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Parking Ticket Appeals

Fight unfair council parking tickets
Reclaim unfair parking tickets

It's a hideous moment. You return to your car, van or motorbike to find a parking ticket on the windscreen or a clamp on the wheel. That's if you haven't been towed away already.

This is a step-by-step guide to appealing against unfair parking fines, including free template letters. Out of roughly 70,600 motorists who went all the way to the official, independent appeals body in 2012/2013, 50% won.

While every effort’s been made to ensure this article’s accuracy, it doesn’t constitute legal advice tailored to your individual circumstances. If you act on it, you acknowledge that you do so at your own risk. We can’t assume responsibility and don’t accept liability for any damage or loss which may arise as a result of your reliance upon it.

Quick dos and don'ts before you start

DON'T assume every ticket is unfair

DO check who your ticket's from

DON'T assume the driver's responsible

DO act immediately

DO print our Glove Box Parking Guide

Should you appeal?

Usually, pay the fine within 14 days and it's half price. For further info, check out typical parking fines and the costs if you don't pay.

Even if an appeal's unsuccessful, you're often still allowed to pay at the half-price rate within 14 days of the rejection, although this isn't guaranteed. Maximise your chances by clearly asking for the fine to be put on hold in your appeal letter.

Image, appeal

The chances of success

If you get all the way to the last, independent tribunal stage, the success rate is 50%. This means if you believe in the justice of your cause, you've a chance, but it can be a slog. Here are a few examples to give you inspiration (also read about Martin's appeal success on his blog).

MSE Guy had parked in his usual residents' parking bay. No problem normally, except this day a sign had been placed quite a distance up the road to say it was suspended for a few days. The road name it gave was incorrect, rendering the sign invalid. Guy's appeal was rejected by his local council twice. But at the Independent Tribunal stage, the council didn't bother to put up a defence and it was uncontested, so he won.

"I got a PCN issued by my council in July 2008 and my first appeal was rejected. I heard nothing for a long time, then just before Xmas I received the Notice to Owner, some five months after the original ticket was issued. I made formal representations in January 2009 and the ticket was overturned, due to a 'procedural error', a few weeks later."

JWF

Gathering evidence

Don't waste any time. All your evidence should be contemporaneous to reflect the situation when you got your ticket. Gather as much evidence as possible, as without it, winning an appeal is more difficult.

Of course, if your car isn't there when you get back, you first need to establish whether it's been towed or stolen. Contact your local police or the firm that owns the car park, if it's parked on private land. In London, call Trace, the 24-hour car locating service run by London Councils, on 0845 206 8 602.

Take photographs

Parking sign reflected in camera lensIf you can, photograph the scene, if it'll help explain your argument. Don't worry about the type of camera, even a mobile phone picture will do, providing it's clear. Things to photograph include:

  • Road signs

    Any unclear signs such as suspended bay signs or residents' parking signs.

  • Road markings

    Any unclear bay markings or yellow/red lines.

  • Lack of signs/markings

    Areas without signs or markings you believe should be there.

  • Your car

    If you're disputing where you were alleged to have parked, take a picture of your car and capture the immediate area around your car.

  • The meter

    If you were parked in a paid-for bay, keep your ticket or take a photo of the meter if it still registers the time your paid-for parking expired.

Gather the paperwork

Any documentary evidence you can gather is also useful. Sometimes this can be tricky to get, but everything that proves your part of the story is helpful. This includes:

  • Proof of mitigating circumstances

    Keep anything relevant. Examples include travel documents if bays were suspended when you were on holiday, a death certificate if you've had a bereavement, a doctor's note if you were ill or the ticket/permit if it fell off. Read a list of further possible mitigating circumstances.

  • Crime reference number

    If your vehicle was stolen, include a crime reference number and any correspondence from the police.

  • Gathering the paperworkWitness statements

    If anyone will corroborate your story, get their details and ask them to sign a statement. For example, if it was impossible to see the signs or you were loading or unloading goods from your car and you stayed within the rules. For more details on parking rules, read the How To Park Right guide.

