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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 70209
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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Looking for any advice or help in suing a council for towing

Resolved Question:

Looking for any advice or help in suing a council for towing away my car on a Sat evening to a pound that was closed and did not reopen till Mon morning. I live in South Yorkshire and was visiting in London Borough of Newham and parked in a designated parking zone with a valid parking permit which I later discovered to be for the WRONG parking zone. As a result, the car was towed away and I was denied access to my car for 36 hours. The car had essential medication for my wife, important study material for my son, and other essential items that we were denied access to. I understand that the council can tow away vehicles but do they have the right to deny me access as I could not go and get my car released till the Mon morning.
As I was 180 miles from home, in urgent need for my wife's medication, I was forced to borrow a car and make the long journey back home, very late at night. What rights do I have as far as the council keeping my property from me? I would greatly appreciate any help / advice before I embark on what might be an expensive and futile legal exercise.
I thank you in advance.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Hi.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
How can I help with this please?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Jo,

I got an email saying you would like more information but you have not asked for any specifics.

I sent covering note to with my appeal and to the parking and traffic appeal adjudicator with whom I have an appointment on the 8th Now. I have taken the liberty of attaching these, in case they help any queries you may have.

Regards,

Bob

--------------------------

I and my family were attending a my niece's wedding reception being held in Byron Avenue in the Borough of Newham on the day in question. The bride's family provided us with a Visitor parking permit which was valid from the time of arrival until midnight. We were told that the parking was for Zones E or Zone R only (the permit had many more zones listed).

Upon arriving near our destination, at 15:00, we parked our vehicle in a designated parking bay in Zone E, in an adjacent street, Shelly Avenue. We completed the parking permit clearly, as requested and left the permit on the car dashboard, clearly visible through the windscreen. We followed all instructions to the best of our knowledge and understanding.

When we returned, around 20:30, the vehicle was missing. Eventually we discovered that the vehicle had been towed away. Despite numerous calls to all numbers that we could obtain through both the police and the 'trace' service, we were unable to contact anyone to get access to our vehicle. We were informed that the vehicle pound was closed till Monday morning even though the 'traffic wardens' and possibly the towing service was still operating. As we were visitors to the area and live some 175 mile away this caused a great deal of distress and inconvenience. It is only after we had the vehicle released from the pound that we discovered that the parking permit we had displayed was for Zone R only; we should have been given the PCN ticket on the car but this was removed by a 'pound official'. The parking permit is NOT at all clear that it is for a single and specified zone. The zone is indicated by a punched hole, next to the letter R under zones. This hole was mistaken as just a hole that one finds on stationary for binding multiple items. Despite this mistake on our side, it was not so severe as to warrant the towing away of our car. I strongly believe, the company managing the service and hence the Newham Council grossly over-reacted in this case by towing the car away. The council had NO right to DENY ME ACCESS to the contents of my car, which included VITAL medication for my wife, money, credit cards, identification and other important items from Sat 20:30 till Monday 08:00.

Background

My wife was diagnosed with a rare medical condition, Trigeminal Neuralgia in Nov 1997. Since then she has had a number of medical procedures with little success. She has been on a number of various medications to help relieve her symptoms. As her condition has worsened over time, her medication has been modified with ever increasing doses. She has to take her medication 3 times a day.

My son is studying at the University of Aberdeen and is home after completing his end of 1st exams. He is re-sitting one of the exams and on Fri 18th Jul 2014 he booked a train ticket to go back to Aberdeen. He was to catch the 15:22 train on Sun 20th Jul from Doncaster to Aberdeen.

With my niece getting wed on Sat 19th Jul 2014, we had planned to get to London on Sat morning and spend the night at my second brother's house and leave London on Sunday morning to be back in time for my son to catch the train from Doncaster, back to Aberdeen. Amongst, other things, my son had taken his laptop and course notes to study whilst in London and on his trip back from London.

As planned, I and my family (wife, daughter Rosanna 22, elder son Chris 19 and younger son James 18) got up at 5am and left home early on Sat to be in London in good time for the registry wedding ceremony being held at the Greenwich College of Admirilty. After the ceremony. After the ceremony the reception was being held at my brother's (bride's father) house. Before departing the venue in Greenwich, we were given Borough of Newham parking permits and told that the tickets are for parking in zones E and R.

