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Defendants (criminal proceedings)

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How are parking etc. offences dealt with?

If you park where you should not (on double yellow lines or in other restricted places) you may receive a ‘parking ticket’. The Department for Regional Development, through its Roads Service, is responsible for most parking restrictions. Traffic attendants are employed to enforce road traffic contraventions by issuing Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs). The Police Service of Northern Ireland can enforce more serious rules, by issuing Fixed Penalty Notices through the criminal justice system.

PCNs (parking tickets) are usually issued by being stuck on the vehicle windscreen or handed to whoever appears to be in charge of the vehicle. They can also be issued by post. You usually have 28 days either to pay the charge or challenge the PCN. If you pay within 14 days the amount is reduced by 50%.

Where a PCN has not been paid within 28 days, the Department may serve a Notice to Owner (NtO) which allows the Department to pursue the payment. You have 28 days from the day the NtO is served either to pay the PCN or lodge an appeal against the parking ticket. If you do neither, the fine may increase. If you still do not pay, the Department can take more formal civil proceedings to recover it.


The Department can tow away or clamp a vehicle in certain circumstances. You should only be clamped 15 minutes after a PCN has been issued. If you believe your car was unfairly clamped, you can appeal, but you have first to pay the release fee and outstanding charges to release your car and then appeal later. Clamping charges are challenged using the same system as with PCNs. If the Department does not respond at all within 56 days of receiving your letter of appeal, it must cancel the PCN and refund the release fee you have paid.

In Northern Ireland a vehicle which is not licensed and is being used or keep on a public road may be clamped or removed. If the vehicle is kept off-road it must either be taxed or have a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) in force. A vehicle that is clamped and which remains unclaimed for more than 24 hours will be impounded and you will then be notified in writing (click here for more information).

Can I appeal? In what circumstances? Who to?

If you want to challenge a PCN you should not pay the charge and write to the Parking Enforcement Processing Unit setting out your reasons why you feel the PCN was incorrectly issued. If successful the PCN will be cancelled. If unsuccessful you will receive a Notice of Rejection of Representation. Following this you have a period of 28 days to either pay the fine or appeal further to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal which will give a written decision binding on both you and on the Roads Service. If your appeal is refused you then have 28 days to pay the fine.

FPN parking tickets are issued by police officers and are dealt with through the criminal justice system. The only official system of appeal against an FPN parking ticket is to opt to have your case heard in court and plead not guilty.

How are speeding offences etc. dealt with?

If you exceed the speed limit and are caught by the police or a safety camera, the police can do any of the following:

  • Give you a verbal warning;
  • Issue a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN), with a fine of £60 and three penalty points;
  • Prosecute you for speeding. This will mean you will have to go to court, and could face a fine of up to £1,000 (£2,500 if you were speeding on the motorway), between three and six penalty points on your driving licence, and a possible driving disqualification. Further information is available here.

In some cases it may be possible for you to be offered a speed-awareness course, which you will have to pay for but which would avoid any penalty being imposed.

The police have the power to stop any driver and failing to stop is itself an offence. When you are stopped by the police, you may be asked to produce a driving licence, insurance and your vehicle registration document. If you do not have these with you, you have 7 days to produce them at a police station.

If you have committed a minor traffic offence, like not wearing a seatbelt or driving with a broken headlight, the police may issue you with a fine (a FPN). Non-endorsable offences (those which do not result in points on your licence) usually incur a fine of £30. Fines for endorsable offences like speeding are usually £60.

More serious offences such as driving without insurance can incur a higher fine. You have 21 days to pay the fine or request a hearing. Otherwise, in the case of a non-endorsable offence, the fine will increase and will be registered at your local court. In the case of an endorsable offence the matter will proceed to prosecution. You will be reported for prosecution if you fail to pay a penalty for an offence detected by an automatic camera within 28 days.

Driving under the influence of drink or drugs

Police can ‘breathalyse’ you (ask you for a breath test) if they suspect you have been drinking. You will be asked to give two valid samples of breath and the lower result is the one on which any prosecution will be based. If you are only just over the limit, you may give a blood test.

Police may also carry out roadside tests such as an impairment test or testing by means of a sweat or saliva to assess whether you're unfit to drive due to drug intake. If you fail a breath or drugs test, the police will take you to the police station where you will be charged with an offence and the evidence (the breath or the drug test) will be stored.

Failure to give a breath test or participate in a drug test is an offence. Drink and drug related driving offences will result in mandatory disqualification from driving.

Miscellaneous points

  • If you get 12 points on your licence within a 3 year period, you will usually lose your licence for at least 6 months;
  • The police have the power to seize a vehicle if it is being used in an anti-social manner (causing alarm, harassment or distress);
  • Police can seize vehicles if drivers do not have an appropriate licence or insurance;
  • Serious road offences (e.g. causing death by dangerous driving) may result in imprisonment.

Will these offences appear on my criminal record?

Any conviction in court results in a criminal record. The above infringements will only appear on your record if you were convicted in court.

Related links

Parking Restrictions and Enforcement
The road user and the law in Northern Ireland
Police Service of Northern Ireland – Roads and Driving

Traffic Management (Northern Ireland) Order 2005

Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994

Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1995

Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1981

Road Traffic Regulation (Northern Ireland) Order 1997

Road Traffic Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1996

Last update: 25/02/2019

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