  • Keep copies of all correspondence

    Appeals can sometimes drag on, so keep the ticket and any correspondence safe.

If your vehicle's been clamped or towed away

There's no definition of a ticketable, clampable or a towable offence. Generally speaking, it's purely down to the discretion of the officials on patrol at the time. So, any offence worthy of a ticket can result in your vehicle having a lump of metal attached to its wheel or being removed.

Image, clamped wheel

Again, if you've returned to your car and it isn't there, the first thing to establish is whether it's been towed or stolen. The local police or the firm that owns the car park, if parked on private land, should be able to help. In London, call Trace, the 24-hour car locating service run by the capital's borough councils, on 0845 206 8 602.

Don't delay

Whether you've been clamped or towed away, you need to pay to get your vehicle back. Here, paying DOESN'T count as an admission of guilt so you can still appeal. One word of warning though: don't try to remove the clamp yourself. That's classed as criminal damage and is also likely to damage your vehicle.

If a vehicle is clamped and you ignore it, it can be moved to the car pound within hours, meaning you'll pay towing fees plus clamp release costs and the ticket charge.

If your vehicle's in the car pound, for every day it's left there, the cost to get it back rockets. If you don't collect it, it will eventually be destroyed, meaning further costs.

When you collect your vehicle from the pound, take your driving licence (counterpart and photocard), the vehicle registration document and a utility bill with your address on it.

Beware tickets that come through the post

Regulations brought in during 2008 mean you can get a ticket through the post in England and Wales, if caught on CCTV.

This makes it more difficult to gather evidence for an appeal because the 'contravention' would have taken place days before. The only plus side is that if caught on CCTV you have 21 days to pay at the reduced rate, instead of the usual 14.

If you can't afford to pay

If you can't pay the fine, it will end up as a court debt like any other. This will NOT go on your credit file, as the judgment won't be from a civil court.

If your car has been towed away and you can't afford to pay, you'll need to negotiate. Technically, there is no leeway and eventually your car will be crushed and you'll still be liable for all the charges, though kind-hearted officials may help. If not, urgently contact Citizens Advice for help.

How to appeal against parking fines

The appeal process is in place so that you can fight your corner if you believe the fine is unfair. You have a right to appeal, whether you think the council got it wrong or you broke the rules due to mitigating circumstances. Some tips and rules before you start:

  • You can't appeal if you've paid the fine

    Paying the fine is considered an admission of liability. However, if you've been clamped or towed away you have to pay to get your motor released, after which you can appeal.

  • The appeal can take a couple of months

    How long it takes depends on who issued the ticket. There can be three stages to the appeal: an informal appeal; formal appeal; and if all else fails, an appeal to the independent adjudicator.

  • Most people have nothing to lose in the first stage

    Those who make an informal appeal within two weeks and lose it will usually have a further 14 days to pay the ticket at the reduced rate. So you'll lose nothing by making that first appeal, although this isn't guaranteed.

  • Stick rigidly to the timeline

    Stick to the deadlines or you'll lose by default. Don't worry if the council, police or adjudicator take a while to respond. During that time, the appeal's effectively frozen. This means any time period you need to abide by begins from the date on the reply.

  • Submit full evidence at each stage

    Ensure you submit full evidence at each appeal stage. There'll always be a different official dealing with it, who will often have no idea what you've previously sent.

Step 1. Check who issued the ticket

Step OneThere are four different issuers of parking tickets and the appeals procedure operates separately with each. The biggest difference is whether they operate under civil or criminal law.

If it's criminal, don't fret that you'll be branded a convict. As long as you pay it on time or win your appeal you won't encounter any legal problems or get a criminal record. Criminal tickets are more difficult to successfully appeal against though.

The four types of agency are:

1. Local authorities

2. Transport for London: Penalty Charge Notices

3. The police: Fixed Penalty Notices

4. Private companies

Step 2: The grounds for appeal

The grounds for appeal differ, depending whether yours is a ticket under civil or criminal law.

