Traffic wardens and the police used to enforce all parking in England and Wales by issuing Fixed Penalty Notices. Parking offences dealt with by Fixed Penalty Notices are criminal offences and enforcement took place through the criminal justice system. Non payment could mean a trip to the Local Magistrates court.
The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984:
Powers to enforce certain parking regulations were given to councils under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984: enforcement action was taken through the criminal (magistrates') courts.
The Road Traffic Act 1991 (Decriminalised Enforcement):
The Road Traffic Act 1991 made councils in London responsible for the majority of parking enforcement and provided a right of appeal against penalty charges, on specified grounds, to independent adjudicators through the Parking and Traffic Appeals Service. Under this regime, penalties are no longer considered in the magistrates' court: they are therefore 'decriminalised'. The transfer of parking enforcement from the police to the London boroughs was completed by the end of 1994.
The decriminalised arrangements have also now been adopted by many councils outside London, with appeals being dealt with by the National Parking Adjudication Service. It is for individual councils to 'opt in' to these arrangements. Fines issued under the civil enforcement scheme are called Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs). They are processed by councils and disputes between motorists and councils are decided by an independent Adjudicator and unpaid fines enforced through the County Court (civil matters).
Traffic Management Act 2004:
The Traffic Management Act 2004 repeals and replaces the provisions of the Road Traffic Act 1991, Parking Regulations - called Statutory Instruments - have remained largely similar, with some additional powers for councils and rights for motorists. As with the Road Traffic Act 1991 before, it enables councils to take over most parking enforcement - including yellow-line enforcement - from the police.
Under the Traffic Management Act 2004 from 31st March 2008 Decriminalised Enforcement is known as Civil Parking Enforcement.
Not all local authorities have taken up Decriminalised Parking Enforcement (DPE) but over 200 have.
Click here to see a list of the councils that have opted for Decimalised Parking Enforcement (DPE).
Parking restrictions in the councils that have not taken up the scheme are still enforced by the police and are still criminal offences.