We arrived in the East Ham, in the borough of Newham and parked in a designated parking bay at 15:00, in the adjacent street, Shelly Avenue to where the reception was being held, in Byron Avenue. We dully filled in the parking permit and displayed it on the dashboard, clearly visible in the windscreen. The permit was from anytime, on the day of use, till midnight.

Around 20:30 we went back to where the car had been parked to find the car gone. After the initial self doubt and family members looking for the car is other nearby places, we called the police to report the car missing. We were give the number for the 'trace' service. At the time, I had not heard of this service and thought it was part of the Newham 'parking services'. I quickly learned that the card had been towed away to the Newham central depot in xxxxxxxxxx. This, I later discovered, to be incorrect and that the car had been taken to a different pound some xxxx miles away. The trace service gave me a phone number that I could call but also informed me that the car pound was now closed till Mon morning! I just could not believe this and simply put it down to the 'wrong information'. In the mean time, we came across a community enforcement officer who informed us that the pound was open till 22:00. My elder brother and I tried calling this number, continually redialing without success. As time was fast 22:00, we decided to go to the pound. My brother nephew drove myself and my brother to the pound to discover it shut. We tried the intercom at the gate. It was answered by, I believe a security guard who informed us that the pound was indeed closed till Mon morning. I was devastated and could not believe that I could not get my car back or even access to my car till Mon morning.

Out of desperation, I called the trace service back for any other phone numbers that they may have for out of hours service or in case of emergencies. I did manage to get different numbers. Every time I called these numbers I got an answer machine or an automated service, stating that the call would be answered in the same order that it is received. After 4 - 5 minutes of being on-line and listening to this message repeatedly, the call was terminated without ever being answered by a person. I did also leave a message, stating it was most urgent that someone call me back as there were vital medication in the car that I needed.

Getting more and more desperate, I called the police again and told them that there were vital medication in the car that my wife needed to take. I was very surprised to find that they were not able to offer me any practical option / advice; stating that it was not a police matter!

Running out of options, I tried the medical walk-in centre service to see if they would see my wife and possibly prescribe her the medication she needed to take. Unfortunately, by now, it was 22:45 and the service closed at 23:00 and they still had a queue of people to see. Despite my explanation, I was told that they could not see my wife and that they offered an out of hours service for patients registered with GPs in the area. I was told, if I was to come in the morning there would be a GP there who may prescribe the medication. Unfortunately, this was not a practical solution.

Thankfully, I was fortunate in that I was not totally stranded in London and the Borough of Newham, without money or identification. In the end, my elder brother offered to lend me his car so that I could drive back home to Rotherham, where my wife had here remaining stock of medication.

My brother filled his car with petrol and made quick preparations to get his car ready for the long trip. Having been up since 05:00, it was now midnight when I set off with my family. The borough of Newham had now forced me to make the long journey back without my prescription driving glasses that were in my car in a very tired state; putting both my and my family welfare at great risk. All for what ?

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Retrospectively, I have discovered that my indiscretion was down to parking in a zone that was not the zone indicated on the official parking permit that was completed correctly and displayed clearly in the car windscreen, as per the instructions.

I was a visitor to the area, attending my niece's wedding. Prior to arrival at the afternoon reception, I was issued a parking permit by one of the bride's maid and instructed to park in zones 'E' or R' only; not realizing that the actual parking zone was in fact dictated by the parking permit. The parking permits themselves are not clear. The permit states:

'Valid for one vehicle from the arrival time until midnight on the marked date and in the zone indicated if clearly displayed inside the vehicle's windscreen.'

The permit lists 19 zones, implying that these are the list of valid zones. I followed all the instructions as I understood them; this is verifiable by the photographic evidence from the borough. It is only since this incidence, that I discovered that a hole punched next to a zone in a list indicates the zone that the permit is valid for. To the uninitiated, the hole appears to be a hole that one may find on a stationary for filing / tying a bunch of cards together.

