Parking Attendants are the most visible guardians of on-street parking restrictions in the United Kingdom. Though their name has been officially changed to the weightier ‘Civil Enforcement Officers ‘by the Traffic Management Act 2004, they are united with their ‘enemies’ in motoring and media Britain in preferring their former title.

According to the popular press, their powers, to impose parking tickets are endless and matched only by their unwillingness to show the most minimal discretion in applying the law. But what really are the powers of these sentinels of the UK’s tough parking regimes who issue most of the almost 8 million parking tickets generated in the country annually?

Below I have attempted to answer this using a ‘Frequently Asked Question’ format, relying heavily on key Government guidelines, most of which are not as widely known as they probably should be.

Must an enforcement officer always wear a hat when issuing a ticket?

The issue is not as clear cut as many make it out to be. It is regarded as best practice for an enforcement officer to wear full attire including head gear when carrying out enforcement action on street and most councils maintain this policy. However there is room for discretion

Section 8.2 of the Department of Transport’s Operational Guidance to Local Authorities Parking Policy and Enforcement published in November 2010 states –

“…… If appropriate headgear, such as a hat, is part of the uniform, the civil enforcement officer should wear it at all reasonable times, unless unable to do so for religious reasons. It may be sensible to make headgear optional in certain circumstances so that a PCN is valid even if issued by a CEO not wearing a hat.”

The approach to this should be that wearing head gear should be the default position of most council’s. If an enforcement officer has issued a ticket without wearing one (for whatever reason) then his employing authority must provide written evidence that the council has a policy permitting this.

What if I return before the officer has finished writing out the ticket

If the officer has started writing out a ticket before the return of the motorist, he or she is not allowed to stop it even if the motorist offers to move the vehicle from its unlawful position.

However if the driver does meet the enforcement officer at the location and the ticket is not served to him or the vehicle, the local authority cannot subsequently send the notice by post, provided of course that the officer was not prevented by verbal threats or physical assault from serving it

If a driver returns during a period when his/her vehicle alpr system is being observed by an enforcement officer, and offers to move the vehicle, a ticket should not be issued since although the vehicle is in contravention, the critical fact that the ticket has not been started (since it can only be written after the end of the observation) means that it cannot be issued if the observation is interrupted by a motorist who then offers to move the vehicle before the observation ends.

Section 8.77 of the Department of transport’s operational guidance above makes these points categorically clear.

“……….A PCN may not be served by post if the motorist returns to the vehicle before the CEO has started to issue it. A CEO has not started to issue a PCN if s/he is observing a vehicle or jotting down some details. It is only when the CEO starts