So you have just received a Penalty Charge Notice and you are feeling really angry. Read on:
It is only natural that you feel angry when you open a letter containing a PCN. There are a number of reasons for this which I go into below. Just be mindful of the catch phrase “Don’t get mad, get even”. My advice right now is not to make any decisions until the feelings of anger have passed and you can think clearly and logically again. Believe me, those nasty feelings will subside and hopefully be replaced by a determination to fight back.
I have consulted with some eminent people and have put together a passable theory about your current state of mind. It probably would make a good subject for a PhD in Psychology one day, but in the meantime, for those of you interested in a little popular psychology…
Decriminalised traffic enforcement is nothing more than legalised extortion or a confidence trick. You are not being charged with an offence, tried before a court and fined. The Local Authority that sent you the PCN is only suggesting that you committed a traffic offence, and if you bribe them, they will forget all about it like it never happened.
Like all good scams, in order to get the victim to part with their money they have to be made to feel really good, or really bad about themselves. If you can convince someone to lend you £1,000 against the prospect of getting back £5,000 (tax free) after 6 months then you have a potential target. At the opposite end the traffic enforcement scam works by playing on your negative emotions of fear, guilt, uncertainty and vulnerability. It’s a very effective scam because 96.6% (that’s 996 out of 1000) of recipients pay the penalty charge without a peep.
Let’s investigate each of the factors:
Vulnerability – we all know we are being watched by CCTV from the time we leave home to the time we return, but we choose to push this knowledge into the back of our minds, or to believe the hype that the surveillance is only there for our own safety and security. The receipt of the PCN is a stark reminder that “Big Bother” is watching our every move, and that we have almost no right to privacy in this modern surveillance society.
Uncertainty – no doubt there has been some significant delay between the date of the alleged contravention and the date you received the PCN. You probably cannot remember exactly what you did or where you drove on that day. The chances are that the photos on the PCN do not show any ‘hard’ evidence. It ought to be your automatic right to see the video recording, but there are a number of obstacles to overcome before you can view it.
Guilt – We all break the law sometimes, particularly while driving. Most of us drive above the speed limit when we judge it is safe to do so. But there are so many rules and regulations that sometimes conflict, and we have to prioritise our attention so we miss seeing things. As a consequence, a lot of the time we break the law unintentionally. So this time you have been found out – what else do “They” know?
Fear – is generally fuelled by ignorance. You have been landed in a legal situation you know very little about. The PCN will have the briefest of mentions about you legal rights to contest the allegation and plenty of information about how to pay.
So now you are being seduced into thinking “Well what’s 50 quid? 5 Cds, 4 DVDs, a meal for two, a night out in the pub. I can just about spare it.” On the other hand you are thinking how much time and effort it is going to take to research this topic in order to contest it.
Then there is the “what if I fail” consideration. The penalty will go up to £100. Will they send in bailiffs? Will it effect my credit rating? All these unknowns…
So those are some of the reasons why you are feeling really bad about yourself right now. Think about it and sleep on it. Either you agree with the principle that Local Councils are allowed raise extra revenue by scamming motorists or you believe that your individual human rights are more important and the PCN is worth challenging.
The technology revolution gave us CCTV but it also gave us the Internet. There is plenty of information out there, and many people who have been though what you are going through right now. You found this website didn’t you? Be proud – stand up and be counted!