  • The civil system

    The appeal grounds and procedures to follow are consistently laid out. They're detailed in full below.

  • The criminal system

    Criminal rules can vary. So check your council's website, or if the police issued a ticket, call the number listed, to make sure you know the rules. In general, it's worth reading the civil guidelines below as the same principles usually apply.

    Where procedures differ, it's usually about the levels of fines, timescales and any correspondence you receive.

The grounds for appeal for civil penalties

There are eight official grounds for appealing against a ticket and eight for clamping and being towed. Don't get too worried - they're mainly in place for the council or adjudicator's benefit. If you pick the wrong box on the form, they'll just allocate you to the correct one.

They can exercise discretion, so appeal even if you don't fit into a category. In particular, if there are mitigating circumstances to explain why you parked 'illegally', councils should listen to them.

We've focused on the rules for England and Wales. It's by and large the same in Scotland and Northern Ireland, with only minor differences. For precise info, call the Scottish Parking Appeals Service on 0131 221 0409 (it has no website) or go to the NI Traffic Penalty Tribunal site. The Citizens Advice website also has some useful info on the process in Scotland.

Eight grounds for appealing The eight grounds for appealing against parking tickets. Most people will fall into the first category.

  1. The contravention did not occur.

    In plain English: The traffic warden or council got it wrong.

    This is the one most people fall into, as it covers unclear signs or markings. Classic examples are when signs or markings have faded, are blocked by trees or other objects, have been tampered with, or when signs or road markings contradict each other or are ambiguous. It also covers instances when an over-zealous traffic warden incorrectly plonked a ticket on the windscreen.

    For more details on parking rules, read the How To Park Right guide and the news section on the AppealNow website (AppealNow also charges a fee of £11.99 upwards to appeal for you, but you don't need to do this to read its news pages).

    Additionally, this applies to those who were buying a pay and display ticket, or who were on the way to buy a ticket when their car was ticketed. However, if you bought your parking ticket, for example, 10 minutes after the penalty was issued, you are unlikely to win. We're only talking about a few minutes here.

  2. The penalty exceeded the amount applicable in the circumstances of the case.

    In plain English: You were overcharged.

    The cost should be no more than the standard charges. See the charges list to check.

  3. The relevant Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) is invalid.

    In plain English: They added a new restriction, eg, a yellow line, and didn't follow proper procedures in doing so.

    It's unlikely you'll ever appeal under this ground. When applying a new parking restriction, the council must follow certain procedures such as consulting upon its proposed changes. If it has not followed the correct procedures, only then can this ground come into play.

    Image, double yellow line
  4. There has been a procedural impropriety by the council.

    In plain English: The council made an administrative error.

    This applies when councils have failed to include all the required information on their tickets or 'Notice to Owner' letters, which renders the charge invalid. If you've been unfairly fined, this is a useful tactic to ensure your appeal wins.

    According to the sexily-named Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions General Regulations (2007), there's a list of information that must be contained and accurate on a civil Penalty Charge Notice. See the full list (there's a slightly different list for posted tickets).

    In all cases, a council must respond within 56 days of receiving your formal appeal, otherwise the penalty is unenforceable.

  5. The appellant did not own the vehicle when the alleged contravention occurred.

    In plain English: You were not the owner when the 'offence' took place.

    If the previous owner committed the offence you need to prove you were not the owner at the time, which your log book or dealer/showroom receipt will show. If you sold the car before the contravention occurred, then you'll need to send copies of the receipt of sale, and proof that you informed the DVLA.

  6. The owner is a vehicle hire firm and the vehicle was on hire under a qualifying hiring agreement.

    This only applies to hire firms, and is beyond the scope of this guide.

  7. The vehicle was taken without the owner's consent.

    In plain English: Your vehicle was stolen and the thief committed the offence.

    If your vehicle is stolen, not lent to someone, and the thief parks illegally, the ticket can be waived if you can prove it was stolen. To do this, you need to have reported the incident to the police.

