A COUPLE are claiming victory over Wirral Council's controversial spy car after successfully overturning two parking fines and bringing the future of the vehicle into question.

An independent tribunal last week ruled that two tickets issued in Victoria Road, New Brighton, were wrong because there were no signs warning motorists they may be photographed.

The council told the Globe on Monday that it is now "reviewing" whether or not it has to place permanent or temporary signs wherever the spy car is in operation.

As the car can theoretically operate anywhere on Wirral, it potentially means the local authority could be forced to place - and pay for - warning signs right across the borough, or alternatively scrap the car altogether.

The surveillance vehicle - a Smart car fitted with a 11ft 'periscope' camera - is operated by the council's parking enforcement contractors NSL, formerly NCP.

Its primary use is to catch and fine errant motorists who park on zig zag lines outside schools, but it also being used to snap drivers who stop on double yellow lines near to cashpoint machines.

The New Brighton couple were issued with their tickets during one week in April.

They appealed to the council on the grounds they were unloading for their business - allowed under the rules - but the appeal was rejected.

They then took their case to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal who ruled in their favour during a 'virtual' hearing on Thursday - a telephone conference call involving themselves, a representative of the council, and an independent adjudicator.

The adjudicator said he was concerned about the lack of signs warning motorists that they could be photographed. He will be writing to the council.

It is known that other cars on Victoria Road were photographed at the same time but the owners of the other vehicles appear to have paid their fines.

The council is refusing to review those other cases as it regards the payment of a fine as an admission of liability.

But New Brighton ward Cllr Sue Taylor said: "It seems strange that the council say they won't re-open any past cases because the fines were paid and therefore admissions of liability were made.

"The whole point of this adjudication surely is that at least in this case the fine was issued wrongly.

"That means there's the possibility that many other fines issued by the spy car have also been issued incorrectly but that motorists have paid up in good faith."

She added: "The vehicle is deliberately being parked in areas like Victoria Road to trap unsuspecting motorists.

"Also, disabled badge holders are permitted to park on double yellow lines for up to three hours but the spy car is unable to differentiate between badged or unbadged vehicles, if photographed from the side or rear.

"I would have thought there would be signage in the area saying you're being watched?

"If the council are now reviewing signage then how are they going to do it and pay for it?

"Will they be wasting more of the council tax payer's money to erect signs in every street in which the spy car may operate?"

A council spokeswoman said: "Anyone who has received a parking ticket and thinks that they have a valid reason to appeal is able to do so through the appeals process detailed. Each case is reviewed on its own merits.

"Paying a fine is admission of liability of a parking contravention, and we have no plans to re-open any past cases that have been paid.

"The council stands by its original decision to issue the tickets to this individual, as there was no evidence of loading or unloading.

"Based on the adjudicator’s recommendations we are currently reviewing the signage."

Asked whether that meant the future of the spy car had been placed in doubt, the council said it would "consider the legalisation" in relation to the adjudicator's written judgement, which they will receive later this week.

* If you have had a parking fine appeal rejected by the council, you can ask for an independent judgement by visiting www.trafficpenaltytribunal.gov.uk