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Legal advice: Country lane police tow, after just 17 hours
john_now
post Tue, 2 Jul 2019 - 15:36
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Hi All,

I'm not sure if this is the right forum are so please move as necessary.
On Sunday 23rd June I parked my car on Dean Lane around 5pm near to Leeds Airport for a holiday. The area is not a controlled or restricted zone, there are no road markings or signs, it is essentially a country lane. It was not parked near a junction or blocking a house. The car was parked on the grassy bank with the only the outer wheels remaining on the road which were pressed hard against the curb, and wing mirror tucked in. The vehicle is in good condition, taxed and MOT'd.

On Monday morning I woke up to a missed call from the police and a message from my brother who previously owned the car. My brother had been contacted about an abandoned vehicle, who explained to the police that I had gone on holiday. The police had agreed and said they had got an international dialing tone from my number.

Despite this the vehicle was arranged to be towed moments later, around 17 hours after it had been parked before I had managed to speak to the police myself.
I spent the best part of 1.5 days throughout the holiday trying to sort out the mess with people fetching keys from my landlord to the house to get the spare car key etc. My flight was not due back into the UK until after 1:30am, so the car needed rescuing in advance or we would be stranded.

In the end no one could pick up the car and my girlfriend's father drove over an hour each way to collect us. I caught the train the next day to collect the vehicle incurring a £242 total charge in total with the train fare. There were no FPN's or charges from the police since I hadn't broken any regs, apparently this is extremely rare for a towing. The towing company also appeared to not understand why it was towed.

I am beyond furious, not only for ruining the holiday but the inconvenience brought on other people for a vehicle which was legally parked all along, for less than 24 hours. The police first claimed the vehicle was obstructing the road though this was clearly not the case, the road is wide enough for 2 vehicles and 90% of the car was off the road. They then changed the reason to it being a terrorist threat. I do not believe this to be valid since this is what restrictions and road markings are for? Additionally at other airports I know of, you can park for plane spotting almost right up against the runway.

I have a friend in the force who has confirmed this case is ridiculous and should be challenged. I would appreciate any advice and am looking into solicitors to recover funds and compensation.
My next step is to ask for photos of the vehicle as it was towed, but I'm not sure if I should ask for the police's photos or the towing companies?
Advice on conditional fee solicitors for alleged vehicle offences and what to do next would be greatly appreciated.

This post has been edited by john_now: Wed, 3 Jul 2019 - 11:45
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post Tue, 2 Jul 2019 - 15:36
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cp8759
post Mon, 1 Jun 2020 - 20:51
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QUOTE (john_now @ Sun, 31 May 2020 - 13:36) *
Thanks for the coming back to help with the thread. I don't really know how to answer that question as it seems fairly subjective. To my mind it was legally parked and almost entirely off the road.

Let's start from a basic fact: you were not lawfully parked, because your vehicle could only get there by being deposited with a crane, or by committing an offence under section 72 of the Highway Act 1835:

If any person shall wilfully ride upon any footpath or causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers; or shall wilfully lead or drive any horse, ass, sheep, mule, swine, or cattle or carriage of any description, or any truck or sledge, upon any such footpath or causeway; or shall tether any horse, ass, mule, swine, or cattle, on any highway, so as to suffer or permit the tethered animal to be thereon; every person so offending in any of the cases aforesaid shall for each and every such offence forfeit and pay any sum not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale, over and above the damages occasioned thereby.

The grass verge is obviously not meant for vehicles and a court is likely to conclude that it amounts to a "causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers".

That being said, the police have not prosecuted you for that offence which is now out of time anyway.

QUOTE (john_now @ Sun, 31 May 2020 - 13:36) *
Only a lunatic driving without due care and attention misjudging a pass at the same time as another vehicle, or out of control of the vehicle entirely would cause a road traffic accident. One could argue that any vehicles parked on country lanes or laybys always increase the risk of accident to some degree.

This is something to put in your submissions to the court, should it come to that. It's actually argued quite well.

QUOTE (john_now @ Sun, 31 May 2020 - 13:36) *
I acknowledge it wasn't the best choice of location to leave a vehicle but can't help feeling as if the outcome would have remained the same, irrespective of any holiday, (assuming I didn't answer the call).

As you might imagine, your feelings are largely irrelevant.

QUOTE (john_now @ Sun, 31 May 2020 - 13:36) *
I also checked that it was possible for two cars to pass each other while parallel with my vehicle. The road is single track but has no need for laybys, (there are none), and is still wide enough for two cars so long as care is exercised.

