A weighty lesson

parking fine blog

Whingeing never ever works, and it’s a tough lesson to learn, as Vicky Pryce discovered this week as female newspaper columnists unleashed their fury on her en masse after she was convicted of perverting the course of justice.

I knew it would happen – a woman scorned always gets burned when she goes public. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Huhnes’ game of pass the speeding ticket, Vicky Pryce was always going to end up looking like a vengeful vindictive harridan the moment she went public about it.

I still feel sympathy for her. All she probably wanted was a referee – someone to stand up and say, “Yes, you’re right – he is being an unreasonable idiot and by the way you’re way prettier than she is – he was mad to leave you.”

Instead she ended up with a criminal conviction and condemned as a bad feminist who betrayed not only the sisterhood but her own family.

Meanwhile, let me bring you up to date with my own sorry tale of a woman wronged for trying to wriggle out of a traffic offence. Now where were we? Ah yes, having been sent a parking ticket for allegedly parking illegally in a 20-minute parking bay on Christmas Eve I was in full righteous indignation mode. I fired off a swift email appealing the ticket on the grounds that I did my best to stick to the 20 minutes and played my trump card, “But I was buying a Christmas present for my daughter, and it was Christmas Eve m’lud.” (Can you hear the stifled sobs?)

Anyway, following my tearful appeal, my husband (the car is in his name, so I could have done a reverse Huhne and left him to it) was sent a letter asking to prove that I had indeed made the alleged purchases at the said time.

Tragically, in a rare burst of post-Christmas tidiness I had emptied my purse of all receipts and binned them – so other than a vague mention in a bank statement I had no proof of nipping in an out of Argos and M&S within 20 minutes. Being a coward with no wish to see the fine double before my eyes I paid up. Which was just as well as, a week later, I was informed that my appeal had been dismissed. The letter, frankly, was so blatantly swashbucklingly fiendish it should have been delivered on the point of a sword by a moustachioed man twirling a cape.

Here’s what it said: “Please be advised that your vehicle was observed stationary on 24 December at 08.30 at the above location. I can confirm that the signage in place indicates stopping is prohibited Monday to Saturday between the hours of 7am and 7pm except between 7am and 4pm for loading for a maximum of 20 minutes. The issuing officer observed the vehicle from 08:25:47 until 08:31:42, incorporating a guideline that the observation should be no less than 5 minutes. Transport for London believes that this is a reasonable amount of time for activity to be seen if loading or unloading had taken place. In this instance no activity was seen that could be construed as loading or unloading. It is for this reason that a Penalty Charge Notice was issued.”

How sneaky is that? I hadn’t overstayed my welcome at all – I just hadn’t bought anything heavy enough to constitute “loading had taken place”. Had I staggered to the car buckling under the weight of a design-your-own fashion outfit from Argos before nipping into M&S for a loaf of bread and a packet of bread sauce, rather than taking it with me to save time, I would have been home free.

What do you think? Should I have paid up or stood firm? And how many of you have been in a similar situation before? What did you do? Question the fine or just pay it quietly?

Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter[email protected] please.

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