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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Parking fines aren't fines

Source: Metric Martyrs

A judge has ruled that the Bill of Rights is not a valid defence against a parking fine because a parking fine isn't a fine or forfeiture. So what is a parking fine if it's not a fine? It seems that the judge hasn't felt inclined to tell us.

The Bill of Rights is an important piece of legislation that is broken thousands of times a day. One line in the Bill of Rights says (in modern English), "Any promise of fine or forfeiture before conviction is illegal and void".

The "metric martyrs judgement" against a Sunderland market trader who was fined by Trading Standards Nazi's for selling fruit and veg in lb's and oz's established the precedent that a constitutional law (in this case in particular, the Bill of Rights) cannot be repealed by implication and is therefore unaffected by newer laws that contradict it. Therefore, if the law was upheld, every fine issued without first obtaining a conviction would be illegal and void.

In this particular judgement, the judge also ruled that NPAS, the National Parking Adjudication Service, is independent. NPAS receives a 45p/£ commission for each parking fine that is paid and therefore has an interest in dismissing as many appeals as possible. As NPAS relies on the payment of parking fines and if it were to rule that parking fines were illegal, which is clearly the case, they would instantly lose all their funding.

The judgement is not surprising, however, as illegal fines are a massive business in England - especially for the British government which rakes in billions from summary justice. If the judge were to make the right decision - that the law is the law and must be upheld - the British government would lose a huge cash cow and be forced to pay back billions in illegal fines that it has recovered. Not only would the illegal fines have to be paid back but many of the people who have had their money extorted from them will have had visits from debt collectors, bailiffs and may even have gone to prison for non-payment of what is an illegal and void fine.

So, is it worth the dent in the budget that would result from all fines issued as a result of summary justice rightly being declared illegal and void? Is the principle that the British government should not be allowed to extort money from citizens illegally without first proving their guilt of an offence in a court of law that important? Yes, it is. It starts out with parking fines, then it's fines for dropping litter on the floor or being drunk on the street followed with fines for putting your junk mail in a public bin on the way to work. Where does it stop?

The law is there to protect our rights and privileges, not to restrict or abuse them. The people cannot choose which laws to follow and the establishment certainly should not be able to either.