of movement in towns and cities: Unjust parking fines and charges
vs. accessible and affordable public transport
Fifteen people attended. Niki Adams introduced the workshop describing how LAW was increasingly being contacted by women opposing unjust parking fines. People were frustrated that their particular circumstances were not being taken into account and with the extortionate sums of money demanded which was causing severe financial hardship to people on benefits or other low income.
Claire Glasman from WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities) described how low-income people with disabilities, especially women who have less money and are more at risk of violence, are having to choose between public transport which is generally inaccessible, unsafe and expensive, alternative schemes such as Dial-a-Ride or Taxicard which are rationed or unreliable, and penalties imposed by increasingly tight parking controls. Running a car may also be essential because of the caring work women do, for example, to take your children to school if you are a mother with a mobility disability.
Ms Glasman said that there used to be understanding for those who contested a ticket on grounds of disability. However, privatisation has resulted in wardens working to targets and local authorities’ prioritizing making money from parking controls, and this has meant unsympathetic or even brutal treatment of people. Ms Glasman described how the disability Blue Badge is not recognised in central London and asked whether that means that people with disabilities are not meant to travel out of their own borough.
Rachel Burley from LAW briefly outlined the procedure which must be followed to appeal parking tickets and in particular described at what stage representations can be made to get tickets cancelled, including in court.
She described a precedent-setting case of a man with a disability who challenged the parking tickets he received on the grounds that the restriction on his liberty to park was an interference with his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. He also challenged the regulations which say that parking adjudicators cannot take into consideration people’s particular circumstances on the grounds that this denied him the right to a fair trial. The court rejected these arguments but reiterated the principle that local authorities should cancel a parking ticket “where there is satisfactory evidence that the penalty charge should be waived on well defined compassionate grounds”, and that “every authority has a duty to exercise its discretion in relation to parking penalties only to pursue charges if it is appropriate to do so. In this context it is well established that the purpose of traffic management orders is traffic management and not the raising of money.” Ms Burley concluded that as a result of this and other precedents there was clearly greater scope to challenge the hasty and often brutal decisions by local authorities to impose parking fines.
She also stressed that there may be a case that could be brought under the Human Rights Act on the grounds that people’s right to freedom of travel is being denied because people who are dependent on their cars cannot park near their destination, and are left with the choice of parking further away than they can manage to walk and ending up exhausted and in pain, or give up and go away.
Kay Chapman described how she organized with her neighbours against a controlled parking zone being imposed in her area. She spoke about how older people and people with disabilities were particularly affected because friends and relatives no longer felt able to visit or would only pop in because they couldn’t afford the ongoing cost of paying for parking outside her house. Home helps and other carers often curtailed their visits for the same reason. The councils say they issue permits but home helps dispute this and say where they are issued they have to pay for them themselves. Many have been ticketed while on duty.
People were very encouraged by Ms Burley’s presentation in particular, and the resulting lively discussion came up with a number of practical strategies for people’s individual cases.
People had questions about the powers of bailiffs and described how councils use the threat of bailiffs to bully people into paying tickets which they had good reasons to contest.
Other women with disabilities described how the local councils accuse them of wilfully incurring tickets or question that they have a disability. Others described the problem on the one hand of police saying that you must display your disability badges, and on the other hand their publicly quoted admission that thefts of disability badges will continue as long as public transport is not accessible and parking is extortionate. A man with a disability from Greenwich described how public transport had deteriorated in his area resulting in long, tortuous and expensive journeys.
Where people had been able to get publicity about their case or involve their local MP and councillors they had a greater chance of getting unfair tickets cancelled.
We finished with renewed determination to defend the right of women with disabilities and the right of others to travel around, to have a social life, relationships, etc. To be penalised for this is discrimination and it must be opposed. We agreed to write to NACAB to correct some information in their leaflet on fighting parking fines and prepare a self-help leaflet on challenging parking tickets.