The following is based on an actual case examined by the Ombudsman.
Getting a place to park in any town in modern Ireland is nowadays, to put it mildly, very difficult. The bodies responsible for regulating parking are local authorities and many have introduced 'disc parking' where motorists attach to their car windscreens a disc which allows them to park in a designated area for a set period of time.
In one area where disc parking had been introduced, a woman was visiting the town for a medical appointment. She parked in a "disc only" area but as she was a stranger to the town she didn't know where to purchase a parking disc. There were no signs indicating where they could be purchased. She called to the offices of the local authority to see if she could get one there but the offices were closed for lunch. She left her car in the parking space without a disc and attended her medical appointment. When she returned to her vehicle she discovered that she had been issued with a parking ticket.
The woman complained to the local authority explaining what had happened on the day but it said that she had been illegally parked as she did not have a parking disc on display. It accepted that its offices were closed every day for an hour at lunch time and that there were no signs on display indicating where parking discs could be obtained but said that parking discs could be purchased at a number of outlets in the town.
You are the Ombudsman
The woman writes to you as Ombudsman to adjudicate on the case. She says that she feels that she has been unfairly treated as she says that she had made reasonable attempts to comply with the parking rules and that she should not be liable for a fine for a parking offence. .
(a) Conclude that she was illegally parked and that by not complying with the rules is liable for the parking fine ?
Yes it is true that she was illegally parked and is liable for the parking fine but the Ombudsman would also seek to ensure that a driver should be given every opportunity by the local authority to comply with the rules. By not indicating where parking discs could be bought the local authority had not complied with this requirement.
(b) Conclude that she was illegally parked and that by not complying with the rules is liable for the parking fine but that the local authority should take steps to publicise where parking discs can be purchased in the locality ?
This is a step in the right direction and will improve the situation in future but will not affect the position of the person who made the complaint
(c) Conclude that the local authority should cancel the fine as there was an onus on it to provide the necessary information to enable the general public, particularly those unfamiliar with the area, to buy the parking discs and that the local authority should take steps to publicise where parking discs can be purchased ?
Yes this represents a decision which is reasonable and fair. In the case on which this example is based the local authority agreed to refund the fine to the complainant and stated that it would be putting up signs indicating where the parking discs could be purchased.