  8. The penalty's already been paid (i) in full; or (ii) at the discount rate and in time.

    In plain English: You've paid the relevant fine in time, so it shouldn't have been increased.

    If you made a genuine attempt to pay but the council hasn't received your money, then gather any evidence that you paid on time. If the money has left your account use your credit card or bank statement as evidence.

    If money hasn't yet left your account, you'll need to prove you attempted to pay within 14 days to earn the discount. You could also use cheque stubs, internet or phone records, or even the history page of your browser as evidence.

Once you've picked your ground to appeal, jump to Step 3: How to appeal. If none fit, read the mitigating circumstances section.

How to appeal The eight grounds for appealing against parking tickets when you've been clamped or towed

  1. The vehicle was not parked in circumstances in which a penalty was payable.

    In plain English: The traffic warden or council got it wrong.

    This is the one most people fall into as it covers wrong signs or markings. Classic examples are when signs or markings have faded, are blocked by trees or other objects, have been tampered with or when signs or road markings contradict each other or are ambiguous.

  2. The council had no power to remove or clamp the vehicle.

    In plain English: It shouldn't have clamped or towed your car.

    If the ticket was issued because either there was no pay-and-display ticket displayed, or it was an expired pay-and-display ticket, the council must wait 30 minutes after serving the Penalty Charge Notice before clamping or towing you away. This is reduced to 15 minutes for anyone with three or more outstanding parking tickets.

  3. The vehicle was taken without the owner's consent.

    In plain English: Your vehicle was stolen and the thief committed the offence.

    If your vehicle is stolen, not lent to someone, and the thief parks illegally, the ticket can be waived if you can prove it was stolen. To do this, you need to have reported the incident to the police.

  4. The vehicle was not in a civil enforcement area for parking contraventions.

    In plain English: You were clamped where the council had no jurisdiction.

    If the vehicle was parked on land where the council had no right to enforce parking, eg, a private car park, then it shouldn't have clamped or towed you.

  5. The penalty, release or storage charge exceeded the applicable amount.

    In plain English: You were overcharged.

    The cost should be no more than the standard charges. See the charges list to check.

  6. There has been a procedural impropriety by the council.

    In plain English: The council has made an administrative error.

    Under those sexily-named Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions General Regulations (2007), again, the person fixing the clamp must also first issue a Penalty Charge Notice and obey the following three rules:

    • It must indicate you've been clamped.

      This should include a visible warning that no attempt should be made to drive it until it has been released from that device.

    • It must tell you how to get it unlocked.

    • It must warn you not to touch it.

      This means it should say that unlawful removal of an immobilisation device is an offence.

    Plus it must follow the correct Penalty Charge Notice procedures. There's a list of information that must be contained and accurate on a civil Penalty Charge Notice. See the full list (there's a slightly different list for posted tickets).

  7. No PCN was served before the vehicle was removed.

    In plain English: You were towed away before a ticket was issued.

  8. A current disabled person's badge was displayed on the vehicle (clamping only)

    In plain English: This one's pretty understandable.

    A valid disabled blue badge holder can't be clamped. Cars can be relocated to a safer place but should not be removed to the pound.

Once you've picked your ground for appeal, jump to Step 3: How to appeal. If none fit, read the mitigating circumstances section below.

Appeals based on mitigating circumstances

Image, paying ticket

If you hold up your hands to parking illegally but believe there are mitigating circumstances why the penalty should be waived, you can still appeal. The Traffic Penalty Tribunal says councils must show discretion.

If possible, it can be a good idea to tell operators about any mitigating circumstances before you park, as this can avoid the rigmarole of having to appeal against a ticket.

Mitigating circumstances include issues of health (yours or others'), bereavement and motor breakdown. See a full list of typical mitigating circumstances.

In addition, you could also appeal under the following circumstances:

  • You were fined within three minutes of paid parking expiring

    Some councils may offer an amnesty where you won't get a ticket within three minutes of the meter, pay and display, pay-by-phone or voucher parking paid-for period ending. It's mainly to cover instances where your watch and the traffic warden's don't match up.

