High Court clarifies enforcement of PCNs on red routes in recent TfL case

Citation: [2023] EWHC 2889 (Admin)
Judgment on

Introduction

The recent High Court case of Transport for London (TfL) v London Tribunals pertains to the judicial review of decisions regarding the enforcement of road traffic contraventions. Specifically, this case scrutinizes the meaning and application of regulations governing the issuance of penalty charge notices (PCNs) by post based on camera evidence. The essence of the dispute centered on whether certain parking contraventions on red routes fell within the ambit of enforceable PCN regulations.

Key Facts

TfL challenged two decisions made by Environment and Traffic Adjudicators related to appeals against PCNs. The crux of the issue concerned the interpretation of “red route” under the Civil Enforcement of Road Traffic Contraventions (Approved Devices Charging Guidelines and General Provisions)(England) Regulation 2022.

The adjudicators had previously allowed numerous appeals where the PCNs were issued by post, on the belief that the parking bays involved weren’t marked in accordance with the pertinent red route definition. TfL disputed this interpretation, asserting all contraventions on red routes, included those involving parking bays, could be enforced via regulation 10(2) of the 2022 Regulations.

The key legal principles engaged in this case concern statutory interpretation, the powers of enforcement authorities in issuing PCNs, and the nature of adjudicative review.

The court considered whether a road still falls under a red route marked “in accordance with” regulations despite including parking bays as per the 2016 Regulations. The court also deliberated on what constitutes a “regulation 11 parking contravention”, impacting whether PCNs for certain parking contraventions could be issued via post.

The High Court applied several basic tenets of statutory construction. It emphasized that where regulations are clear on their face, they should be interpreted as such without surmising errors or alternative readings not apparent from the text.

The adjudicators’ decision considered prior regulations and amendments alongside the government’s expressed intent to limit “overzealous enforcement”. They determined that only certain red route contraventions were camera enforceable. However, the High Court took a more holistic view, considering the entirety of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016.

The principle of finality was invoked in discussing the Chief Adjudicator’s decision on review, referencing cases such as Trimble v Super Travel Ltd. and the judgement in R(Malik) v Manchester Crown Court which highlight the scope of review is not intended to re-adjudicate matters on legal merits, but to correct procedural deficiencies.

Outcomes

MR JUSTICE SWIFT disagreed with the adjudicators’ reasoning and concluded that all contraventions occurring on red routes are potentially enforceable by post under the stipulated regulations. The adjudicators’ interpretation was deemed incorrect, leading to the quashing of their decision that allowed the appeals of the four interested parties. These appeals were dismissed accordingly.

In relation to the Chief Adjudicator’s refusal to review the adjudicators’ decision, the High Court did not endorse the rationale but upheld the outcome. The Chief Adjudicator had treated the review application almost as a permission stage in judicial review proceedings, which the court found an inappropriate application of the “interests of justice” grounds for review.

Conclusion

This case reaffirms essential principles of statutory interpretation: the primacy of the text of a regulation and the holistic context provided by associated legislative schemes. It serves as guidance on the scope of the issuance of PCNs by post under specific traffic regulations. The High Court also clarified the boundaries between appeals and reviews within adjudicative processes, underscoring the principle of finality and emphasizing that review powers should not be a proxy for assessing the legality of decisions on their substance.

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