“I only had one card left. I pulled out my TravelBook and opened it, flicking past the TextMarker and the Eject-O-Hat and on towards the glass panel covering a red painted handle. A note painted on the glass read: IN UNPRECEDENTED EMERGENCY, BREAK GLASS. If this wasn’t an unprecedented emergency, I don’t know what was. I smashed the glass, grabbed the handle and pulled it down with all my strength.”
(‘The Well of Lost Plots‘, © Jasper Fforde 2003, Hodder & Stoughton)
It occurred to me after I published the previous post (When Things Go Wrong) that, although I had described the catalogue of errors that lead to Penny paying the £155 Order for Recovery, I had failed to analyse the mistakes so that we might learn from them.
I can’t begin to comprehend what happened at Transport for London. Their system just spiralled completely out of control.
But, there are safeguards. If you know where to find them, of course.
In the case of most Penalty Charges, the end game commences with the issue of an Order for Recovery by the Traffic Enforcement Centre. With every Order for Recovery there should be a Statutory Declaration form. This is your last chance to call “Foul” and restore some sanity to the proceedings before they send in The Heavies.
The Stat Dec (as we seasoned campaigners like to call them) gives you the right to a hearing at PATAS before an independent Adjudicator. S/he will examine what has happened and decide whether there was a cock-up. It’s a real lifeline.
In Penny’s case, rather than paying the £155 she should have filed the Stat Dec. But that’s easy for me to say because I am familiar with the legislation. When you receive a threatening demand which you are not really reading properly, because you are either mad, bewildered or upset, it’s difficult to find the small print informing you of your rights. Even if you can find it, it’s usually not written in plain English.
You can file a Stat Dec on the grounds that:
- You never received a PCN in the first place; or
- You have made representations but never received a rejection; or
- You have lodged an appeal but not had a response.
That seems to cover most instances and #2 was applicable to Penny’s case.
The only downside of a Stat Dec is that you have to get it officially witnessed. It is a legal document, not to be used frivolously. Oh, and if you are caught making a false declaration you could end up in one of HM’s overcrowded jails.