Tuesday 15 November 2011

Legal challenge encounters set back

Legal Action Update: Bad news from the Court but the fight goes on

On Monday we learned that a High Court judge had turned down David Attfield’s initial application for permission to pursue his legal challenge all the way to trial. In a short note of his reasons, the Judge claimed that the challenge was similar to another legal challenge mounted by a Barnet resident which was dismissed back in the summer.

This is undoubtedly a set back. We had expected to be given the green light based on two High Court precedents which establish that high parking charges need to be justified by the need to control parking or traffic in the areas concerned. Simply saying, as Barnet do, that more money is needed to pay for the Freedom Pass for the over 60s and to fix potholes across the borough is not enough (compare Barnet’s stance to that of Westminster who are bending over backwards to demonstrate that evening and Sunday parking charges are needed to control supposedly out of control demand for parking). However, we clearly failed to convey this point to the Judge.

We will also need to explain why the earlier challenge to Barnet’s CPZ charges is not a safe precedent. The resident in the earlier challenge had no legal representation and failed to advance a detailed legal argument. We need to explain why that poorly resourced legal challenge should in no way be regarded as confirming the legality of Barnet’s charges.   

This is not the end of the road.  Yesterday’s decision was made by a deputy judge who considered the matter on paper. We will have an opportunity in the New Year to present our case to a more senior judge orally at a hearing. This is not strictly an appeal but more of a right to a second, more considered, opinion.  The legal team will of course need to think carefully about why the case was initially turned down. We will need to make the case sound compelling to an over-worked High Court judge who, even if just sub-consciously, would welcome reducing the workload of the courts by turning some litigants away.  

David Attfield is asking his barrister, Martin Westgate QC, to assess again the prospects of success in light of this development and we will update you on this to the extent we can (some advice will need to be kept confidential in order not to inform Barnet of our thinking).  We believe the advice will still be positive because the basic facts have not changed:
  • Barnet do not attempt to argue that there is a need to control parking demand and traffic in its CPZs.
  • Its charges are far out of line with those in other boroughs. Inviting 8 guests to a toddler's birthday party costs £32 in Barnet but £4.80 in Haringey and £8 in Enfield. Even in Islington the cost would be just £12.80.
  • Plus there is the obvious unfairness of the tiny minority of residents in CPZs paying for services for the whole borough. The effect is that CPZ residents have to pay £9 to ensure that the non-CPZ residents can avoid paying £1.    
The need to ensure that CPZ residents are not held to ransom year after year is too important for us to give up now. And the arguments (both legal and moral) are too strong. We fight on!


Click here and here for latest media coverage on this matter.

No comments:

Post a Comment