(page written 26 Sep 2018, last revised 16 November 2018)
SCRAP MERSEY TOLLS PETITION on 38 Degrees
Scrap Mersey Tolls - Facebook open group
No Tolls home page
Main Mersey Gateway page
News of the scheme at the MTUA website
"MERSEY GATEWAY" AND PENALTIES
'Scrap Mersey Tolls' is the campaign against the tolling of the old and new bridges between Runcorn and Widnes. The group also opposes Mersey Tunnels tolls. This web page deals with Penalties on the Mersey Gateway
Background Making a representation online Making an appeal online to Traffic Penalty Tribunal Evidence to Traffic Penalty Tribunal
Traffic Enforcement Centre - Charge Certificates and Recovery Orders A few case histories.
If you do not pay a toll for which Merseyflow think you are liable, then you will be sent a Penalty Charge Notice. The PCNs are often referred to as 'fines'.
There is no time limit on when the PCN is sent out.
The notice will say when they think that you crossed without paying and will demand payment of the toll plus a penalty of £40 for each unpaid crossing. The penalty is reduced to £20 if you pay within 14 days.
We believe that the tolls and penalties do not comply with the law and are not enforceable. We suggest that as soon as possible after you receive the PCN, instead of paying them the £22 per crossing, you make a 'representation'. You can do this whatever your grounds and whether you have any evidence or not.
We realise that it is a pain and you may decide not to bother or take the risk of
losing. That is what Halton Council and Merseyflow rely on- that you will pay them
£22 to get it out of the way until the next time that you are stung.
So far (up to October 2018) EVERYONE WHO HAS MADE A REPRESENTATION AND STUCK TO IT HAS NOT HAD TO PAY THE PENALTY. Either Merseyflow have dropped chasing the penalty, or if not and the driver has then appealed to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal, the Tribunal have so far always allowed the appeal, though there is currently a backlog of appeals waiting for a decision.
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GOT A PCN - STAGE 1 - MAKING A REPRESENTATION ONLINE
You have 28 days to make a representation, but we strongly recommend that you do it as soon as you can.
This guide is based on making a representation online. Note that if you are
making a representation on more than one ground, then there is no facility for doing
this online, but we suggest below how you can get round this.
You do not have to make a representation online, for other ways of doing it see our FULL GUIDE - 'Got a PCN from Merseyflow'(a pdf file). It covers the process from before you get a PCN up to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal and covers making representations in writing.
How to do it
With your PCN handy go to this Merseyflow web page. Then click on 'next'.
The 'What you will need' screen, refers to 'supporting evidence'. If you are
appealing on the grounds of 'procedural impropriety' then you do not need any at
this stage. Click on 'Next'.
On next page, 'Penalty Charge Notice', enter the PCN number and the vehicle
registration number (on your PCN). Select the PCN(s).Then click on 'Next'.
On next page, 'Your details', enter Your name and other personal details. All the
fields are mandatory, if you don't have an email address then use a friend's. You
can use the same number in both the phone fields. Then click on 'Next'.
On next page, 'Grounds', click next to the Grounds for your representation.
We believe that the tolls and penalties do not properly comply with the law and are not enforceable. We therefore suggest that you use the procedural impropriety ground whatever other grounds you may have.
You then need to click on the bottom box which says 'The option I have selected...'. Then click on 'Next'.
On next page, 'Supporting evidence', you can upload a file - if you have one, and
you can make a 'supporting evidence statement'.
If you are using the 'Procedural impropriety' ground then we suggest that you type
in Either -
"The Tolling, the Charging Orders and the PCNs do not comply with the law." or,
"According to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal, there has been a procedural impropriety on the part of the Charging Authority. There is no toll payable"
If you have some other reasons or grounds why you think that the penalty is wrong, then we suggest that you add that in the same box. Then click on 'Next'.
On next page, 'Verification', check what you have entered. You also need to click
again on 'The option I have selected...'. Then click on 'Next'.
The next page is a 'Confirmation' page. They do not send email acknowledgements or even provide a reference number, but you may try to take a screenshot of this page even
though it does not show a reference number.
