THOUSANDS of motorists could potentially have their parking tickets refunded after the region’s biggest police force admitted it had issued as many as 16,000 notices in error.
Around 16,000 parking tickets have been wrongly issued by West Yorkshire Police’s PCSOs, the force admitted yesterday.
Members of the public have paid more than £485,000 to the courts after being fined for illegally parking by PCSOs who did not have the power to give the tickets.
Police records show the penalty notices were issued between 2006 and March this year.
But the force said PCSOs may have handed out other tickets, not on its current record system, from three years earlier in 2003.
Assistant Chief Constable Andy Battle said it was only when the force reviewed PCSO powers five months ago that the error came to light.
He said: “West Yorkshire Police carried out a review of PCSO powers in March 2015, at which time we discovered that PCSOs had not been correctly granted powers to issue non-endorsable Police Fixed Penalty Notices for parking offences.
“This was due to an anomaly in the way that powers can be allocated and meant in effect that PCSOs were not empowered to give tickets issued to vehicles illegally parked.
“We would like to emphasise that no PCSOs knowingly acted beyond their powers and they believed, as did the Force at that time, that they were acting correctly.”
He said the force had appointed PCSOs and then granted them powers to issue tickets to illegally parked vehicles.
When it reviewed the powers, it realised road traffic legislation meant the force should instead have appointed parking attendants and granted them PCSO powers, so they could give the fines.
Mr Battle confirmed the force had now addressed this.
He added: “We want to reassure the public that this issue was addressed as soon as it came to light and are liaising with our partners in HM Courts and Tribunals Service about how to resolve matters regarding affected motorists.
“We will publish further details in relation to this on our website www.westyorkshire.police.uk as soon as possible. In the meantime we ask those who believe they might be affected to await further guidance.”
Local authorities also have legal powers to issue parking tickets. Wakefield MP Mary Creagh said it was “alarming” PCSOs had been issuing tickets without authorisation to do so.
She said: “The public expects the police to enforce the letter of the law and will be shocked to learn that PCSOs were not aware of the limits of their powers. Motorists deserve an explanation of what the police plan to do to deal with those affected.”
A spokesperson for Mark Burns-Williamson, the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “This issue was raised at a meeting between the Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Officer Team of West Yorkshire Police in March this year.
“At the time the Police and Crime Commissioner asked that the issue be addressed and the police have now done so.”