Traffic Enforcement Centre (TEC)
Fit for Purpose?
(For those who have arrived here after typing Traffic Enforcement Centre into Google, stay with us and
maybe check out other sections of this website to see how we can help you if the TEC has failed to do so)
The TEC is one of the most mysterious bodies in the country as it is a administrative court which unlike the County Court or High Court, operates in just one area of civil matters and does so without judges, solicitors, barristers, hearings or any public attendance. The Traffic Enforcement Centre's terms of reference are limited to decriminalised parking and other minor traffic contraventions such as bus lane and box junction transgressions etc. Unlike judicial courts the Traffic Enforcement Centre is entirely bound by HMCS Civil Procedure Rule 75 and its associated Practice Directions
The TEC was introduced in 1993 as the Parking Enforcement Centre and initially operated within Cardiff County Court as a centre to administer alleged parking contraventions. It was funded by those local authorities who elected to adopt decriminalised parking within their own boroughs. The TEC classes its participating local authorities as ‘members’ who like any other club members, pay a subscription to join. This annual subscription pays for the running costs of the TEC. If that suggests that this is an exclusive club which benefits its members over and above others, you would be entirely correct. This 'court' is run by its members who tell the TEC what decisions to make. Provided the member local authorities have followed the correct procedure then the TEC cannot refuse their requests.
This leads to the most disturbing aspect of the TEC which unlike the judicial County Court and the High Court does not consider allegations made by its member on the ‘balance of probabilities’. Parking and minor traffic enforcement is unconstitutionally based on a ‘presumption of guilt’, a reality admitted to Fair Parking by a senior employee of the Ministry of Justice in a face to face conversation in March 2011. Nothing has changed since. The TEC’s role is to merely rubber stamp applications from its member local authorities unless they fall foul on an administrative matter.
However the original predicted numbers of parking tickets was quickly exceeded as many other local authorities joined and an expanded parking enforcement centre moved to Northampton’s Bulk Processing Centre in 2001 to be renamed the ‘Traffic Enforcement Centre’. Of the 326 local authorities in England & Wales some 280 have now opted for decriminalised parking. Appeals made by the public to the Traffic Enforcement Centre are dealt in a unique and one sided manner as the TEC isn’t interested in whether a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) is valid and therefore subject to challenge on the facts of the matter as in the County Court. The TEC is merely concerned with whether the administrative procedure that enforces a PCN and which commenced with a local authority sending of a Notice To Owner (NtO) to the correct address, has been carried out correctly by the local authority. The fact that a vehicle owner and its registered keeper are not necessarily the same is a problematic dichotomy the TEC has failed to address.
Without any query on the administrative procedure the TEC must process an application from its member local authorities and automatically agree to its requests. The TEC has no authority or powers to do otherwise. Without payment to a local authority and without any challenge to the procedure the TEC will eventually authorise the issue of a warrant of execution.
Though some of these appeals are accepted, the TEC has adopted what could be deemed to be a cavalier attitude to those that are not. It standard response contains the following 'The TEC is unable to assist with any queries that you may have regarding why the application was refused. Reasons are not held on court record and the Court Officer is not required to give an explanation for refusal'. The role of the 'Court Officer' is dealt with later in this editorial, but the TEC must be the only court in the civilised world that has failed to grasp that by refusing (or even keeping a record of the reasons for its decision) to explain the reasons for that refusal, the applicant is denied that most basic right - the right of appeal. How much legal training does it take to undertand that if a person isn't given any reason behind a decision to refuse, then without knowing why the application was refused that person cannot appeal against it? A UK court without any appeals process - now that is novel and entirely questionable.
