Monday, 25 November 2013

Witness statements not enough for POPLA. Assessors do not understand ANPR. Assessors can use 'proportionality' and can ignore parts of a motorist's case

Way back when, The Prankster appealed against a POPLA verdict. The Lead Adjudicator has now replied:

Dear Mr Prankster,
The Lead Adjudicator has considered your complaint and has asked me to reply as follows: In this appeal, both parties produced evidence. The role of any tribunal of fact is to weigh often conflicting evidence. The Operator produced evidence to show that the vehicle was at a particular location. The Appellant produced a witness statement to show that it was not. The Operator produced images of the vehicle. The Appellant’s witness refers to having seen photographs of his vehicle in a location other than the site in question and but failed to produce the photographs or state where the vehicle was.
 The Assessor was satisfied that the automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) evidence provided by the Operator was accurate. The Operator did send a notice to keeper and the Appellant had a chance to dispute that he was the driver, however, he did not do so. The Appellant states that the Assessor did not consider signage. The Assessor considered all of the evidence and found that there were a number of signs at the site and these would have been visible to the driver. Having considered all of the evidence and submissions put forward, the Assessor was satisfied that the terms and conditions of parking would have been visible to the driver from the signage at the site and that these made it clear that parking was free for two hours and parking charges apply thereafter. It is not necessary for the Assessor to consider every conceivable issue raised. The appeal is in relation to a parking ticket. Proportionality does not require extensive reasoning nor determination of nonsense issues such as cyber men invading the Operator.”

The Lead Adjudicator's reply raises several issues.

Witness statements by themselves are not sufficient

Firstly, witness statements in themselves are not enough and the Lead Adjudicator has confirmed this. This is in fact good news for motorists and the Prankster will blog about this in the future.

POPLA do not understand how ANPR works

Secondly, there are serious issues about the competency of  the POPLA assessors when it comes to understanding how ANPR actually works. While POPLA may or may not have the legal aspects nailed, it is clear they are in serious need of training with regard to what ANPR technology can and cannot do.

The semi-amusing aspect is that both The Prankster and the Lead Adjudicator know full well that The Prankster was not  in the car park for the times specified. The Lead Adjudicator is presumably just miffed at being called out on his team's obvious errors.

The Lead Adjudicator states that there is 'conflicting evidence'. In fact, this is not the case. The operator produced evidence that the vehicle entered the car park at 07:14 and left at 18:56. The Prankster does not dispute this. However, he also left the car park at around 07:20 and entered again at around 18:50. The Prankster has produced a witness statement confirming his vehicle was elsewhere sometime between 07:14 and 18:56. The evidence is therefore not conflicting at all, but fits in with The Prankster's case that he double dipped the car park and that the ANPR devices were faulty.

ANPR devices are not CCTV. They do not send a 24x7 video record back to Parking HQ. That would require too much bandwidth, and require too much storage. Instead, they have built in algorithms to detect number plates. When they do, and only when they do, they take an image, or series of images. These are sent back to Parking HQ and these are the only records that the operator retains.

Thus, for instance, if you drive close to the lorry in front and your car is obscured, or it is a misty morning and the algorithm fails to detect your numberplate, or the ANPR coverage is imperfect and it is possible to enter or leave the car park without passing through the ANPR field of view, then the operator will have no record of this. Ever.

They can search through their database, and their collection of stored pictures, but your vehicle will never appear. There will be no record of it, because the technology is fundamentally flawed.

The Prankster sent in as evidence the wikipedia page on ANPR to explain some of the reasons why ANPR technology will fail to detect a numberplate. He explained it was important that the operator describe how the search of their database took place and how they checked the coverage of their ANPR.

However, the assessor did not bother to consider this evidence. This brings the Prankster to his third and final point.

Invading Cybermen not a reason for appealing

Thirdly, invading Cybermen are not a valid appeal reason, even if it is the 50th anniversary of Dr Who. The Prankster accepts this, and in fact did not raise this issue with POPLA - it was only the assessor rooting around in The Prankster's original appeal to CP Plus who bought this up at all.

However, the far more serious points the Lead Adjudicator makes are these:
It is not necessary for the Assessor to consider every conceivable issue raised.
Proportionality does not require extensive reasoning
The Prankster raised several valid issues about the ANPR technology and the Operator processes. These are valid questions for The Prankster and every other motorist who happens to double dip a car park. The simple fact of the matter is that The Prankster visited the car park twice and the ANPR technology is faulty. However, the assessor completely ignored these reasons.

The Lead Adjudicator has said that if a case is difficult, such as this one, and introduces details the assessors do not want to get into, that the assessors can use 'proportionality' to disregard as much of the motorist's case as they see fit.

This is a very dangerous position to take, especially as The Prankster has shown the technology is fundamentally flawed.

The Prankster is lucky. He has plenty of photographic evidence, including GPS records to back up the fact his vehicle was elsewhere. He has photographs of the vehicle outside the car park with a timed and dated receipt in the window and an email sent of that photograph. The receipt date was after CP Plus said the Prankster entered the car park, and the email date/time was before CP Plus said the Prankster left. Thus, the photograph must have been taken between the times CP Plus said the vehicle was in the car park. These are essentially unforgeable pieces of evidence.

Ironically, he also has pictures of a massive invisible erection, because that was the day he set off to photograph the signs in Yate shopping centre car park.

There is therefore no possible doubt that the ANPR was faulty.

The sad news is that most motorists are not so lucky as The Prankster. They will not have evidence they double dipped, and so they will not be believed by POPLA.

POPLA have shown they will not believe the motorist's word alone, nor the word of a witness. They have also shown they do not understand ANPR, and do not consider it 'proportionate' to educate themselves. They will also believe the word of operators who routinely lie and use sharp practices.

The Prankster thinks it's a funny old world.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster


  1. Just one thing Mr P.

    Henrius Greenslavius is only a wannabe adjudicator. He is Lead ASSESSOR and regularly misrepresents that fact. He only wishes he had the power of an adjudicator at Patas and TPT.

    As an assessor he has no more power than you or I to order anyone to do anything.


  2. 'Proportionality' - A word I came across very recently

  3. A huge invisible erection?
    I suffer from that too.