should add that if you are worried that you have received a parking ticket whilst driving a car belonging to your spouse, girlfriend, friend or relative then the local authority will not give you the information because the parking fine is in law the sole responsibility of the vehicle owner rather than the driver. So that’s the most straight forward and fastest way to find out details of any parking tickets issued to your vehicle. It is clear that with the use of CCTV for PCNs enforcement and dishonest practices in parking enforcement you may well have parking tickets which you knew nothing about.
The difficulty, certainly in London, is that there are 34 authorities that issue tickets. Outside London and in other jurisdictions (e.g. the USA) it’s much easier because in a particular jurisdiction there will normally only be one office that issues tickets. However in some states in the United States of America tickets can be issued by both the police and city officials and sometimes even outside contractors acting for the city so in those places you should contact both the city and the police.