By Rory Reynolds
ALL parking fines issued to drivers in Edinburgh over the past 12 years could be illegal, according to the former head of the Metropolitan Police’s Traffic Branch.
Former superintendent Chris Leithead, now an advisor on decriminalised parking, has claimed that City of Edinburgh Council has been fining drivers under “non-existent legislation”.
The 69-year-old said that the local authority had made a fatal error in the wording of the fines, and urged drivers to appeal the penalties or demand a refund.
The council’s director of development prepared a special report for the chief executive on decriminalised parking, which was introduced in 1998, following a complaint from Mr Leithead.
City of Edinburgh Council has admitted it is set to introduce a new traffic regulation order (TRO), but insists there was no issue in the first place.
Mr Leithead, who now advises councils on traffic policy across the UK, said: “I believe that Edinburgh’s main TRO is not lawful.
“It refers to an ‘initial charge’ for parking places with pay and display machines or meters, a term that shouldn’t be there.
“When it decriminalised parking the council was required to amend its Traffic Regulation Orders to remove the term because it came from a section of the Road Traffic Regulation Act that was redundant under the new scheme.
“But Edinburgh is still using ‘initial charge’ in the main TRO, which covers most of the city.
“I’ve also seen a local TRO which mentions an initial charge in terms of the non-existent part of the Act.
“A local authority can only do what it is empowered to do by law and Edinburgh is making charges under non-existent legislation.
“I believe the parking charges are not lawful and any penalties issued for the non-payment of them are also not lawful.”
Mr Leithead added that drivers who attempt to reclaim their fines have the “strongest case”.
He said: “Motorists who have been fined while using a paid parking place have the strongest case as that’s what the initial charge refers to, but others, such as those who got a ticket for being on yellow lines, could argue they have a case because the whole TRO is unenforceable due to the law.”
City of Edinburgh Council has issued 920,000 Penalty Charge Notices in the last four years alone and collected around £7million in fines last year.
Fines are currently £60, but are reduced to £30 if they are paid within two weeks.
Tom Aitchison, chief executive of City of Edinburgh Council rejected Mr Leithead’s claims, saying: “There’s no provision in the legislation which necessitates the council to giving the period when payment is required a certain name and therefore, any term can be used.”
However, he added that the council was planning to change its main traffic regulation order, and the wording which Mr Leithead claimed made the orders illegal.
He said: “As part of this work, it was considered that the wording of the order should be made in a more modern style.
“As well as a number of other points, it removes the words ‘initial charge.”