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Shropshire Star comment: Penalties not always the ticket

By Toby Neal | Opinions | Published:

Park where you shouldn't, or for longer than you should, and you can hardly complain if you get a parking ticket.

If you've been caught bang to rights, then you will probably grudgingly admit that it's a fair cop as you pay up.

The key word, though, is fair, because our whole justice system is supposed to be fair. However, when it comes to motorists, there are worrying signs that the system is moving steadily away from the concept of fairness to one of taking the opportunity to make money.

This is one of the grumbles you routinely hear about speed cameras, that while they are dressed up with all the spin about promoting road safety, the actual motivation behind some of them is to remove cash from the wallets of unwary motorists.

They talk about a housing crisis in Britain, but there is also a parking crisis. When motorists can't find a place to park, their response is not to drive back home. Increasingly frustrated, they start to go a bit mad, and in the end are ready to park somewhere, anywhere.

Nevertheless it is difficult to believe that a rise of one million in the number of parking tickets issued to British drivers in the space of one year is down to a sudden and massive increase in illegal parking.

Far more believable is that the goalposts have been shifted, or that somebody new has taken ownership of the goalposts.

Which brings us to the rise of parking management firms. The DVLA has received a record number of requests from these firms for vehicle keeper records, and as it charges £2.50 for each record, requests for 6.81 million of them represent a nice little earner.

When there's money to be made, you will find people out to make money, and that in turn can influence judgments and ways of operating.

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Heaven knows, our towns, cities, and hospital car parks need to benefit from order and good and efficient management of parking. Nobody can argue with that. What they can argue with is the notion that they are being given parking tickets, not in the furtherance of effective traffic management, but in the furtherance of grubbing in some extra cash.

Of course, if motorists park properly in the first place, they are – or at least should be – immune from bad consequences.

But if they are adjudged to have transgressed, they should then be treated in a way which is straightforward, fair, consistent, and proportionate.

Otherwise it's not justice as we know it.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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