What happens next?
You may have a long wait as national politicians did not set any deadline for this. Eventually Merseyflow will do one of three things-
They may tell you that they are cancelling the PCN. There is no penalty to pay, and no toll unless you have already paid it.
They may make you an offer to forget about the penalty providing you pay the toll. We suggest that you do not accept this offer, but realise that most people will pay to avoid further risk and trouble.
They may send you a 'Notice of Rejection', which sometimes also includes the offer to forget about the penalty providing you pay the toll. Our advice is to appeal to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal, but IF you are given the offer then you may want to accept it.
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GOT A PCN - STAGE 2 - MAKING AN APPEAL ONLINE TO TRAFFIC PENALTY TRIBUNAL
This guide is based on making the appeal online which is the standard way that appeals are made. You do not have to do it online, you can ring them on 0800 160 1999, and they will send you a form. The appeals process is covered at this page on the Tribunal site.
You have 28 days to appeal to the Tribunal, but as with the representation stage we strongly recommend that you it as soon as you can.
How to do it
You will need your Notice of Rejection to hand and you will also have to decide what your grounds of appeal are and what evidence, if any, that you have. If nothing else, we suggest that you appeal on the grounds that there has been a 'procedural impropriety' - this means that Merseyflow or Halton Borough Council have not complied with the relevant acts, regulations and orders.
Note that to make the appeal you do not have to submit any evidence at this stage. The process as detailed below will take you ten to fifteen minutes.
Go to this Traffic Penalty Tribunal link. Under 'Have you received a Notice of Rejection of Representations?' click on 'Yes' and enter first two letters of the PCN - this is always 'XM'. Then click on 'next'.
The next page is 'Before you begin your appeal'. There is a link to a short video, which you may want to watch. Then scroll down to bottom and click on 'Begin appeal'.
Next page is 'Your appeal', You need to complete three boxes-
'PIN/Online/Appeal code' is the 'Appeal Code' number that will be in a box on the third page of your Notice of Rejection.
The other two boxes are for your 'Vehicle Registration Number' and the 'PCN Number'.
If you are appealing against other PCNs for the same vehicle then click on 'Add another PCN'.Then click on 'Next'.
The next page is 'Register (New User)'. If you have appealed before then you can 'Sign in'. If you have not appealed before then enter an email address and a password. Then click on 'Register'
If you don't have an email address then click on the link 'Don't have an email address' which will suggest how to get one.
Next page is 'Your Appeal'. It will, hopefully, tell you that your email address has been confirmed. Click on 'Raise Appeal'.
The next page is 'Personal Details'. On tab 1, you indicate whether you are appealing for yourself or on behalf of someone else. You are then given a long list of personal details to complete. All the fields are mandatory, if you don't have a 'secondary phone' then use the same number as your 'primary phone'. Then click on 'Next'.
Next page is tab 2, 'Vehicle details', you have to tick to indicate that you own the vehicle or you have sold it or it is a company or hire vehicle. Then click on 'Next'.
The next page is tab 3, 'Why are you appealing'. You have to say whether the vehicle did make a crossing on the time and date stated on the PCN. You also have to say whether you paid on time or not. If you do not remember then you can click on 'I don't know'.
There is a box for you to say why the toll was not paid or not paid on time. You can give as many reasons as you like including that you did pay the toll and paid it on time.
Apart from any other reason we suggest that you say ' I believe that the tolls and penalties have not been properly introduced and are not enforceable'..
When you have given your reasons, then click on 'Next'
Next page is tab 4, 'Evidence'. There is a box in which you can add evidence to support your reasons for appealing. You do not have to do this now, you can just enter ' I will add evidence at a later date.' On the same page you can also Upload evidence'. This could be text files, copies of emails, images etc.
When you have done what you want, then click on 'Next'
The next page is tab 5, 'Check and Declaration'. This is a chance to review what you have entered. If it is wrong then you will have to go 'Back'.
If it is alright then click on the box at the bottom '..to confirm you agree' and then click on 'Submit my appeal'.
