Notification of non-endorsable traffic offences and natural justice

by George Hatjoullis

The principle of natural justice requires that the law has a duty to act fairly. However, the procedure for notification of non-endorsable traffic offences would seem to be in breach of this principle. Non-endorsable traffic offences are those that carry a fine but no license points penalty. They include entering and stopping in a box junction, entering a bus lane and parking offences. Many offences are recorded by camera and notification is via first class post. The problem of natural justice arises because first class post is not 100% reliable.

The first notification of an offence usually includes the evidence (photographs) and time to appeal. If the fine is paid within 14 days it is typically halved. If the first notification, however, does not arise these legal options are lost. The second notification will typically add 50% to the fine and allow only 14 days to pay. If this does not arrive then the fine is escalated to a debt. One could find a bailiff at the door and be unaware of the offence. This is a clear breach of the principle of natural justice. One should not be penalised for an offence unless reasonable steps have been taken to notify the offence. The question is whether first class post constitutes reasonable steps. I would say it does not because the reliability of this service is no longer adequate to this task.

Non-endorsable traffic offence notices can be issued by many different official bodies. The process may be outsourced to private companies. These may have some interest in the first notice not arriving. Most people will pay the second notice on receipt. The process is thus open to abuse. This alone should be reason to be concerned. At the very least statistics should be collected showing the number of charge notices that are paid at the first notification and the second. Bodies that have higher than average payments on the second notification should be required to explain the outcomes and be subject to independent review.

An alternative would be to resort to more channels of notification. The database for notification is the DVLA registered owner database. If this could be expanded to include email and mobile phone numbers then two additional notification channels open up. These two channels have the advantage that proof of sending is available in the event of dispute. These also have the advantage of being cheaper to administer once set up.

You will most likely not be concerned if you do not drive. However, there are non-endorsable offences that do not involve traffic. You will probably not be concerned until you are a victim of this arbitrary and flawed notification system. It will be too late at that time. Take some action and write to your MP. If it comes up a lot they may look into it.

The notification by post is covered by such legislation as The Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) General Regulations 2007. I am not aware of specific legislation that covers moving offences (e.g. driving in a bus lane).