    Check with the council if it offers this amnesty. If it does, ask for the penalty to be waived as you were simply following its published guidelines. You may be able to find the rules on the council's website.

  • The penalty was too harsh – towing or clamping only

    It's possible to argue that getting towed or clamped is excessive and the resulting cost is unfair, and ask to pay only the Penalty Charge Notice value. Councils have been known to make partial refunds on this basis.

    To help, check the PCN code to see whether the 'contravention' you committed is deemed a serious or less serious offence. While you've a better chance if it's a lower offence, even if not, there's no harm appealing as you've already paid, so you won't lose out financially.

  • You can't afford to pay

    Technically, this is no defence. But you'll sometimes find a kind-hearted council worker who will let you off. Make sure you submit all financial evidence to highlight your plight.

With mitigating circumstances, like those above, it's really a question of the luck of the draw. It's up to the council whether it accepts your appeal, and some do have a heart. If these cases reach the adjudicator, it doesn't have power to cancel the ticket but can recommend the council cancels it, yet this isn't binding.

Once you've picked your ground on which to appeal, jump to Step 3: How to appeal.

Circumstances councils say you can't appeal against

There are some situations where you can't appeal, such as if there is nowhere to park, and in general trying will simply fail.

Yet if you strongly believe in the justice of your case and have the time, there's no harm trying, providing you don't lose the opportunity to pay at the reduced rate.

Some circumstances in which you generally can't appeal: See list.

Step 3: How to appeal

Whatever form your appeal takes, there's a golden rule:

A human being will decide your appeal, so be friendly, but firm. Get rude or angry and you've less chance of success.

The appeal rules depend on your ticket type so ensure you read the right section below. We've included info for civil ticket appeals, criminal ticket appeals and police ticket appeals.

Your appeal will largely involve writing up to three separate letters, though the general content will usually be similar in each of them. So keep a copy of the first one safe, and just alter the introduction and any other points as necessary.

Ticket appeal process

Appealing a civil penalty

This is a three-stage process, though hopefully you'll win early so it's all over. However, anecdotal evidence suggests some councils and authorities automatically reject first and second appeals, so you may need to pursue the matter all the way to the adjudicator.

We've focused on the rules in England and Wales below, although it's pretty similar in Scotland and Northern Ireland, with only minor differences. For precise info, call the Scottish Parking Appeals Service on 0131 221 0409 or go to the NI Traffic Penalty Tribunal site.

Stage 1. Make an informal appeal

This only applies to people who've had a Penalty Charge Notice stuck on their windscreen. If you were clamped, towed or had a ticket by post, there's no informal appeal procedure, so go straight to stage 2 below.

Write to the council

Image, laptop typing

There should be an address, email address or fax number on the back of the ticket to challenge the penalty. Simply write to the council to explain why you think the charge was unfair.

As this is an informal process, there are no set grounds for appeal and no forms to fill out. Just send a letter. It's also worth checking your council's website, as some now allow you to send informal appeals via an online form. If you're not sure what to write, here's a template to help:

Submit all evidence to give yourself a greater chance of winning. Include your address, your vehicle registration number and the ticket (PCN) number. Some councils allow you to view any photographic evidence they have against you on their website.

Try to respond within 14 days

Get your letter in as soon as possible, preferably within the 14-day limit for paying a reduced fine, as then most councils allow you to pay this reduced rate even if they reject the appeal. However if you miss that, you do have 28 days to write in total.

If you've run out of time, you don't actually need to make an informal appeal. Failing to do so won't influence whether you successfully challenge the ticket later on, so in many circumstances there's no harm in trying.

What happens next?

If you win at this stage (which happens, but is generally rare) then HOORAH! If not, then you will need to move to the formal stage of appeal. At this point, there's an important warning:

Take it any further, and you lose your chance to pay at the reduced fee if the appeal fails.

