THOUSANDS of motorists caught on Gloucester’s “bridge of fines” could claw back more than £1million, a leading legal expert believes.
After Cheltenham motorist David Newman successfully appealed against a £60 fine for driving over Llanthony Bridge in Gloucester, Conrad Gadd said the floodgates could open for at least some of the 38,888 motorists caught using the bridge in three years.
Gloucestershire County Council said Mr Newman’s victory doesn’t set a precedent because each case is decided on its own merits.
Mr Gadd, a retired solicitor who manages a team of barristers specialising in traffic law, said: “While it is true that all cases are taken on their own merits, it is difficult to see how in this instance there would be anything distinguishing each case from another. All the relevant circumstances of each alleged offence would be, for legal purposes, virtually identical.
“If the street signs have been found to be inadequate on one occasion then I would think it would be inadequate for all other cases. Where there has been an adjudicator finding the street sign to be inadequate, then it seems obvious that it would be inadequate generally.
“In cases such as these there are very few people who feel it worthwhile to take the time and spend their money to challenge the penalty notice and there is therefore highly likely a large number of people who have paid the penalty as a matter of consequence, when in fact they were not guilty of an offence.
“I would think the council has a duty to find these people and repay them their money. I would expect any refusal to be unreasonable, and challengeable in a court.”
The only motor vehicles allowed on the bridge are emergency services, taxis, and buses and the restriction was introduced to make the road safer for shoppers to cross between the Gloucester Quays outlet and the Docks.
Mr Newman appealed on the basis that signs informing motorists of the prohibitions are not clearly visible and won a tribunal against Gloucester City Council which enforces the restrictions for the county council.
In 2012/13, the number of motorists caught dropped to 7,899 from 20,090 in 2010/11 – but an average of two a day still drive over the bridge. The £60 fine is cut to £30 if paid in 14 days. A total of 26 fines were appealed in 2012/13, and eight upheld.
County council parking manager Jim Daniels said: “There is no precedent here – independent adjudicators, based in Manchester, look at appeals entirely on a case-by-case basis and each is considered on its own merit.
“We believe the current signs and road markings are perfectly sufficient for drivers to be aware they shouldn’t use the route, however where adjudicators have made suggestions we have listened and made changes.
“Even though twice as many appeal decisions support the council’s position we are always looking to improve and in the next fortnight we will be putting in bigger signs to warn drivers.”