However Fair Parking can throw some light on this. Every appeal is referred back to the local authority for its comments and if they object and have followed procedure (as opposed to fact) then the TEC has no alternative but to side with them. In short the TEC cannot give any reasons for its decisions because it doesn't make any - the local authorities acting as accuser, judge and jury do it for them
The Unlawful Electronic Conveyer Belt
Local authorities do not send details of outstanding PCNs individually to the TEC, they are sent in electronic file batches sometimes with up to 2000 names and addresses at a time. The TEC first registers these notifications as charges on its system and authorises the issue of a ‘Charge Certificate’ by the local authority for all names listed in the batch. Local authorities too often misleadingly refer this to the as ‘Registering the debt with the County Court’. Sadly the Citizens Advice Bureau makes the same error. The TEC is not a county court and the local authority’s unproven alleged contravention is not a debt. Neither is the TEC a county court
Charge Certificates are then printed by the local authority and sent to each person named. If the respondent does not appeal or does not pay, the next step is a further mass electronic application from the local authority to the TEC for the authorisation to issue an Order for Recovery, the only administrative Order the TEC court can prepare. This block authorisation is once again returned electronically to the local authority, who again must print and send each one individually along with a statutory declaration and a witness statement, both of which must be returned within 15 days if the Order for Recovery is to be challenged.
If no appeal is made by the respondent the local authority may once again return to the TEC and request the authorisation to prepare warrants of execution. Warrants of execution are dutifully authorised and such authorisations are returned electronically on a form TE8a to the local authority. In common with all previous authorisations by the TEC, the TE8a does not list any names and addresses, but simply refers to the batch as a single entity by listing the number of approvals.
Worse Than a Presumption of Guilt?
An astute observer may have noticed a few shortcomings in this cosy procedure between local authority and the TEC. First, it not only confirms the universal presumption of guilt by merely offering an extremely limited appeals procedure based not on facts of the matter but on procedural irregularities by the local authorities - it then escalates that shortcoming into something far worse and more sinister.
The only safeguard to the general public comes via a declaration to the TEC by the local authority via what is known as a ‘global certificate’ attached to the batch. This merely upholds that the information contained within the batch is correct and that there is no need for the TEC to verify the contents. The sobering reality is that in defiance of nealy 1000 years of English law, people already automatically presumed to be guilty by local authorities are then presumed guilty by the TEC. The local authorities merely place their names on a list so that everybody named on it may all be condemned en bloc by an administrative court that relies solely on a declaration from the accusers to the effect that information contained in an electronic transmission is entirely correct.
Not only is there no element of protection for the public against miscalculations, errors, misguided presumptions and prejudice, but the TEC then compounds this whole sorry saga by adding one extra indefensible and unlawful component. By accepting large scale electronic batch applications, the TEC forsakes the most fundamental and important necessity of all, that of opening these mass electronic communications in order to find out who is being named and what it is they are alleged to have done wrong. The TEC nevertheless pronounces all the people it has no knowledge of, guilty of accusations that they know nothing about. English and Welsh 'justice' 21st century style
We appear to have re-invented a legal system that relies on pronouncing unknown people guilty of undefined allegations that remain hidden from the court. The TEC’s response to this is sheer silence when its minimum response ought be one of both shock, horror and a determination to find out whether this true. The gross irresponsibility that lies within these presumptions of guilt is rendered indescribably worse by the TEC who in not actually knowing who is guilty or what it is they are guilty of is nevertheless deterimined to punish them – and by jove the local authorities who deal with them are determined that they are all going to pay for it!
And There’s More
All statutory declarations made to the TEC are determined by what the TEC describes as ‘officers of the court’. Just who these court officers are remains a mystery though one thing is for sure, they are not judges. These ‘court officers’ determine the outcome of statutory declarations which are then court stamped by the Northampton County Court under Civil Procedure Rule 23 (8) making it rather difficult to not to argue that these court stamped orders are not legal decisions. More bizarre it that Northampton County Court does not involve itself with decriminalised traffic contraventions and has said so quite openly on its recorded telephone message. If the TEC does make decisions and if their staff are legally qualified then these decisions would be fine, but neither is any more true than the illusion that it is Northampton County Court which is rubber stamping these 'decisions'. As good an illusion as smoke and mirrors can be.
