A grandmother says she feels “demonised” by council officers who refused to cancel the eleven parking tickets her car recieved after it was stolen.
Vasiliki “Lili” Panagi, of Montrose Crescent, Barnet, has been ordered to pay the £1,365 in parking fines her Toyota Yaris hybrid racked up when it was taken from outside her house.
The 70-year-old reported the £25,000 car missing on Saturday, April 19 but police said it had probably been shipped overseas, so closed the case.
However, a month later, on Friday, May 16, the silver car was found dumped less than a mile from her home in Derby Avenue with just under a dozen tickets taped to the windscreen.
Barnet Borough Council parking officers have rejected her appeal, claiming they could not “verify” the police report and she would have to pay the fee.
However, after the Times Series contacted the authority, they agreed to cancel all the parking tickets.
She said: “I feel they are being totally merciless about this. They are demonising the little people who haven’t got the power to defend themselves.
“They are going for my throat. I feel completely powerless and don’t know what I am supposed to do to get rid of these fines.
“I am so stressed out about this. It is an awful lot of money.”
Mrs Panagi, who owns a small media company, bought her car on finance in March 2013, paying £285 a month.
The last parking ticket on her car was issued on Monday, May 19 – the day she went to pick her stolen car up.
She also noticed the car had an extra 38 miles on the clock, smelt strongly of cigarettes and had a small scratch on one of the wheels.
In spite of repeated letters appealing the fines, council officers refused to waive them, saying she was still legally responsible.
She added: “I feel completely let down. There was absolutely nothing I could have done to avoid getting the tickets.”
Her case has been taken up by parking expert and Times Series blogger Derek Dishman, also known as Mr Mustard.
He said: “It is nonsense. The police are meant to be one of the council’s partners, so why didn’t the warden’s handheld equipment signal a red flag?
“Surely that would have been a better use of their time, instead of giving eleven tickets to one car without a warning sign popping up?
“She’s never had a ticket before, she’s a tax-paying citizen and has proof she is telling the truth. It’s unfair.”
A statement from Barnet Borough Council said: “We have every sympathy with Ms Panagi and any motorist who finds themselves a victim of car theft.
"Normally a car will be flagged as stolen on the DVLA database but that did not happen in this case. With that being said, and odd as it may seem, under data protection legislation the police cannot share information about the car without the owner’s consent.
"We then become reliant on the owner to provide detailed information on the issue. We have now cancelled the PCNs.”