Don't let this put you off carrying on, if you think you've a good case. Around 50% of the cases that get to the final appeal stage are successful. However, if you were taking a bit of a punt, best to stop now.

Stage 2. The formal appeal process

You will have got to this stage in one of four ways:

  • You didn't make an informal appeal

    If you ignored the ticket for the first 28 days, it's not too late to start your appeal. See the section below when the informal appeal is turned down, as the process will be the same.

  • The informal appeal was turned down

    At this point the council sends a Notice to Owner form to the registered owner. This demands full fee payment, but is also a formal appeals form. Once you receive it you've 28 days to pay or appeal, or the penalty could increase by another 50% and you'll lose the chance to appeal. Full details of what this should include: Notice To Owner ticket requirements.

  • Image, envelopes

    Posted tickets

    The ticket should include a formal appeal form. If you appeal within 14 days, or 21 if caught by CCTV, you'll usually get the opportunity to pay the reduced rate if your appeal is rejected. In addition, where you're caught on CCTV you can ask for any photographs or other evidence the council uses against you to be posted or be allowed to view them at the council's office. Full details of what this should include: Posted parking ticket requirements.

  • If you were clamped or towed away

    You'll get a form with the ticket, or from the pound, to appeal within 28 days. On it you'll need to state your personal details, the relevant ground(s) for appealing and an outline of your appeal.

Writing the appeal

Simply fill out the form stating all the details. The form should include a space for you to put the grounds for appeal, but it's easier to write a separate letter outlining your appeal to ensure you've enough space to get all your points across. Here's a template to help:

If you made an informal appeal, resend all the information as it may be read by someone else who may not have the original details. Some councils allow you to view any photographic evidence they have against you on their website. The council has 56 days to respond to a formal appeal or you win by default.

What happens next?

Image, next step

One of two things:

  1. You win

    If the council upholds your appeal, it'll write to you. HOORAY!

  2. You go to the next stage

    If it sends a Notice of Rejection of Representations letter, you'll then receive a form called a Notice of Appeal to challenge the ticket at an independent tribunal. At this point you will have lost the chance to pay at half price anyway, so there's no harm in continuing to the next stage.

    In a tiny, tiny number of instances the independent tribunal can award costs to a council if it rejects your appeal and thinks you've made a "frivolous, vexatious or wholly unreasonable" appeal - for example, if you blatantly blocked a hospital entrance and are still appealing.

    You need to submit the form within 28 days of receiving it. This date is deemed to be two working days after the letter's date.

Stage 3: Final appeal to the independent tribunal

Now, providing you've been through the processes above, there are four bodies which hear tribunals.

Don't be put off by the idea of going to the adjudicator. Actually, this is quite good news. First of all, it's an adjudicator appointed by government, not any council or authority, and is completely independent. And most importantly, to clear up any confusion...

It's free, it's not like a court hearing and you DON'T have to attend. It can be done by post, phone or online.

You do have the option of a personal hearing (and in some cases, a telephone hearing) if you'd like to explain yourself. But for most people, a written appeal will suffice as long as you supply the relevant evidence to support your case.

Which body carries out the appeal depends on where the incident happened:

You'll get the relevant form to appeal from the council. Again, submit every last smidgen of relevant evidence as the adjudicator won't have seen any of the evidence you previously submitted. As with a formal appeal to the council, it's worth sending a separate letter attached to the form outlining your case. Here's a template to help:

What happens next?

If the appeal is made in person or on the phone, the adjudicator will normally tell you the decision there and then. Otherwise, you'll get a letter with the decision. There are four possible outcomes:

  • You win.

    HOORAH!

  • You lose.

    You need to pay the penalty within 28 days or the fine can increase by 50%.

  • The appeal's adjourned.

    It's rare, but happens if the adjudicator requires further information.

  • The appeal's dismissed but the adjudicator considers there are compelling reasons why the penalty should not be paid.

    This is usually due to mitigating circumstances. The adjudicator can't force the council to waive the penalty but can ask it to. The council has 35 days to tell you and the adjudicator its decision. If it doesn't respond in time, you win by default.