Next page is headed 'Checking Details', it is the final one and requires no input. You should get an email acknowledgement of the appeal from the Tribunal.
What happens next?
Using your email address and the password that you have given to them, you can log back onto your appeal at any time. You will need to do this if you are adding anything to your appeal including more evidence. You can also see how the Council react to your appeal and have a chance to comment on anything that they might say.
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EVIDENCE TO TRAFFIC PENALTY TRIBUNAL
Below are links to four documents that can be cited by anyone who makes an appeal to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal using the grounds of 'procedural impropriety'. An earlier version of the documents were to be used by John McGoldrick in his appeal. But the Council decided not to contest the appeal.
If you are making an appeal on the grounds of 'procedural impropriety', then you can either attach these documents or copy this link location (you may need to right click).
Doc 1 - Background to the Mersey Gateway scheme.
Doc 2 - Orders prior to the April 2018 Charging Order.
Doc 3 - The April 2018 Charging Order.
Doc 4 - No power to make an Order on Gateway Crossing for Road user charges under Transport Act 2000, and ways in which the Council do not comply with the Regulations.
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TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT CENTRE - CHARGE CERTIFICATES AND RECOVERY ORDERS
This section describes the Traffic Enforcement Centre process. There is also a version of this information that was prepared in May as a document.
About the end of August, 2018, Merseyflow started issuing 'Charge Certificates' increasing the penalty to £60. The circumstances in which they are issued are-
The driver fails to do anything within 28 days of receiving the PCN.
Within the 28 days the driver makes a representation, but they later receive a 'Notice of Rejection' and fail to do anything within 28 days.
After receiving a Notice of Rejection the driver did appeal to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal within 28 days but the Tribunal dismissed the appeal (as at 28 October 2018, there have been no appeals dismissed, though a few have failed for reasons such as being too late).
The Charge Certificate says that if you do not pay within 14 days then "Mersey Gateway Crossing" will apply to the County Court for a 'Recovery Order'.
Drivers are regarded as easy victims and there are MILLIONS of penalties issued that would overwhelm the County Court system. So they have a special court - the Northampton Bulk Business Centre that automatically registers debts against drivers. The part of the court that deals with parking and tolls is known as the 'Traffic Enforcement Centre'. They do not normally have hearings before there is automatically issued an 'Order for recovery of unpaid penalty charge', otherwise known as a TE3. The issue of the TE3 increases the amount due to £68 plus whatever the unpaid toll was.
The TE3 warns you that "If you do nothing your possessions may be removed and sold to pay this charge." So do NOT ignore it.
If you have received a TE3, then you should also have been sent a 'Witness Statement' (TE9) that you can complete. It has various boxes that you can tick including a box to indicate that you did not receive the PCN. Tick any box that genuinely applies and send the form back. You can also contact Merseyflow.
If your Witness Statement or plea to Merseyflow is accepted, then the original PCN will probably be reissued. You then have the choice of promptly paying £22 or fighting it
If what you say in the Witness statement or plea to Merseyflow has been turned down. Then the 'debt' will be passed to recovery agents. Halton have appointed at least one firm of 'civil enforcement agents' (Marstons). But though the bridge has been open for a year, not a single case has so far (end of October, 2018) been passed to the recovery agents. It seems that, for one reason or another (possibly because all of this is illegal), Halton are reluctant to go to the stage where bailiffs are knocking on people's doors, seizing their possessions and wheel clamping cars. So it is always a good idea to contact Merseyflow and negotiate a payment less than what is demanded in the Recovery Order.
We will be issuing advice of what to do if a case does reach the enforcement agent stage.
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CASE HISTORY ONE - FIRST PCN
Scrap Mersey Tolls members have had a few attempts at contesting the tolls through the Penalty process. This describes what happened when John McGoldrick crossed in late April and did not pay.
