Your vehicle has been taken by bailiffs without warning

When you called police to report your vehicle stolen, they should have told you the name of the bailiff company that has taken it.

You could well be a victim of an ANPR van.

If you are the new owner of the vehicle and the PCN was incurred before you bought it, then you telephone the bailiff company and record the call using an appropriate app on your mobile. You need the recording because if the vehicle is not being returned or the bailiff company or the council is resisting your claim for your vehicle then you make an emergency application to the court to recover the vehicle. There is a £400 court fee for this but you can reclaim it from the council who then recovers it from the bailiff company.

It is the practice of many London councils to clamp or confiscate vehicles on the street using ANPR van. Under the Torts (Interference with Goods) Act 1977 you can claim redress (section 5) and Interim damages (section 4) from the authority who gave permission to a bailiff company to take your vehicle in respect of an unpaid debt without complying with enforcement regulations.

In any event, a levy cannot be placed over a vehicle retrospectively after clamping or removal. This practice is illegal.

You may a victim of bailiff vigilantism where bailiff companies go round in ANPR vans crawling neighbourhoods looking for vehicles with unpaid PCNs and yours received a 'hit' so they took it using a street lifter. This is regardless of the vehicle having had a change of keeper or address after the date the PCN was issued. This proves the bailiff is distraining the vehicle instead of looking for the debtor on order to make a profit for the company.

Find out from the bailiff company what the PCN number is, and the name of the council that issued it and ask the DATE the PCN was issued. This is in case the penalty was incurred by a previous owner, and if so you are not liable for the penalty and you can have your vehicle back on production of the V5C document or a sworn statement of truth proving what date you acquired the vehicle.

If you have recently moved or bought a car recently and the disappearance of your car is over an unpaid PCN then the council may be in breach of Part 75.7(7) of the Civil Procedure Rules which requires the authority to reissue the warrant by filing a request with the Traffic Enforcement Centre if the address of the debtor has changed since the issue of the original warrant. Bailiff companies often take it upon themselves to "trace" debtors and use ANPR without telling the authority to re-issue the warrant under Part 75.7(7) if it wants to continue enforcement. Also affirmed in paragraph 28 of complaint number 12 005 084 by the Local Government Ombudsman against London Borough of Redbridge and you can make a formal complaint and claim damages and compensation, see paragraph 44.

Telephone the Traffic Enforcement Centre (the TEC) on 01604 619450 and say you want to appeal against the PCN. This is called an "out of time Statutory Declaration", or a "late appeal" or "Stat Dec".

If you were unaware a PCN had been issued then you make a Statutory Declaration and telephone the council saying you are appealing the PCN because you were unaware it had been issued and you ask for the vehicle to be returned from where it was taken.

If you have no grounds to appeal against the original PCN then see if the bailiff has an invalid levy or has no levy over it at all, then you still have a right to recover the vehicle with an emergency application.

Sample: Formal Complaint letter and letter before action to the council to recover your disbursements and expenses and claim compensation for the unlawful deprivation of the use of your vehicle.


Alternatively, you can ask the council or creditor to return your vehicle in return for a reduced payment of damages accrued so far, or your damages will continue to accrue daily until the claim has been settled. This is sometimes called a "caulderbank" offer - an offer to settle to limit the damages you will claim and prevent further damages accruing. This article explains more about what damages you can claim.


Ignore any reply you get from the bailiff company, it will be their standard legalistic excuse letter. Post it on the forums if you would like it explained.

If your formal complaint is not resolved or you are palmed off with essays or a chronological list of events and telephone conversations or you are required to repeat your complaint with a "stage 2" complaint then it proves the your complaint COULD have been solved otherwise you would have a Final Resolution. You can now exit the complaints procedure and start a claim in the county court.


Sample: Claim Particulars for a Form N1 - recover your disbursements and expenses from the council in the Small Claims Court.


Or you can make a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman. Use the Formal Complaint letter above as a starting point.