Whenever Fair Parking send emails asking pertinent questions about the role of the TEC, its staff quickly write back to say that they cannot offer any advice or opinions as they are not legally trained. After operating on a presumption of guilt, a passion for finding unknown people guilty of acts the TEC knows nothing about; it appears that all this is administered by staff keen to admit that they have no legal qualifications. After some fours years of sending emails to the TEC, it has yet to confirm that anybody there is legally qualified. If Fair Parking is wrong on this or that Northampton County Court stamps TEC 'decisions' then the TEC is invited to come and correct us. Perhaps it might also take the same opportunity to provide a list of those within the TEC who are l legally trained court officers. Such transparent information is singularly missing from TEC documentation and we would be more than willing to assist the TEC by providing the public with such information on this site.
You couldn’t make this up and given that is all enthusiastically supported by the Ministry of Justice whose own staff often admits that they too are not legally qualified either, the public has every right to feel cheated and angry at this charade and to question whether the TEC is fit for purpose.
Does the TEC Control The Actions of Bailiffs?
The one group not mentioned so far and for whom CPR 75 and the TEC’s own rules do not apply are bailiffs who quite often quote both when they feel that it suits their objectives. The TEC’s rules are contained in the inaptly named ‘Code of Practice’. Despite its misleading title the Code of Practice is not only the court’s rules, but the only set of rules under which all local authorities must comply, otherwise the TEC has the power to suspend them. There is no contradication in Fair Parking's reasoning because the TEC can only suspend members for gross administrative errors
There is no discretion in the Code of Practice, least of all for bailiffs whom Lord McNally made plain when asked a question in the House of Lords on 19th July 2011, ‘are not applicants to the proceedings’. In short the Code of Practice does not concern bailiffs at all and they should not distort its contents for their own unlawful gains. The Code of Practice is not a document that was produced for the convenience of bailiffs to ignore at will on the hopeless and spurious dogma that these rules are not backed by law. Only bailiffs acting as bounty hunters could believe that court rules they are duty bound to comply with are not backed by law. Bailiffs are only invited to be part of civil enforcement procedure by local authorities and not by the TEC. They are agents of the local authorities and not officers of the court. The Local Government Ombudsman concurred with this in a ruling made on March 12th 2013. TEC rules have nothing to do with bailiffs.
However the TEC demonstrates one final shortcoming that allows bailiffs to take great advantage. Once it has authorised the preparation of a warrant of execution it simply switches off and takes absolutely no interest in how its own authorisations are managed from this point. It fails to check whether its rules 9.21 (the preparation of warrants) and 9.22 (the carrying of warrants) are being observed by local authorities and their agents.
The TEC’s slack supervision directly contributes to the chaos and the misdemeanours that follow. This court simply turns a blind eye and has no conception that ‘warrants’ are either never prepared or are fakes printed by bailiffs anything up to year later in order to cover for the deliberate failure of its member local authorities and their bailiffs to operate under either the CPR or the TEC court rules.
The TEC may officially be a court but frankly it is difficult not to conclude that it acts unlawfully is thus unfit for purpose. Of course this doesn’t all lie at the TEC’s doorstep for even more culpable is the Ministry of Justice which is meant to oversee the TEC, local authorities, bailiffs and all other aspects of civil parking enforcement. Its track record in protecting the public from the daily miscarriages of justice in these areas is lamentable.
Fair Parking would not be lying if it said that the MoJ does little or nothing for the public in relation to protecting them against the excesses of bailiffs enforcing alleged parking and minor traffic contraventions whilst at the same time it regularly invites or visits representatives of bailiff companies. Ex-employees of the MoJ have been known to take up permanent positions in bailiff companies.
Fair Parking has no need to comment further except to invite both the TEC and the MoJ to register any objections they may have with us. If we are wrong then we will serve notice in this section and correct what is printed. That promise is dated 27th February 2013.
