Westminster Council lied to press in effort to suppress parking bungle

Last month we revealed that all of Westminster City Councils fixed CCTV cameras we not fit for purpose, as the council had not obtained the correct VCA certification. In a landmark case at The Parking and Traffic Appeals Service (PATAS) adjudicator Andrew Harman had ruled that Westminster City Council had failed to provide evidence that a CCTV spy camera they used to issue a parking ticket had the correct VCA certification (download PATAS decision here).

Westminster City Council were asked at the very least to suspend all parking enforcement by the fixed CCTV cameras pending a review, as we had also produced documents to prove that all of their cameras were of the same model mentioned in the Harman adjudication.

As expected Westminster Council went on the defensive denying their cameras were incorrectly certificated. No surprise as conservative estimates of the amount of money illegally taken from the public put the figure at £9m, but since then campaigners have said the amount could be as much as £15million due in refunds.

Yet despite Westminster City Councils robust denials of any wrong doing and claiming they would vigorously defend and win any such similar appeals they Council chose not appeal the Harman adjudication in the 14 days after the case. At the time one excuse the council came up with for losing the Harman case was that they were not allowed enough time to produce the correct certificate, even though they were quite a liberty to ask for more time.

What readers maybe astounded to learn that since that landmark adjudication Westminster City Council have gone on to lose a further 12 PATAS appeals.

http://www.patasregistersofappeals.org.uk/StatReg/case.aspx?caseref=211029245A

http://www.patasregistersofappeals.org.uk/StatReg/case.aspx?caseref=2110291617

http://www.patasregistersofappeals.org.uk/StatReg/case.aspx?caseref=2110398428

http://www.patasregistersofappeals.org.uk/StatReg/case.aspx?caseref=211042977A

http://www.patasregistersofappeals.org.uk/StatReg/case.aspx?caseref=2110404305

http://www.patasregistersofappeals.org.uk/StatReg/case.aspx?caseref=2110401205

http://www.patasregistersofappeals.org.uk/StatReg/case.aspx?caseref=2110363241

http://www.patasregistersofappeals.org.uk/StatReg/case.aspx?caseref=2110363230

http://www.patasregistersofappeals.org.uk/StatReg/case.aspx?caseref=211036322A

http://www.patasregistersofappeals.org.uk/StatReg/case.aspx?caseref=2110363219

http://www.patasregistersofappeals.org.uk/StatReg/case.aspx?caseref=2110443555

http://www.patasregistersofappeals.org.uk/StatReg/case.aspx?caseref=2110443001

That’s 12 more appeals, with different camera locations, different adjudicators and all because Westminster City Council could not produce any VCA certificates for the cameras they have in use across the borough.

Dammed if they do, dammed if they don’t

At present if anyone has been sent an illegal Penalty Charge Notice claiming a parking offence issued in the borough of Westminster from a fixed CCTV camera they can use the defence prepared by the NoToMob campaigner Nigel Wise (download here) and it’s guaranteed they will win the PATAS appeal.

However, if Westminster City Council now apply for a the correct certificate for CCTV spy camera model DVTel 9840A they will have to pay back millions of pounds taken in illegal parking charges.

So what’s it to be pay back millions now, or carry on losing millions at further PATAS appeals.

The only certificate Westminster City Council have ever been able to produce is for the older model DVTel 9840 and not for the CCTV camera model they are using the DVTel 9840A.

Readers should also note that rulings made by PATAS adjudicators are the equivalent of those made by a judge, this helps to understand why Westminster City Council have failed to take any of the PATAS decisions to Judicial Review, they know they simply do not have a leg to stand on.

How they have tried to throw the press off the story

Leith Penny

Leith Penny

Leith Penny, Strategic Director for City Management, in a reply to concerns of Councillor Paul Dimoldernberg said “Mr Jones and his fellow campaigners would of course like to establish that the City Council’s wireless CCTV cameras are uncertificated by the Secretary of State, as required by law. If they were to establish that, the consequences could potentially be far-reaching. But they haven’t done so.” “As you can see from the decision, the Adjudicator addressed only one of a large number of technical arguments he was asked to consider. The Council provided to the Adjudicator a copy of a certificate from the Secretary of State. The one point made by the motorist and considered by the Adjudicator was that the camera used to provide the evidence of the contravention at the relevant location was identified by the Council as being a type DVTel9840A, whereas the certificate approved a camera type DVTel9840. The motorist argued (wrongly as it happens) that a DVTel9840A camera is an unauthorised variant of the certified type.”

“Considering the matter on the papers, and without hearing any argument, the Adjudicator decided only that “in the absence of any explanation on the point by the Council I am satisfied this must be so”.

We would be entitled to ask for that decision to be reviewed. However we would not have the opportunity to put in any further evidence if we did that, and the Adjudicator’s decision is a reasonable one on the evidence he had. But in a case where the Adjudicator does hear our explanation he will be satisfied that the camera is properly certificated. There are not two types of camera.  The camera type DVTel9840A is the type we applied for and received certification for, and the VCA will confirm that on behalf of the Secretary of State. The issue the Council must address, therefore, is that of ensuring that all the relevant material is put before the Adjudicator on similar appeals in future. The case does not have any significance beyond that.”

