Monday 13 May 2013

Perils Of Puddlecote Update

I thought you might be interested in an update on the case of the shunted and towed vehicle.

I recounted the whole sorry tale back in March so do go have a read if you're unfamiliar with it. That first episode in what promises to become a saga was left something like this.
All I will say is that now - three weeks on - we are still £300+ down; have heard not a peep out of the police; and are pretty unimpressed with the whole experience. It's true that we've probably expended about the same £300 in time, effort and expenses, but what would you do?
We have, however, now heard from the police ... but it wasn't very encouraging.

A month ago (five weeks after the event), we received a short, one page letter thanking us for contacting them. It stated that they were sorry to hear about how our vehicle was parked legally before being shunted onto a yellow line, and that no-one had bothered to contact us before it was towed.

Unfortunately, they said (paraphrase, the letter is in the office):
"It is not in our best interests to pursue the matter, so please take it up with your insurers."
And that was it! Not in their best interests!

We were quite surprised at this, especially since the footage clearly showed the chasing woman going to a door next to the CCTV camera and fetching a spouse/relative/colleague to inspect the damage on the back of our vehicle. Naïvely, we believed - seeing as we were innocent victims of a £300 charge and a day trying to sort it all out - they might have sent a bobby along to knock on their door for an informal chat. You know, because we are taxpayers who fund them?

So we searched the police websites for the right person to contact and express our dissatisfaction. We found her e-mail and copied in seven others on the relevant local authority police panel.

After ten days, we had received not a single response, so e-mailed them all again. A few days later, still not a single response.

Sorry if this is getting boring, but ... we then rang our community support officer (who was breathless, as usual).

"Hi sunshine, we're having a hell of a time getting in touch with Mrs Prunehat (name changed to protect the useless) at the PCC office, can you help?"
"Sure {huff, puff}, I'll give them a ring {huff, puff, splutter}".

Ten minutes later, we receive a call from Mrs Prunehat herself. Yay!

"Hello", she chirpily began, "I'm sorry to contact you so late, how can I help?"
"Yes, we contacted you a while ago but the e-mails must not have reached you"
"Oh no, I saw them. I just forgot to reply"

I'm not making this up, honest! After two weeks of begging for a response or even an acknowledgement (not difficult in the modern age), it was only once our power-walking copper rang her on his mobile that she could be bothered to pick up the phone or apply fingers to a keyboard.

Despite our exasperation, we ran through the whole story (again) and politely notified her that we weren't too thrilled with the service. Her reply merely repeated what the curt letter had said, except that she added that they couldn't waste their 'resources' on our problem. She could, however, raise a complaint for us if we wished. We definitely wished, if only out of beleaguered curiosity.

Which brings us to today, when we received a call from the police from a woman who was unfortunate to be afflicted with an almost unintelligible accent. Guess what she said?

"I'm afraid we can't use our resources on your problem".
"But your letter has a tag line saying that you are supporting the public, yet we have been wronged and you won't do anything about it!"
"You can always take it up with your insurers"
"OK, could you tell us who to contact as you have the registration number"
"No, we can't possibly do that!"
"Why not?"
"Because it is a breach of information laws"
"So how are we to pursue them via our insurers if we don't know who it is? Please remember that we have already done your job for you by procuring the CCTV footage"
"That is up to you"
"Couldn't you just send someone round to the address and ask some questions?"
"No, but that is something you could do".

And that seems to be where it ends. There doesn't appear to be anyone higher to get in touch with.

In summary, our vehicle is parked legally; someone shunts it onto a yellow line; it is reported; police attend and (probably) check it's taxed before ringing the council; council turns up and tows it; no-one tells us until we call to report a theft; we pay £300.

{Deep breath}

We (not those we pay taxes to) investigate and gather evidence; the police see it but refuse to help; they then refuse to reply to repeated attempts to contact them; when they do reply, they say it's our problem and tell us to do the investigations ourselves; and won't help by accessing their computers and giving us the details of the owner.

So here we are, two months later, still £300 down through no fault of our own and no nearer recouping it despite annually paying these people six figure sums in taxation for exactly this kind of event.