25 April 2018 crossed Mersey Gateway for Open meeting of Scrap Mersey tolls at Millbrow club in Widnes. Did not pay.
6 May 2018 Received a PCN dated 4 May.
7 May 2018 Made a representation online, as per Stage 1 above.
1 June 2018 Got letter from Merseyflow dated 25 May with offer to not pursue the penalty if the £2 toll is paid.
4 June 2018 Emailed a letter to Merseyflow declining their offer.
Emails . One back from Merseyflow. One replying to that and suggesting that what they said was incorrect and contrary to the regulations. And a last one to them on 3 July. They did not reply or take any further action to enforce the toll or penalty.
CASE HISTORY TWO - PAYING TOLL AND TRYING TO GET A REFUND
14 June 2018 crossed Mersey Gateway for protest at official 'opening' by the Queen in Widnes.
15 June 2018 Paid the toll online. Payment receipt.
14 July 2018 Letter demanding refund which was handed into Merseyflow office in Runcorn as part of a protest- "Mersey Gateway bosses insist there's no loophole and no getting your money back" SMT press release.
16 July 2018 Letter from Merseyflow refusing refunds.
CASE HISTORY THREE - SECOND PCN
This describes what happened when John McGoldrick crossed in July and did not pay.
13 July 2018, the day that Halton issued their statement on tolls and refunds, crossed Mersey Gateway for ITV interview at the Catalyst. Did not pay.
27 July 2018 Received a PCN dated 25 July.
1 August 2018 Made a representation online.
6 September 2018 Got Notice of Rejection from Merseyflow dated 3 September, with offer not to pursue the penalty if the £2 toll is paid.
7 September 2018 Appealed online to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal (see Stage 2 above), saying that I would add evidence at a later date. Got an email acknowledgement from the Tribunal.
Next day got another email from the Tribunal, it included-
"Your appeal has been registered and the authority has confirmed the details.
What happens next?
They will now decide whether to contest your appeal.
How long will this take?
We have asked them to do this within 14 days."
10 September 2018 Merseyflow sent a message to Tribunal
"The Council had in place a valid and legal power to charge and enforce tolls on the Mersey Gateway Bridge from 14 October 2017. The 2018 Order also provides a valid and legal power to charge and enforce charges (which are described here as "tolls") on the Mersey Gateway Bridge from 19 April 2018. All vehicles using the Mersey Gateway Bridge on or after the 19 April 2018 are required to pay a toll unless exempt or they benefit from the Halton Local User Discount Scheme (LUDS). Any suggestion that the Council has no power to charge or enforce tolls or that the Council is acting “illegally” is misleading, inaccurate and wrong in law.
On 03/09/2018 the appellant was sent a letter offering the chance to pay the outstanding £2.00 as full settlement of the PCN. This offer is still valid until 17/09/2018 and if the appellant wishes to pay they can do so by calling our contact centre on 01928 878878."
17 September 2018 Submitted two evidence documents to Tribunal- Background The April 2018 Charging Order and indicated that there were more to come.
21 September 2018 (that's 14 days after start of appeal) got a message from the Tribunal saying "The authority has decided not to contest your appeal. This means that you have won your appeal and the case is closed......."
This was on the Decisions page for this appeal-
Mr John McGoldrick, the authority has not contested your appeal, and you are not liable to pay the penalty charge.
You do not have to pay the penalty charge.
This is because the charging authority did not contest your appeal.
We will be non contesting this case. We have decided this as the charges and Penalty Charge Notices relate to road user charging orders under the Transport Act 2000, which the Council considers to be validly and properly made and which thousands of people using the Mersey Gateway respect. However the Council considers that the Penalty Charge Notice having reference XMxxxxxxxx should be cancelled because:
The time limit for challenging the orders has elapsed a considerable time ago, and the use of appeals as a means to challenge orders which are contributing to public funds is not appropriate;
The submissions made by the recipient of the Penalty Charge Notices contain a large number of representations, none of which are accepted by the Council, but each of which would need to be addressed by legal submissions; and
The Council considers that deploying public resources to indulge an inappropriate use of the appeal process is not justified in this case.
25 September 2018 Received an undated letter from Merseyflow. "We are pleased to inform you that there are no further charges outstanding and no further action will be taken against you in respect of this/these PCN(s)."
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