As has been suggested above, you would need to gather evidence to prove this point. Judging by the photo, I agree that the concerns expressed by the police seem to be out of all proportion considering the position of the vehicle. My only concern would be that you would not have a good answer to the point that a pedestrian would be forced into the carriageway.

QUOTE (john_now @ Sun, 31 May 2020 - 13:36) *
I suspect this kind of debate will be swiftly refuted by the legal team. Please could you advise where I should go with this? I'm willing to continue the fight but also accepting if I should back down, give in and move on.

It's down to your attitude to risk. Your case is far from bomb-proof, very far indeed I'd say, but it's also not hopeless. My only real concern is the issue around pedestrians, as I can't a present see a good answer to that point. If we were only talking about vehicles, a video as suggested above would have sealed the matter.

Also bear in mind what the legal team might think is also largely irrelevant, what the police thinks about the law seldom has much if any influence on the outcome of a court case, civil or criminal.


--------------------
I am not on the "motorists's side", nor am I on the "police/CPS/council's" side, I am simply in favour of the rule of law.
No, I am not a lawyer.
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john_now
post Tue, 2 Jun 2020 - 00:02
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QUOTE (cp8759 @ Mon, 1 Jun 2020 - 21:51) *
"The grass verge is obviously not meant for vehicles and a court is likely to conclude that it amounts to a "causeway by the side of any road made or set apart for the use or accommodation of foot passengers".

Are all grass verges by definition causeways for foot passengers? The verge on Dean Lane is not maintained, is uneven and difficult to traverse, and is discontinuous down the road to the point of forcing passengers back onto the road. I thought it would represent a good example of what cannot be defined as a path for pedestrians. I am keen to understand this point for future reference.


"As you might imagine, your feelings are largely irrelevant".

Poorly pharased, I'll try again.
It is my belief that the outcome of this event had already been determined after missing the 9:11am phone call irrespective of any holiday. I had precisely 50 minutes with which I could have, perhaps, changed the course of action. I suppose they aren't obligated to give any notice period if they deem it to such a concern.


"As has been suggested above, you would need to gather evidence to prove this point. Judging by the photo, I agree that the concerns expressed by the police seem to be out of all proportion considering the position of the vehicle. My only concern would be that you would not have a good answer to the point that a pedestrian would be forced into the carriageway".

As previous, they are forced onto the carriage way anyway further down the road where the verge becomes a steep bank. Perhaps this is irrelevant.


"It's down to your attitude to risk. Your case is far from bomb-proof, very far indeed I'd say, but it's also not hopeless. My only real concern is the issue around pedestrians, as I can't a present see a good answer to that point. If we were only talking about vehicles, a video as suggested above would have sealed the matter.

Also bear in mind what the legal team might think is also largely irrelevant, what the police thinks about the law seldom has much if any influence on the outcome of a court case, civil or criminal
".

From what I can infer the only option at this point would be to escalate the case to court, an option which does not bear strong recommendation. Have I understood correctly?

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cp8759
post Tue, 2 Jun 2020 - 21:08
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QUOTE (john_now @ Tue, 2 Jun 2020 - 01:02) *
Are all grass verges by definition causeways for foot passengers? The verge on Dean Lane is not maintained, is uneven and difficult to traverse, and is discontinuous down the road to the point of forcing passengers back onto the road. I thought it would represent a good example of what cannot be defined as a path for pedestrians. I am keen to understand this point for future reference.

Well, the road is an all-purpose road (as opposed to a special road) and as such is open to all traffic, hence there is a right for members of the public to walk on foot along that road. I cannot see a court ruling that members of the public do not have a legal right to walk on foot along the verge (the fact that the verge at some other point is impassible is irrelevant). I also do not see much of a chance that a court would rule that there is a right of way with motorised vehicles along the verge, hence I think a court would conclude that on the verge there is a right of way on foot but there is not a right of way with motorised vehicles and that makes the verge a "causeway for passengers on foot".

Whether it is or isn't would be a highly fact-specific finding for the court so i doubt you will find many authorities on this specific point, but the only way out of it would be to persuade the court that there is a right of way along the grassed verge with motorised vehicles. You could try, but I think it would be a hopeless endeavour.

QUOTE (john_now @ Tue, 2 Jun 2020 - 01:02) *
It is my belief that the outcome of this event had already been determined after missing the 9:11am phone call irrespective of any holiday. I had precisely 50 minutes with which I could have, perhaps, changed the course of action. I suppose they aren't obligated to give any notice period if they deem it to such a concern.

