Downpatrick Parking

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Downpatrick Parking

Downpatrick parking in County Down is getting harder by the day. There appear to be more yellow lines, additional traffic wardens, a smaller amount free car parking and even superstores are now charging for you to park and shop with them...where will it all end?

With any luck we can help you with your parking in Downpatrick. If you have received a parking ticket or fine at the same time as parking in Downpatrick, then we are here to help out.

First there are two discrete types of parking ticket which are a Penalty Charge Notice and a Parking Charge Notice. It is crucial for your wallet that you are transparent about which one you've received. If the ticket is an authoritative notice from Downpatrick council or Downpatrick police then you have been issued a PENALTY CHARGE NOTICE (PCN). Only the Police and the Council are allowed to issue Penalty Charge Notices and it means that you are being fined for parking wrongly on public domain land. Such an offence is backed up by criminal law and you can be fined or end up in court for not paying your fine.

If you have received a PCN issued by a council or police force then you ought to refer to the Downpatrick council or Downpatrick police for counsel on what to do next. Downpatrick council will have detailed information on their web pages outlining how long you have got to pay the fine, how to pay the fine and the penalties implicated if you fail to pay within the time limit.

Frequently they present a markdown (how nice of them) if you pay within a set period of time.

The notice must also contain plain detail of what parking violation you are accused of committing and include any confirmation, such as a video, which is being relied upon to confirm you committed the offence. Significantly, the Penalty Charge Notice ought to in addition include clear instructions of what to do if you want to dispute the penalty, along with details of the appeals process and the timescales involved.

If you are in any doubt as to what to do when you pick up a pcn, it is always a nice idea to seek separate counsel from the Downpatrick Citizen's Advice Bureau, or a Downpatrick lawyer. The Law Society can provide details of a Downpatrick solicitor.

If you have got a Parking Charge Notice then you have received this from a private parking company. A private parking company is an organisation which has entered into a union with a landlord to enforce any parking restrictions they choose to place on their property.

A proprietor typically supermarkets, hospitals, retail shopping centres - creates a car park or uses the one already there - they will set out restrictions commonly in a sign displayed on the land which you agree to abide by when you park on that terrain. By choosing to park on the land it may be implied that you agree to these conditions, especially if the notice is clear and prominently displayed and you are hence entering into an agreement with the business running the car park.

More often than not, such restrictions will involve a set time limit, an obligation to pay and display or a no-return policy. The terms and conditions of the car park should be displayed noticeably and concisely on signs as you enter the car park and at extra points across the location, along with info about parking fees and any ensuing charges which could be incurred for failing to comply. If you receive a parking charge notice you should check that these terms are correctly displayed at the car park in question. If you discover they are not, you may want to write to the company to appeal the charge.

The chief disparity relating an official penalty charge issued by the authorities and a parking charge issued by a private company is that there is not anything in criminal law to support a penalty or fine for parking on private land. For that reason they should not be described as penalties or fines, even though loads of parking operators will label their notices a Parking Charge Notice, which handily also abbreviates to PCN (what a coincidence!).

In issuing a Parking Charge Notice, the parking operator is relying on the law of contract to make a claim for damages. The sum they ask for is to compensate for you breaching the contract you formed when you parked on the property in question. According to the Citizen's Advice Bureau, this payment ought to be realistic and in line with the loss suffered by the business, although extreme charges are common. This isn't a criminal matter despite any impression given to the contrary by the operator.

The operator has no right to get back a parking charge from you without first taking you to court, so if you feel there has been a lapse and you shouldn't have been issued a ticket, you may wish to dispute the charge with the parking company as soon as possible. You should ask them to provide confirmation of their case against you. If you fail to reach an agreement with them, then, as with all civil matters, it is up to the parking company to confirm their argument in court, but it is advisable to seek advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau or a solicitor before things get to this phase. Take into account that the parking operator has to corroborate its case on the balance of probabilities.

It is also imperative to note that, as things currently exist, the driver of the vehicle is the solitary person who can enter into a contract with the landlord. So if you were not the person driving you may wish to inform the parking company of this right away. Just because you are the registered keeper of the car, you are under no legal obligation to supply the parking operator with any further information, as you would be with the police. In particular you do not have to identify the driver or supply his or her name and address.

Indeed if you are convinced that you have not parked in contravention of the rules of the car park, you do not have to contact the parking company if you do not wish to do so as the obligation is on the parking company to verify its case. However you should let them know that you contest the notice as if not, you can be expecting a succession of letters from the company itself, debt collectors and solicitors, all warning of court action. However, the reality is that extremely few cases ever reach court because of the difficulties the private company has in proving its case. As a result, the letters usually stop. Even if a case does reach court, the company may have trouble convincing a judge that the charge is just.

The bottom line is it is going to be very hard for these companies to establish you are a guilty party in this. In 99.99% of cases the best thing to do is rip up the ticket and throw it away. We would advise not to get in touch with the company (as you are handing them your details) or waste your time and money consulting a solicitor. Most of these companies do not provide proper signage - in other words they are straightforward to miss when you are busy thinking of all the stuff you want to purchase.