The legality of thousands of bus lane fines has been called into question after a motorist overturned one by claiming it had used the wrong wording.
Musician Phillip Morgan was caught on CCTV camera in a bus lane at Eden Street, Kingston upon Thames, in his Rover.
But he noticed that the £60 penalty charge notice from Kingston council warned that if he failed to pay, an enforcement notice “will be served”.
He researched parking law and discovered that the council had made what he called a “fatal” error. Under the London Local Authorities Act 1996, councils must inform motorists that an enforcement notice — leading to a higher fine of £120 — “may” be served.
He said: “It was obvious that Kingston had used the wrong form of wording. They were illegally pre-judging the judicial process. Thousands of these things go out which means thousands of other drivers have also been wrongly fined.”
From 2008-2009, 2,643 bus lane fines worth an estimated £160,000 were issued in the borough. From 2009-2010 5,600 were issued, worth £341,000.
When Mr Morgan, 58, of Claygate, wrote to Kingston challenging the ticket, the council said it was cancelling the fine as a “courtesy” to Mr Morgan for drawing their attention to the “possibility” that their tickets were faulty.
It admitted it was changing the wording on its fines but insisted “we do not believe the wording to have been illegal or non-compliant”.
It said that the matter did not affect the “validity of any other notice”.
Today Mr Morgan told the Standard: “This is nonsense; if my ticket is wrong and they had to cancel it, it means the tickets of everybody else who was fined by the borough was also wrong. The council should hand back the money.”
Parking expert Paul Pearson, of penaltychargenotice.co.uk, agreed. He said: “They have realised their error and have said they will change the wording but are refusing to refund motorists. The council is not entitled to collect money from non compliant PCNs and yet it is refusing to pay back. This is wrong.”
A Kingston council spokesman said: “We have recently reverted the wording back to may’ so that we can reproduce the exact wording in the London Local Authorities Act 1996. We will not be refunding any Penalty Charge Notices that have been issued in the past.”