UK government realises it's been enforcing a non-existent law for 30 years

UK government realises it's been enforcing a non-existent law for 30 years

Thirty years' worth of parking fines in the UK might have to be paid back to motorists, after the government realised police and local authorities haven't had the legal power to charge people to get their towed cars back since 1991.

That year a "drafting error" removed the ability to charge motorists, but no one noticed until now, the Daily Mail reports.

"The authorities and those responsible must pay for this idiocy," motoring lobby group Fair Fuel spokesperson Howard Cox told the paper. 

"They should be checking they have the historic paperwork to mount a legal challenge. This is not a question of their offences being right or wrong - it is down to governmental incompetence that is off the scale."

The error is in the process of being fixed with a new Bill. It's estimated millions of vehicles have been illegally towed in the meantime, each costing up to £150 for the initial tow and up to £20 a day to store it.

"Goodness knows how many millions [have been charged] to motorists without any lawful basis," Jeanette Miller, of the Association of Motor Offence Lawyers, told the Daily Mail.

She said it was hard to say how much motorists could get back.

"There is a limitation period of six years in pursuing a civil claim but this can start from the date of the breach or, crucially, date of knowledge."

The government said it had no plans to offer anyone a refund, saying it saved taxpayers' money by charging people who'd parked illegally. 

In the meantime, it remains technically illegal for local authorities to make people pay to get their towed vehicles back.