You suppose correctly, if the power to remove the vehicle was available the police were under no legal duty whatsoever to allow you to remove it. Hence it is a binary question, either the removal power arose or it didn't, the fact that you were or weren't on holiday is really only incidental.


QUOTE (john_now @ Tue, 2 Jun 2020 - 01:02) *
As previous, they are forced onto the carriage way anyway further down the road where the verge becomes a steep bank. Perhaps this is irrelevant.

That is irrelevant, because the fact that a road is obstructed or even completely impassible at some later point has no bearing on the fact that the police are saying you obstructed it at that particular point.

QUOTE (john_now @ Tue, 2 Jun 2020 - 01:02) *
From what I can infer the only option at this point would be to escalate the case to court, an option which does not bear strong recommendation. Have I understood correctly?

Well you've complied with the pre-action protocol and so have the police, minor errors in their reply notwithstanding. The next step, should you chose to pursue this, would be to issue and serve the claim form and the particulars of the claim. The police have made their position perfectly clear so I don't see that there are any other avenues open to you.

Personally, all things considered, I'd advise against taking this further but should you chose to to so anyway, I'll do what I can to help you.


--------------------
I am not on the "motorists's side", nor am I on the "police/CPS/council's" side, I am simply in favour of the rule of law.
No, I am not a lawyer.
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john_now
post Wed, 3 Jun 2020 - 13:19
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QUOTE (cp8759 @ Tue, 2 Jun 2020 - 22:08) *
QUOTE (john_now @ Tue, 2 Jun 2020 - 01:02) *
Are all grass verges by definition causeways for foot passengers? The verge on Dean Lane is not maintained, is uneven and difficult to traverse, and is discontinuous down the road to the point of forcing passengers back onto the road. I thought it would represent a good example of what cannot be defined as a path for pedestrians. I am keen to understand this point for future reference.

Well, the road is an all-purpose road (as opposed to a special road) and as such is open to all traffic, hence there is a right for members of the public to walk on foot along that road. I cannot see a court ruling that members of the public do not have a legal right to walk on foot along the verge (the fact that the verge at some other point is impassible is irrelevant). I also do not see much of a chance that a court would rule that there is a right of way with motorised vehicles along the verge, hence I think a court would conclude that on the verge there is a right of way on foot but there is not a right of way with motorised vehicles and that makes the verge a "causeway for passengers on foot".

Whether it is or isn't would be a highly fact-specific finding for the court so i doubt you will find many authorities on this specific point, but the only way out of it would be to persuade the court that there is a right of way along the grassed verge with motorised vehicles. You could try, but I think it would be a hopeless endeavour.

QUOTE (john_now @ Tue, 2 Jun 2020 - 01:02) *
It is my belief that the outcome of this event had already been determined after missing the 9:11am phone call irrespective of any holiday. I had precisely 50 minutes with which I could have, perhaps, changed the course of action. I suppose they aren't obligated to give any notice period if they deem it to such a concern.

You suppose correctly, if the power to remove the vehicle was available the police were under no legal duty whatsoever to allow you to remove it. Hence it is a binary question, either the removal power arose or it didn't, the fact that you were or weren't on holiday is really only incidental.


QUOTE (john_now @ Tue, 2 Jun 2020 - 01:02) *
As previous, they are forced onto the carriage way anyway further down the road where the verge becomes a steep bank. Perhaps this is irrelevant.

That is irrelevant, because the fact that a road is obstructed or even completely impassible at some later point has no bearing on the fact that the police are saying you obstructed it at that particular point.

QUOTE (john_now @ Tue, 2 Jun 2020 - 01:02) *
From what I can infer the only option at this point would be to escalate the case to court, an option which does not bear strong recommendation. Have I understood correctly?

Well you've complied with the pre-action protocol and so have the police, minor errors in their reply notwithstanding. The next step, should you chose to pursue this, would be to issue and serve the claim form and the particulars of the claim. The police have made their position perfectly clear so I don't see that there are any other avenues open to you.

Personally, all things considered, I'd advise against taking this further but should you chose to to so anyway, I'll do what I can to help you.


Many thanks for these articulate responses, I have noted some of this down for future reference. I will not progress this further but thanks very much for all your time on the case.

This post has been edited by john_now: Wed, 3 Jun 2020 - 13:20
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mickR
post Wed, 3 Jun 2020 - 13:43
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I think your brother telling plod that you had "gone on holliday" may have been an important aspect
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