The permit card has space for writing vehicle registration, arrival time and for indicating the day, month and year. The same could have been done for the zone to enable the driver to mark the zone they parked in. The only reason, I can see that this is not the case is to add a layer of administrative complication to trip individuals and to give the council cause to exercise their punitive powers.

The London Borough of Newham failed in its duty to clarify its own parking procedure such that a newcomer would not be confused or mislead.

Even having made such a transgression as to park in the 'wrong zone', I do not believe the transgression to be so severe as to give the borough justifiable cause to tow my vehicle away. They could have issued a parking ticket but instead chose to tow the vehicle to extract greater funds.

I returned to the place where I had parked my vehicle at 20:30 on the Saturday evening to find it missing. It took a number of calls to the police and trace service to find that the car had been towed away and that the pound was closed till Mon morning. Were it not for the fact that I was visiting my brother, I, together with my family would have been left completely abandoned, far from home. I was denied complete access to urgent medication for my wife, money, my son's important papers and kids electronic equipment, my driving prescription glasses and more. The council had absolutely NO right to deny me access to my car and its contents for 36 hours!

In this incidence, the borough acted in a very callous, heavy handed and outrageous manner, placing both mine and my family safety in jeopardy. We had intended to spend the weekend in London with family, instead, the borough's action forced me borrow a car that I was not familiar with, drive 175 miles, back to my house, around midnight (having set off to London that morning at 5am) , without my driving glasses so that my wife could take the medication she desperately needed. In addition, I had to make the return journey on the Sunday to be able to collect my car on the Monday.

The actions of the borough do not appear to be that of an organization attempting to manage parking in the district in a conscientious manner. Instead, their actions are directed towards generating revenue; actions that are little short of legalized extortion.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Thanks.
So what is your question about this please?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Jo,

I'm not sure if I am doing something wrong but When I click on the link, View My Response in the email from Justanswer, all I see is this page with no response from you!

Not that I am trying to rush you, its just that I have now received another email requesting a rating for your reply which I can not see.

Regards,

Bob

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Thanks.
What I need to know is what is your question about this please?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

What rights do I have regarding the council denying me access to my car and my its contents. I could not pay the fine and get my car released. I had to wait till Mon morning.

Under what grounds can I sue the council for compensation for their conduct.

Regards,

Bob

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
So, in short, your car was clamped and the pound did not reopen until Monday?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

yes.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Thanks.
1 Do you deny parking in the wrong zone?
2 If not, were the zones incorrectly marked or signed?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

No, I do not deny parking in the wrong zone. I am contesting that their parking permits are not clear enough for the un-initiated / visitors. I followed all instructions as to the best of my understanding. My point is that the instructions are deliberate confusing to trip individuals and to give the council cause.

Zones were marked clearly and I understood to be parking in the correct zone. The parking permit had a list of zones, including the zone in which I parked. I took all the listed zones to be the zones for which the permit was valid for.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
Thanks.
You don't have a claim against the council for towing the car per se. If you park unlawfully the Councils can tow. That does cause inconvenience of course but that is not actionable. Pounds are never open on a Sunday.
You can though appeal the original fine and lack of signing is a ground. If you are successful on the appeal point then anything that flows from it can be recorded. That said, there are limitations to what can be recovered here. You would get back the cost of the fine that you paid and the impound fees. What you would not be able to claim is the additional cost of travel and accommodation etc. There is no way of claiming that. I suppose you could sue but then you would have to show there was an entirely unlawful action which is not really true as you were parked in an incorrect zone.
Sorry if that is bad news but I have to give you truthful information.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Jo
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Jo,

Thank you for your reply.

Is there any precedence for denial of access.

I can not believe the law of the land would allow the council to act in such a heavy handed way for such a minor indiscretion when they option of issuing a ticket. The car was in no way causing any obstruction or inconvenience to anyone other than the fact that it was there. There must be guidelines / regulations that stipulate conditions under which the councils have the power to tow.

Thanks.

Bob

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
No.
It is just that pounds keep opening hours.
There are no precedents either to say that they cannot and ultimately claimants have the burden of proof.
There are guidelines for council powers of towing. Park in a controlled zone without a permit is one of them.
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