‘The Data Protection Act 1998 (the Act) regulates the processing of personal information and requires organisations to keep it secure. It generally restricts disclosure of personal information to third parties unless an exemption applies. Customers and employees will usually have an expectation that their information will not be disclosed to third parties without good cause’. Information Commissioner's Office - Directive 23rd April 2009.
The DVLA is a government agency charged with the administration of registering vehicles and the names and addresses of those who are responsible for their upkeep. It is not an authority in the same way that the Traffic Enforcement Centre is. Registering a vehicle with the DVLA does not make you its owner, which brings us to our first problem which is the part of the Traffic Management Act 2004 regulations which requires a local authority to send a Notice To Owner even though all enforcement proceedings are brought against the registered keeper. A long way down the line and after the DVLA has provided details of the registered keeper this eventually has bailiffs assuming that registered keepers are owners and that if they have taken a vehicle in error over who is responsible for an alleged payment of any outstanding ticket, the bailiffs in their two dimensional world often demand proof of ownership. Under the present system is quite impossible to show if a V5 log book is to relied upon - the same V5 bailiffs demand to see.
This confusion stems from the fact that the DVLA violates the Data Protection Act 1998 every time it releases personal information for what is no more than an allegation over a civil contravention of traffic management or debt as local authorities wrongly call it. Alleged parking and minor traffic contraventions are not debts, they are merely unproven accusations on road conduct. The Data Protection Act 1998 does not allow the release of personal information for civil debts let alone for the purpose of pursuing allegations of penalties payments due to minor traffic misconduct.
It can be seen from the directive that a carefree approach to the Data Protection Act 1998 based on assumptions that releasing personal information is normal is quite the opposite to what the Act demands. Just as importantly, the spirit of the Act requires caution to be on the side of the person (data subject) and not the DVLA (data controller), in short if there is any doubt that doubt must favour the data subject. The reference to 'restricts disclosure of personal information to third parties unless an exemption applies' ought to serve as a sobering reminder, but the DVLA in common with far too many government agencies, local authorities and enforcers somehow imagine that the Data Protection Act 1998 simply doesn't apply to them. That they are somehow exempt. They are very, very wrong.
The Information Commissioner's Office
As if to emphasise the strict restrictions the ICO directive adds…. “In some exceptional cases, for example tracing a missing person, the information being requested by an investigator may be necessary for the prevention or detection of crime and so its disclosure may be exempt under Section 29 of the Act. This will not apply to civil matters such as the enforcement of debts’. The emphasis is the ICO's.
There is simply no exception for the DVLA in relation to releasing any personal information for civil parking and minor traffic penalty allegations. No 'ifs', 'buts' or 'maybes' favour the DVLA on releasing personal information so that local authorities, bailiffs and members of the British Parking Association or CIVEA (Civil Enforcement Association) might pursue money for alleged unpaid civil tickets based on traffic contraventions.
The Road Vehicle (Registration & Licensing) Regulations 2002
Fair Parking has questioned the DVLA on several occasions during the past four years on its cavalier attitude to releasing personal information and despite the DVLA stating more that once that it strictly observes the Data Protection Act 1998, it has also admitted on more than one occasion that it is wholly reliant on a little known law called the Road Vehicle (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 2002 to avoid all its obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998. The RVRL has not been tested in law. Those at the DVLA who have quoted this little known and very British technical law might stop to consider that the DVLA's total reliance on this law to circumvent the Data Protection Act 1998 is actually an admittance that the DVLA does NOT observe the Data Protection Act 1998 otherwise the DVLA would be in a position to quote an exemption under that law. Why does the DVLA rely on this law if not to disregard the Data Protection Act 1998?
To explain this better, we should add that nobody from the DVLA has ever said that the Road Vehicle (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 2002 overrules the Data Protection Act 1998, or that there is a clause in either the Data Protection Act 1998 or the RVRL Regulations 2002 that makes any reference to overrruling or allowing an exemption under the Data Protection Act 1998, it has just been assumed by the DVLA that this small and unknown Act allows the Data Protection Act 1998 to be circumvented. The DVLA gains by raising £80,000 a week in revenue.
