Northampton motorist WINS appeal against council over bus lane fine after going into lane to avoid van turning right into garage
"I just think it proves the camera is a cash cow and is totally unnecessary. I think others will probably start asking for their money back."
A Northampton motorist has successfully appealed against his fine for driving in a controversial bus lane in the town, which he has dubbed a 'cash cow'.
Simon Shardlow, from Long Buckby, was fined £30 back in April for using the St James Road bus lane to undertake a van turning right into Westbridge Garage.
The 65-year-old initially paid the £30 fine but later appealed after weeks of research which helped him form his defence to overturn the decision.
Mr Shardlow argued to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal (TPT) that he used the bus lane to undertake the van to avoid an obstruction and prevent a build of cars behind him.
On Friday, July 9, Mr Shardlow received a response from the TPT adjudicator who awarded the win to the motorist and the loss to West Northamptonshire Council (WNC).
The adjudicator gave their reasons behind the decision by quoting a similar case to Mr Shardlow's, saying that the incident was "trivial and should be disregarded".
Within Simon's written appeal, he explained why he took the decision to undertake the van.
He said: "The van was an obstruction to myself and the four vehicles following. The van had not even stopped or started to turn right when I passed it.
"I moved into the bus lane primarily to keep the traffic flowing and to remove myself and others from a potential danger. The manoeuvre was not intended to gain an advantage. I moved back out of the bus lane immediately I was able to.
"I appreciate and understand rule 165 of The Highway Code, but rule 163 also applies 'only overtake on the left if the vehicle in front is signalling to turn right, and there is room to do so'.
"Drivers have to make the best decision according to the circumstances on the road. In the interest of road safety, if the bus lane is clear and the exit is clear, with no buses etc. in sight, rule 163 should be taken into account."
Speaking to this newspaper about the appeal process, Mr Shardlow said he only appealed after seeing a Chronicle & Echo article about the bus lane.
He said: "I saw the article and thought 'this is silly'. The appeal process was about a month long. It's taken time to put it all together.
"I felt that the penalty charge notice was unjust and did not take into account the road conditions at the time – so I appealed.
"WNC Parking Services rejected my representations, but I felt WNC had not considered the evidence properly.
"I decided to pay the reduced £30 fine and later decided to appeal to The Traffic Penalty Tribunal for England and Wales.
"At first I was told that because I had paid the reduced fine, I would have to pay a further £30 if I lost the appeal.
"I responded by saying that I was not appealing against the fine, I was appealing against the charge that I had committed an offence. I also said that I didn’t appreciate the threat of a further fine in the hope that I would drop the case.
"The council has got the video evidence in front of them but they are not looking at it. It's more a case of getting them to look at the circumstances each time.
"I just think it proves the camera is a cash cow and is totally unnecessary. I think others will probably start asking for their money back. If anyone else can get theirs back then so much the better."
A segment of the TPT adjudicator's response to Mr Shardlow is as follows:
"In one of the other appeals involving a driver who made a very similar manoeuvre into the bus lane for a short distance for the same reason as Mr Shardlow, the adjudicator decided as follows:
'Not every incursion into a bus lane amounts to a contravention. There is a long-standing understanding that trivial incursions into a bus lane should be disregarded under the rule known by its Latin tag de minimis non curat lex, or the law does not concern itself with trifling matters.
'In this case Mr M’s car was in the nearside lane for only a car’s length, perhaps five metres. This was trivial and should be disregarded. It is of note that the two vehicles following Mr M adopted the same route.'
"Mr Shardlow’s incursion into the bus lane was sufficiently similar to the incident described in that case, in particular because it was only to pass the vehicle immediately in front of him and no other vehicles were using the bus lane at the time, that I conclude that it is also a case to which the de minimis principle applies. The contravention is too trifling for the law to concern itself with.
"I allow Mr Shardlow’s appeal on the ground that the alleged contravention did not occur because it was de minimis. Mr Shardlow has nothing to pay."
Thanks to a freedom of information request by Mr Shardlow, this newspaper can reveal that 1,800 people are currently appealing their fines, which could prove time consuming for the council.
Cllr Phil Larratt, from West Northamptonshire Council, said: “Judgements over appeals are based on the personal and professional opinions of the adjudicator in question, and the nature of the appeal.
“In many instances they have ruled in favour of the council, based on the specific circumstances and the evidence at hand. We follow a legal process based on the contents of the Highway Code, which is very clear on encroachment into a bus lane.”