Are we leaving it at that? Well, what do you think?

To be continued.


barnacle bill said...

I would threaten them with putting names and pictures on your blog Dick.

I recently posted about Vodafone customer care, managed to find the head honchos email address, sent him a link to the post.
Shall I just say we're still in negotiations at the mo but a free mini version of a certain well known tablet is on offer.

SadButMadLad said...

I suspect that the police can give you the CCTV. But just like many other aspects of the law, the police don't know it too well. And it's not like its an obscure part of the law. For instance, that photographers are free to take photographs of police. This "it's against the law" excuse sounds like a H&S excuse to avoid doing something, because no one can question H&S (or the law). Sounds like making excuses, such as "forgetting to reply". It just means that they can't be bothered to do their job properly.


says "Once [the CCTV owner] have disclosed an image to another body, such as the police, then they become the data controller for their copy of that image. It is their responsibility to comply with the Data Protection Act (DPA) in relation to any further disclosures."

and this should help

Seems that maybe just asking a solicitor to do the requesting might get somewhere.


Lysistrata Eleftheria said...

I would pursue it just for the righteousness of your cause, and on behalf of others who might find themselves in a similar unjust situation, and because if you refer it to your insurers it will put OUR insurance costs up.

And because i would be spitting tacks about the whole thing.

The police'll be hoping that it'll be too much trouble for you and that you'll go away.
I wouldn't blame you for one mo if you did. But I hope you don't.

Tony said...

It makes you wonder what their actually purpose is if they can't be arsed to follow things up when presented with lots of good evidence. It's as if it's all too much trouble.

James Masterton said...

Just tell the police that the driver sexually assaulted you in the 1970s. They will go to the ends of the earth to track them down then...

P. Ondrin said...

I may be wrong but - email is no better than the spoken word. In any dispute the written word (in a letter) can be used as evidence, but not an email. Always add 'hard copy to follow' to any email, and then send it signed for.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

That seems to be exactly the case according to an e-mail received today.

"Under our business processes (?!?) damage only collisions will not be investigated further. Serious damage only (based on actual damage rather than cost)."

I expect this is why they're not concerned about the undeserved £300+ penalty and other costs incurred.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Useful advice, both. Thanks :)

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Ha! :)

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Definitely not, still some other avenues to pursue. We've also now unleashed the semi-retired Rottweiler, Mr P Snr - I expect there will a few coarse words. ;)

RB said...

You'll need to look it up Dick, but if I recall correctly there is an exception to Data Protection if the information is needed for legal proceedings. Given that your losses would be recouped in such proceedings from the person who shunted your vehicle, the police probably do have to give you that person's identity.

Michael McFadden said...

I'd actually expect the opposite in terms of email/paper unless the extra option of "Deliver only to the person and make them sign for it" is set. Maybe even THEN the email might be better. Why? Because in the case of a delivered letter they could always claim they lost it and that its contents were actually different from what you claim they were. With an email that gets a bit trickier, especially if you cc it back to yourself at the same time.

Doing both is definitely the best though. And I'd fully agree that phone assurances are at least fairly worthless (although they can be buttressed if the receiving party for some official reason keeps tapes for a certain period ("for quality and control purposes only" as they often say), and if you follow a call with an email/letter summarizing your immediate memory of the call's contents with a request for 'correction" if the recipient feels you have mis-stated anything.)

If you have a friendly lawyer who won't charge you simply for receiving a few mails or emails that they know they don't have to read at the moment, it can be helpful for your prime recipient to see that you're covering your butt in that regard as well.

And I guess the ultimate "official" stamp would be if you actually HAD a lawyer of some type send paper mails in your stead. That's when you get into real money for services though.

GREAT job in going after them! If more people threw sand in their gears when they screw up in that way they'd tighten up their practices.


Mark Wadsworth said...

contact MP, local councillors, name and shame, local newspaper, keep going, bring private court action for shunting your car (expensive but fun).

Bucko said...

Does that mean you're getting your dad on them? :-)