If the RVRL 2002 was taken at face value, the question still remains as to why if this is the only legislation the DVLA can rely upon to share personal information with a local authority - why that local authority can then feel it has the right to then pass the same personal information on to a third party bailiff company when RVRL 27(1)(a) does not apply any body other than the DVLA/local authority relationship. This 'right' to further pervert personal information by recipient bailiff companies passing on those same personal details to their self employed bailiffs without contacting the DVLA, is yet another wonder of the universe. And then there is obvious question as to why 27(1) (a) exists at all when 27 (1) (e) allows anybody 'who can show good reason' is equally entitled to the personal information of another. What the purpose of 27 (1) (a) is when 27 (1) (e) is far more extensive, is a paradox equal to that of Schrodinger's Cat.
What the DVLA Said
DVLA policy appears to be the opposite of what is permissible under the Data Protection Act 1998. Fair Parking took this and other points up with the DVLA in 2010 and the following is an extract from a letter sent by the DVLA in response. Editing has taken place partly in order not to contravene the Data Protection Act 1998 and partly to concentrate on the lawfulness or otherwise of the DVLA's policy to sell personal information. The DVLA';s position has not altered since
From DVLA Policy and Casework Advice, Zone 1/16, Longview Rd, Swansea, SA6 7JL
25th March 2010
Is DVLA exempt from the Data Protection Act (DPA) and which parts of the Act do we share data under?
DVLA is not exempt from the provision of the Data Protection Act.
The DPA does not provide any power to disclose personal data to any third parties for any purpose. This legal basis may be included in statute, in common law, or in other prerogative powers of the Crown. In the case of parking, that legal basis is Regulation 27 of the Roads Vehicle (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 2002.
Is the Road Vehicle (Registration and Licensing) Regulation the only reason we disclose information?
For the purposes of parking, the lawful basis for sharing the data is contained within these Regulations and is carried out in accordance with the principles of the DPA.
Does the Road Vehicle (Registration and Licensing) Regulations amend the European Directive?
When was Regulation 27 last tested in Court?
To the best of our knowledge, this has not been ‘tested’ in Court.
What provisions of the DPA is DVLA subject to?
DVLA (and the Department for Transport as the data controller) is subject to all parts of the DPA which relate to Data Controllers. To this end, the Agency has an obligation to ensure that all data sharing complies with the principles listed in Schedule 1 of the Act or is exempted from the principles by virtue of one of the exemptions listed in the Act (for example national security (s28) or prevention and detection of crime (s29)).
If there is a right via the Act to share data, then why was this right later invested into the Road Vehicle (Registration and Licensing) Regulations?
As noted above the DPA does not confer a right or power on any party to share personal data, or to undertake any other form of processing. The right to process the data is either contained in statute (such as Regulation 27) or contained in common law. Therefore, legislation such as the Roads Vehicle (Registration and Licensing) Regulations is necessary to enable DVLA to undertake data sharing.
Policy Casework and Advice
Fair Parking's only comments in 2013 are
a) The DVLA in common with many other complex organisations reliant on huge data bases confuses the processing of the personal data within which is allowed under Schedule 1 of Data Protection Act 1998 and the sharing of that same personal data with third parties which is not. The DVLA appears to believe processing and sharing persoanl data are one and the same. Those with similar beliefs should consider the implausibility of sharing any data that has not been processed.
b) The DVLA needs to take far more notice of its daily violation of the Data Protection Act 1998 in its quest to share personal data for alleged civil debts before somebody takes it to a court (worse a European one) and has their belief in the fantasy 'rights' of the Road Vehicle (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 2002 exposed for the farce that it is. The DVLA is has manufactured a courageous situiation whereby it may eventually be forced pay millions of pounds in compensation.
A blind spot and sheer faith isn't going to help when the penny drops and somebody takes up the cudgal and the DVLA finds itself in the dock.