A legal loophole has revealed that motorists who did not commit traffic violations in London are being hounded by Transport for London and given significant penalties.
The Honest John news website has investigated a legal loophole which TfL are using to chase owners of cars rather than the drivers for ‘yellow box’ offences.
Thanks to powers granted to TfL in 2003 with the decriminalisation of the Transport for London Road Network, thousands of motorists could be forced into paying fines of hundreds of pounds for offences they did not commit. The rules in question relate to traffic contraventions on London’s Red Routes.
TfL, which is currently facing questions over its decision to try to price small private hire companies out of the market in London with its proposed operator license costs, can pursue owners for the civil offences and the accused have no right to defend themselves in court. Instead, the Met Police enforce traffic regulations via a special agreement with TfL using traffic wardens, cameras and PCSOs and people who do not pay and lose their appeal – which is once again decided by TfL – could end up with a County Court Judgement or bailiffs knocking at the door.
An investigation by BBC One’s Inside Out programme found a camera in Fulham overlooking a yellow box raised over £2.4 million in 2016 alone over seventeen times the annual salary of the Prime Minister. Over £100 million in fines has been collected from yellow box cameras since 2004.
A contributor to the Honest John website, Craig Cheetham, received a Penalty Charge Notice for an infringement in Westminster earlier this year, but despite the fact he wasn’t driving the car and could prove he was in a different country, TfL is still chasing him for the fine. After his appeal was rejected the charges have risen from £65 to £195.
“My car was on loan to a friend whose own is currently off the road,” said Craig. “He was visiting London for work and pulled into a box junction to allow an ambulance across the junction.
“Not only are TfL adamant that, while an ambulance clearly drove through the box junction by its own admission, a traffic obstruction occurred, and as it was my car that ventured into the yellow box, it’s me that has to pay the fine – even though I was in Wales at the time of the alleged transgression. How can this be deemed a legal recovery process when, unlike a speed camera fine, there’s no option to nominate the driver of the car? And furthermore, how can moving out of the way for an ambulance be considered an offence?”
But thanks to the London-only ruling, which makes blocking a yellow box a civil rather than criminal offence, TfL says it’s the owner of the car that is responsible for the obstruction as it is their property that is causing the blockage, not the driver, regardless of where they were at the time of the offence.
In its reply to Craig’s appeal, TfL said: “We have noted that you were not the driver of the vehicle on the date and at the time the contravention was observed. However, under the London Local Authorities Act 1990 to 2003, it is the registered keeper of the vehicle who is liable for any charges incurred by the vehicle.”
Fareed Baloch from zoom.taxi said the rules “were example of bad legislation which has had a knock on effect for drivers and road users.”
“The cost of driving in London is significant and this is detrimental to everyone who uses the capital because there are many occasions when using a motor vehicle is the only option. When these sorts of arbitrary rules are enforced by an organisation which is always asking for more money then not only is it against the fundamental principle of innocent until proven guilty but it just pushes up the costs for everyone else.
“Sadly we have seen all too often the foolhardy behaviour of Transport for London including what looks like their attempts to stifle competition in London for small and medium sized private hire companies.”