NHS worker was caught driving through low-traffic neighbourhood on way to reach suicidal patient, reports James Cracknell
An NHS mental health worker who said they were responding to an emergency with a suicidal patient has had their appeal against a penalty charge notice (PCN) rejected.
The driver, an employee of Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust, passed through a camera trap set up as part of Enfield Council’s ongoing low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) trial in the Fox Lane area of Palmers Green.
Following the incident in Meadway on 29th August, the driver was issued with a £130 fine by the council. They then appealed to London’s Environment and Traffic Adjudicator and explained that they were “responding to an emergency to reach a suicidal mental health patient”.
However, the appeal has now been rejected, after it was explained in a statement of reasons for refusal that “there is no exemption for health workers such as the appellant […] it is restricted to the emergency services (fire, ambulance, police) and refuse collectors”.
It added: “All such matter raised by the appellant go to mitigating circumstances, which have already been considered by the authority. They do not provide an exemption or defence.
“The adjudicator decides appeals by making findings of fact and applying the law as it stands. The adjudicator has no power to quash a penalty charge based on the mitigation submitted.”
After being shared on social media, the case drew widespread opprobrium; among the people commenting on it, Susan Oliver said it was “disgusting”, while Michael Gambin described it as “despicable”.
Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust declined to comment on the case.
An Enfield Council spokesperson said: “The decision on this appeal was made by the external, independent adjudicator, who is appointed by government to ensure a consistent enforcement approach is adopted across London. The decision is made by making findings of fact and applying the law as it stands.”
The Fox Lane LTN was first installed in the summer of 2020. An extended public consultation on the trial scheme, which restricts motor traffic on a number of residential roads between Palmers Green and Southgate, ended earlier this week. A report is now set to be drawn up and published by the council, which will reveal what impact it has had on motor traffic, cycling and air pollution.
Meanwhile, the decision to make a second LTN trial scheme permanent has been challenged by opposition councillors. Members of the council’s overview and scrutiny committee will consider two ‘call ins’ of the decision at a meeting on Thursday, 20th January, and decide whether or not to refer it back to the council leader for further consideration.
Councillors from the Conservatives and from the Community First group, which includes two Green councillors plus four independents and a Liberal Democrat, have all signed separate call-in requests that will be debated at Thursday’s meeting. They cite concerns raised over “misleading” and “contradictory” data used to justify making the Bowes LTN scheme permanent.
In its original report, the council stated that traffic had reduced by 17% within the LTN and 7% on boundary roads, but increased 2% on surrounding roads. In a public consultation, 52% of residents responding submitted negative views on the LTN, compared with 25% submitting positive views.