What do I do?
It is best to pay the fine if the offence did occur. However, if you believe that you have a case to appeal then read the ‘Appeal Process’ below.
What is a PCN?
A PCN (Penalty Charge Notice) is a notice issued by an enforcement officer, usually by the police or council for a vehicle or person in charge of a vehicle breaching regulations enforced by the Council’s Traffic Regulation Orders.
Who governs this?
The council and police administer the PCNs.
Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) are issued by councils that operate bus-lane enforcement under the Bus Lane Contraventions (Penalty Charges, Adjudication and Enforcement) Regulations 2005. The PCNs issued by councils are processed by the council and enforcement takes place through the civil justice system.
The Transport Act 2000 enables councils to take over most moving traffic enforcement - including bus lane enforcement - from the police
Councils that enforce bus lane regulations are said to be operating decriminalised - or civil - enforcement of bus lane contraventions.
Bus-lane offences can still be enforced by the police, who issue Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs). In these circumstances, disputes are heard in the Magistrates' Courts and are dealt with within the criminal justice system - since such offences are viewed as "criminal".
The main difference is that if the Council bring an action you are liable for a fine only but, if the police bring the action against you, then you are liable to pay a fine, court costs, a victim surcharge and you will also receive 3 penalty points upon your driving licence.
PCNs are enforced through the civil justice system rather than the criminal courts. However, the police retain their powers to enforce bus-lane infringements. If both the council and the police attempt to penalise the same incident, the police action will take precedence. In these circumstances, the council cannot proceed with civil enforcement, and must refund any penalty charge already paid. Prosecution by the police may lead to a criminal conviction, with the penalty enforceable in the Magistrates' Court.
The civil enforcement of bus-lane contraventions is regulated by the use of cameras. A penalty is only payable to a council in respect of a bus-lane contravention if the council has a visual record of the contravention generated AND it is recorded by an approved device.
An approved device is presumed to be accurate unless there is evidence to prove that it is not. Where a council has reason to believe a bus-lane contravention has occurred, it issues a PCN to the person liable for the contravention. This is generally the owner of the vehicle and will be addressed to the person to whom the identified vehicle is registered with the DVLA.
Bus lane offences can be enforced by the police and a fixed penalty notice can be issued.
The PCN is sent to the owner by post. When a PCN is issued for a bus-lane contravention, the council states what the penalty charge is. A discount of 50% applies if the penalty charge is paid by the end of the period of 14 days beginning with the date it is issued. Failing that, the full penalty charge has to be paid by the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the date when the PCN was issued. If the council hears nothing by the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the date when the PCN was served, the owner is liable to a penalty charge raised by 50%, for which the council can take civil legal proceedings through the County Court.
For PCNs attached to the vehicle or handed to the driver you should follow the instructions on the PCN that explains how it is to be paid. A PCN must be paid before the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the date of its service.
Date of service for a PCN sent by post is two working days after it was posted to the vehicle owner's address. Drivers only have to pay half the full amount if they pay before the end of the period of 14 days of the PCN being served.
Once a PCN has been paid it cannot be challenged
Please remember that despite the fact that most Penalty Charge Notices state that you cannot appeal until an enforcement notice is sent to you after 28 days, many local authorities do accept informal representations if made to them before the enforcement notice is served. They will also usually preserve the 50% discount for a further 14 days if they reject your informal representations so long as they receive it within the discount period of 14 days. So you have nothing to lose by writing to them within 14 days (but check with the local authority first.) This informal route is in addition to the normal appeal procedure, so if they do not accept your representations then you can still formally appeal to them after the 28 days when you receive the enforcement notice and then appeal to the adjudicator if the enforcing authority rejects your formal representations.
If you are going to appeal or make a representation do not make payment until you have heard back from the local authority or the Bus Lane adjudicator or you may lose your right to appeal and the case will be closed.
You should state the facts and your letter should be no longer than absolutely necessary. You should remember that the person who reads your letter may well have discretion to cancel your PCN. It may not be helpful therefore to vent your anger or make threats. You should place yourself in the position of the person who will be reading your letter. Photographs, diagrams, witness statements etc can be extremely helpful. Many motorists have camera phones. Remember that you usually have nothing to lose by writing in within 14 days.
There are a number of points that you should take into account when considering whether or not to challenge your Penalty Charge Notice.
(a) Every person has the right to appeal their Penalty Charge Notice.
(b) Do you have grounds for appealing your Penalty Charge Notice?
(c) What are the financial implications of appealing your penalty?
You need to prepare your case carefully, referring to your PCN number in any correspondence with the council (please note councils will not resolve queries over the phone - it is best to make any appeals in writing). You should always include any evidence with your appeals such as witness statements or photographs.
If your appeal to the Local Authority is rejected you will then have the opportunity to appeal to the Independent Adjudicator.
The council may accept your appeal at any time and resolve the matter immediately. However, in some circumstances the time taken to resolve your case may be longer. Any appeal to the council will generally take around two months before the opportunity to appeal to the adjudicator arises.
Any appeal to the adjudicator will take in the region of 8-12 weeks. (As this is a judicial process some appeals may be decided outside this time period)
Grounds of appeal
Below are the only grounds (reasons) on which an adjudicator can instruct the council to cancel a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN).
Don't worry if you don't know which ground applies, the adjudicator can decide if a particular ground applies.
(i) The alleged contravention did not occur
(ii) The penalty exceeded the amount that applied in the circumstances
This means the council has asked for more than they are entitled to under the relevant regulations.
As an example, for bus-lane penalties issued in England (outside London) the cost of a penalty is £60. This is reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.
(iii) The police are already taking action (duplication)
(iv) You did not own the vehicle when the alleged contravention occurred
(v) The vehicle was taken without the owner’s consent
This ground covers stolen vehicles and vehicles used without the owner's consent. It could apply, for example, to a vehicle taken by ‘joyriders’. It does not generally apply to vehicles in the care of a garage or borrowed by a relative or friend. If possible, you should supply a crime reference number from the police.
Justification for using a bus lane will really only be relevant in emergency situations. For example to make way for an emergency vehicle, due to a medical emergency, etc.
Strictly speaking you are still guiltily of the alleged offence but these are special reasons justifying why you should not have to face a fine or penalty points.
(vii) Was the offence captured correctly?
This offence is almost always enforced by a CCTV camera. An operator in a control room observes the traffic on his monitors and if he notices a prohibited vehicle contravening the rules on Bus Lanes during the hours of operation then he will usually issue a penalty charge notice. The general guidance issued to the operators states:
“The camera or observation should record the approach to and the passing of the sign(s) and subsequent movement by the vehicle including whether it parks, stops or travels along the restricted route”.
The penalty charge notice will usually have a photograph showing your vehicle in a Bus Lane or there may be a web link to where you can view it online. If there is neither then you can write to the local authority and ask for a copy of the photographs. You also have the right to view the video of the contravention. Again, sometimes this can be viewed online or at the council offices. Usually you can request a copy to be sent to you in the post, but you may have to pay for this service. The adjudicator will usually want to see a video of your vehicle passing a sign and travelling along the bus lane. Some authorities provide only still images, which will not show your vehicle moving or for how long it travelled or the passing of the signs. The adjudicator will need to have proof that a contravention did occur and that your vehicle did in fact travel along the bus lane.