Can you appeal again if you lose?

For 99.9% of those who lose their appeal to the adjudicator, the answer is 'no' and your case is closed. In some limited circumstances you may be able to take things further and this will be explained to you if you lose your appeal. But this can be costly and could involve going to court, so seek legal advice.

Criminal Penalties

If you're in the rare position of having an Excess Charge Notice issued by a council that's yet to adopt a civil regime, then there's a three-stage process. Though obviously if you win earlier on, you won't have to go through it all.

Stage 1. Make an informal appeal

Whether you have seven or 14 days to appeal depends on the council, so ensure you check the ticket carefully. If you submit an appeal on time, most councils will still allow you to pay the reduced ticket rate if the appeal is rejected. At this point, there's generally no form to fill out (though it's also worth checking the council's website, in case there is one), so you'll need to send a letter. Here's a template to help:

Make sure you submit all supporting evidence to give yourself a greater chance of winning. Include an address, your vehicle registration number and the ticket number.

What happens next?

If you win, which happens but is rare, then HOORAH! If not, you'll need to move to Stage 2, the formal stage of appeal. At this point there's an important warning:

Take it any further and you may lose your chance to pay at the reduced fee if the appeal fails.

So if you've just been taking a punt, it's worth seriously considering giving up at this point. Double-check with the council whether you'll lose your chance to pay at the reduced fee if the appeal fails first. Even if you believe in the justice of your case, it's worth balancing what you'll gain by winning with the time and cost of losing.

Stage 2. Appeal to a more senior parking official

Some councils may then give you the opportunity to appeal again to a more senior parking official. If they do, it'll be explained on your rejection letter (it's also worth checking the council's website for more details).

If they don't, move to Stage 3. However, it is unlikely you'll be able to pay the fine at the reduced rate if you appeal again.

Stage 3. Appeal to the Ombudsman

At this point, the council will send a letter demanding payment and there are no more official routes of appeal via the council. There is the option of appealing to the relevant Ombudsman service, which is free, and ask it to investigate if you feel the council has got it wrong or failed to show discretion regarding mitigating circumstances.

An Ombudsman can only usually intervene where there has been a procedural error. Yet as few cases are black and white, it's worth at least contacting the Ombudsman for guidance.

There are three relevant services, depending on where the fine was issued:

You could also take your council to court if it applied the law incorrectly. However, this will cost you a serious whack if you lose. Seek legal advice before you take this nuclear option.

Appealing police penalties

This is usually either a one- or two- stage process. Unfortunately, if you have a police ticket your chances of success are likely to be lower than with a normal council ticket.

Stage 1. If allowed, make an informal appeal

Officially, appeals against police tickets can only be made via the courts, yet some forces may allow informal appeals. The notice or vehicle release form may indicate whether you're allowed to informally challenge it. If it's not clear, call the issuing police force or any number listed on the ticket to check.

Usually, you'll be writing to a department called the Central Ticket Office which deals with many types of police fines. There are no forms to fill out, you just send a letter. Make sure you submit all supporting evidence to give yourself a greater chance of winning, and include an address, your vehicle registration number and the ticket number. Here's a template to help:

If the police force rejects your appeal it will inform you in writing. If you win, then that's fantastic. If not, then move onto Stage 2 below.

Stage 2. The formal appeal process

If your appeal is rejected or you're unable to make an informal appeal, you'll get a Notice to Owner form with options to pay the charge, or to nominate an alternative driver's name (mainly for hire companies as the owner is responsible) or request a hearing at a magistrates court. If you don't act within 28 days, the fine will increase by 50% and you'll get a court summons.

What to do

If you want to contest it, you can opt for a hearing. This isn't an easy thing to do, and for all but the most determined or legally aware, it's probably best to simply accept the fine.

If you do decide to continue, you may want to consider legal advice as you'll have to attend a hearing to set out your case. In addition, if you lose, you may have to pay court costs.