The country’s leading traffic lawyer has called on North Yorkshire’s chief constable to investigate City of York’s council leader for theft.
Nick Freeman, aka Mr Loophole, has written to Dave Jones making a formal complaint against Coun James Alexander, over his authority’s refusal to automatically reimburse fines to motorists penalised for driving across Lendal Bridge during an “illegal” traffic-calming trial.
The scheme, which designated one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares a bus lane between the hours of 10.30am and 5.30pm, resulted in almost 60,000 drivers being fined. This netted the authority more than £1.3 million in revenue in just six months.
However the trial, which ran from August 2013 until February 2014, was abandoned after it became clear the council had acted unlawfully and the signage was ruled to be “ambiguous, inadequate and confusing”.
Despite agreeing to reimburse fines to those motorists who actively contact the authority, a senior scrutiny committee voted last month against automatically refunding everyone.
Of those drivers fined, it is estimated that some 85 percent are tourists, meaning that many may still be unaware of the illegality of the penalty handed to them.
Mr Freeman claimed that the council’s decision to only reimburse those who contact them was a “deliberate ploy to avoid repaying these unlawfully obtained monies”.
Mr Freeman, whose clients include England striker Danny Welbeck and comedian Jimmy Carr, has said: Prior to the scrutiny meeting, I publicly stated that it was incumbent on the authority to refund all monies. After all, it is not as if they haven’t got everyone’s details!
However, the course of action it has taken will result in the council retaining the balance of all non-refunded monies. This constitutes an offence of theft contrary to sections 1 and 7 of the Theft Act 1968.
I have written to Chief Constable Dave Jones making a formal complaint against City of York leader, Coun James Alexander. I have also asked him to keep me appraised of the outcome of his force’s investigation.
Andy Docherty, head of legal, said: The standard democratic process has been followed in this decision making process and was held in a fair, open and transparent way.
The decision to require an application to the council, to enable repayment of fines, is legally sound and has been agreed by a leading QC.