Oxford Parking

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Oxford Parking

Oxford parking in Oxfordshire is getting harder by the day. There seem to be additional yellow lines, added traffic wardens, with a reduction of free car parking and even superstores are now charging for you to park and shop with them...where will it all end?

With a bit of luck we can assist you with your parking in Oxford. If you have established a parking fine or ticket at the same time as parking in Oxford, then we are here to lend a hand.

First of all there are two distinct types of parking ticket which are a Penalty Charge Notice and a Parking Charge Notice. It is essential for your wallet that you are unmistakable about which notice you have received. If the ticket is an endorsed notice from Oxford council or Oxford police then you have been given a PENALTY CHARGE NOTICE (PCN). Only the two bodies are allowed to issue Penalty Charge Notices and it means that you are being fined for parking wrongly on public domain property. Such an offence is backed up by criminal law and you can be fined or end up in court for non-payment of the fines.

If you have received a PCN issued by a council or police force then you should refer to the Oxford council or Oxford police for recommendation on what to do after that. Oxford council will have comprehensive directives 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.

Generally they grant a markdown (how nice of them) if you pay within a certain time frame.

The PCN should in addition contain plain detail of what parking violation you are accused of committing and contain any confirmation, such as a photograph, which is being relied upon to prove you committed the offence. Importantly, the Penalty Charge Notice should also include clear instructions of what to do if you want to dispute the penalty, along with details of the appeals procedure and the timescales involved.

If you are in any uncertainty as to what to do when you receive a pcn, it is always a good idea to get independent counsel from the Oxford Citizen's Advice Bureau, or a Oxford lawyer. The Law Society can provide details of a Oxford 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 an arrangement with a landowner to enforce any parking restrictions he or she chooses to place on their ground.

A property-owner typically supermarkets, hospitals, retail shopping centres - creates a car park or uses the existing one - they will set out restrictions frequently in a sign displayed on the land which you agree to abide by when you park on that property. By choosing to park on the land it may be implied that you agree to these conditions, particularly if the notice is clear and prominently displayed and you are consequently entering into a deal with the business running the car park.

More often than not, such restrictions will involve a set time limit, a requirement to pay and display or a no-return policy. The T&C's of the car park should be displayed clearly and concisely on signs as you enter the car park and at additional points across the location, along with information about parking fees and any subsequent charges which could be incurred for failing to comply. If you receive a parking charge notice you should check that these terms are appropriately displayed at the car park in question. If you discover they are not, you may wish to write to the business to appeal the charge.

The most important disparity between an official penalty charge issued by the establishment and a parking charge issued by a private business is that there is nothing in criminal law to support a penalty or fine for parking on private land. Therefore they should not be described as penalties or fines, although various 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 an entitlement for damages. The total they ask for is to compensate for you breaching the contract you created when you parked on the property in question. According to the CAB, this charge ought to be rational and in line with the loss suffered by the company, although excessive 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 deem there has been a lapse and you shouldn't have been issued a ticket, you may want to dispute the charge with the parking company as soon as possible. You should ask them to offer evidence 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 corroborate their argument in court, but it is advisable to seek advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau or a solicitor before things get to this point. Remember 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 only person who can enter into a contract with the landlord. So if you weren't the person driving you may wish to inform the parking company of this straight away. Just because you are the registered keeper of the car, you are under no legal obligation to provide the parking operator with any further info, 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 certain 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 anticipate a series of letters from the company itself, debt collectors and solicitors, all warning of court action. However, the reality is that very 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 difficult for these companies to prove 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 recommend not to contact 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 easy to miss when you are busy thinking of all the stuff you want to acquire.