Leith Penny was wrong. The following is contained in COAD The Civil Traffic Enforcement Certification of Approved Devices. This is the VCA Bible it can be found here: http://www2.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roads/tpm/tmaportal/tmafeatures/tmapart6/certapproveddevices.pdf Page 7 contains the following: 2.1.4 Applications to the Secretary of State The Secretary of State will decide whether to issue a certificate of approval to the applicant on the basis of the Technical Construction File and any other exchanges that take place subsequently. Therefore Westminster’s ‘letter’ is not in accordance with this and if it is all that they have they are acting unlawfully.

But as you can see Leith Penny never did put in a VCA certificate for CCTV spy camera DVTel9840A before any PATAS appeals, because he hasn’t got one.

Then there was this reply from Peter Large Westminster Councils Head of Legal to a letter from NoToMob lead coordinator Steve Baker, where Mr Large said: “The legislation does not require an authority engaged in the civil enforcement of parking contraventions to hold a ‘certificate’ in any particular form to prove that its device is approved. Indeed, the authority is not required to hold a certificate at all.”

Peter Large

Peter Large

The premise of the argument is incorrect, because the letter dated 18th February from the VCA does not certify a camera type DVTel9840. What is certified, as the letter expressly states (twice) is the device described in the technical construction file submitted with the application for certification made by the City Council in November 2009. Those authorised by the Secretary of State to determine the matter have certified that that device meets the scheduled requirements, and that is the device used to capture the contravention in Mr Hepworth’s case. Had it been given the opportunity the City Council would have had no difficulty in establishing it in similar cases in the future.”

“That is really the end of the matter – given what I have said it would not matter if the VCA had misdescribed the camera used as part of the approved device in the heading of its letter (it would not matter if it had not described the camera at all ). But in fact it is not a misdescription. The camera in question can and has been properly described as both a DVTel 9840 (which is series) and a DVTel9840A (which is a specific model).”

What a pity for Mr Large that none of the judges at PATAS seem to agree with him and that the City Council has had so much difficulty in establishing his interpretation in any of the similar cases since Mr Harman’s ruling or that Large has not felt confident enough in his assumptions to appeal any of the PATAS rulings since.

Cllr Lee Rowley

Cllr Lee Rowley

Then Cllr Lee Rowley, cabinet member for stupid statements about parking said: “We will never, ever, apologise for making sure that our roads remain safe – blatantly ignoring parking rules, which are designed to keep people safe, is not acceptable.

This penalty was given because the driver had parked dangerously and blocked a place where pedestrians can cross the road.”

He added: “The council is 100 per cent sure of its certification with VCA.”
This judgment has only shown one simple fact. We were unable to put together all of our evidence in time for the hearing. We would have submitted a huge pack of evidence for our case if a request we made for more time had been granted.”
“With no information provided by the council, the ruling could only be made one way.

We wonder what dimo Rowley will say next, as he says “blatantly ignoring parking rules, which are designed to keep people safe, is not acceptable

The correct certification of CCTV spy cameras used for parking enforcement are for the publics protection as much as the councils and is a requirement enshrined in law. Perhaps Rowley will have to introduce parking charges 24/7 as he is so fond of using parking taxes to raise revenue to fill his parking departments ever enlarging deficit.

We also have documents from the VCA where they have also lied to Westminster City Council claiming that CCTV spy camera DVTel9840A is certified but have conveniently been unable to come up with one shred of evidence. Seems this cover-up runs deep, very deep.

From: Sutton, Sara
 Sent: 13 October 2011 12:56
 To: Denis Batten
 Cc: Donovan, Kelly; Kirwan, Alison
 Subject: Westminster City Council VCA Approval PAD038 

 Dennis,  

 Please can you confirm that the devices certified on PAD038 are in fact all DVTel9840A cameras. 

 The full DVTel9840A specification for the cameras was part of the submission and any reference to DVTel9840
 is just an abbreviation of the name and is not a variation.
 I would be grateful of your response ASAP. 

 Many thanks  
 Sara 

 Sara Sutton  
 Service Delivery Manager
 Parking Services
 ------------------------------
Hello Sara,
 In answer to your query regarding Certification PAD038 for Westminster Council.
 We can confirm that the Westminster Certification includes the DVTel 9840A camera. 

 Regards  

 Denis Batten  
 Electronics Specialist
 Vehicle Certification Agency

Here at Nutsville we wonder if Westminster City Council still think it was worth going that one step too far by charging motorcycles to park, it did start this ball rolling after all.

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3 Comments

Kill SwitchNovember 10th, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Excellent work.

Rowley says “blatantly ignoring parking rules, which are designed to keep people safe, is not acceptable” but it is acceptable for their scamera cars to blatantly ignore parking rules, and therefore make people unsafe.

BHNovember 10th, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Dear oh dear Westminster! SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mark SaundersNovember 10th, 2011 at 4:08 pm

And again for context, the addition of an “A” to a model number is *not insignificant*.

To stick with the traffic theme, if anyone doubts it, I’d invite them to try swapping out the ECU on a car for one that that differs by just one character.

A different model of black box could be (and often is) radically different under the hood, and a later model is not necessarily better. The 2nd generation of a device usually sees cost cutting through sourcing cheaper components or removal of features. Companies often don’t thorough re-test these new models, either to save costs or because nobody bothers to tell QA that they’re actually different.

So, sorry WCC, but you don’t get to wave your hands and say “Oh, tish, it’s the same thing.” It’s not, any more than vehicle registration plate “FU WCC” is the same as “FU WCC 2″

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