So here's the first draft. Looking for opinions not proof readers thanks.
I’m writing in reference to my alleged failure to make a S.O.R.N declaration to the D.V.L.A for my MGB GT registration Blah-blah in reply to a threatening letter I received from your office with the reference number “Number-Blah-blah”.
I have been imposed a fine for failing to declare the vehicle as S.O.R.N despite the fact I sent the V5 registration document off to the D.V.L.A when I disposed of the vehicle in full accordance to the law.
I personally refuse to accept blame and/or responsibility for the D.V.L.A failing to file the paperwork correctly upon receipt or the Royal Mail for failing to deliver the document to the D.V.L.A in the first place. As soon as I put the letter in the post box it became the property and sole responsibility of the Royal Mail and if or when it arrived at the D.V.L.A it became their property and therefore as I have personally done everything as required by the guidelines set out by the D.V.L.A I have committed no offence and will not pay any kind of fine at all. As for the accusation that it is up to me to pursue the D.V.L.A if I have not received a “Change of ownership” letter from them within four weeks of sending the V5 registration document off. “The DVLA have no statutory power requiring anyone to ring them or otherwise respond should they not receive an acknowledgment letter”.
I have sent several letters and notifications to the D.V.L.A in the past and received no reply so I considered it to be the norm on this occasion.
There is no legal requirement to send letters and declarations to the D.V.L.A by recorded delivery, but from now on all correspondence I personally have between myself and the D.V.L.A will be done by this method in the future. If the D.V.L.A were to send letters and fine notifications by recorded delivery in the interest of data protection for example it would take a great deal more administration and cost substantially more in postal fees.
On the information you have before you I apparently am still liable to pay the £80 fine for failing to make the S.O.R.N declaration or £40 if I pay before a set date the 4th September 2010. This is basically saying “pay £40 now or else” in my opinion and amounts to little more than aggravated theft as I have already outlined the fact that it is either the Royal Mail or the D.V.L.A at fault and not myself. I am happy to appear as a witness on your behalf if you wish to pursue the Royal Mail for failing to deliver if you can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Royal Mail failed to deliver the document to the D.V.L.A and the D.V.L.A did not lose the document internally.
There have been several well documented cases of the D.V.L.A making mistakes and taking people to court for allegedly failing to declare vehicle S.O.R.N or the change of ownership.
First up was a case heard in Clerkenwell District Court in October 2009. The DVLA was seeking a judgment against a Mr James Collins, on the grounds that he had allegedly failed to notify it when took his vehicle off the road (SORN).
Mr Collins told the court that he had notified them – and it was not his fault if the DVLA had lost his details. To the surprise of several people present – not least the DVLA – the judge accepted this argument and, according to Mr Collins, agreed that he only had to send details back to the DVLA.
He did not have to send his documents by recorded delivery: he did not even have to obtain proof of posting.
This is less surprising than it first seems: if members of the public were legally required to send documents by secure means every time they communicated with an organisation, then the same requirement would almost certainly apply to those organisations, adding immensely to their postage bills and making simple debt collection infinitely more costly.
It did not help the DVLA’s case that Mr Collins had been doing a bit of research. From earlier correspondence, he was able to demonstrate that the DVLA was capable of losing post in its internal mail – although it had no idea of how much post it lost.
He then used a Freedom of Information request to establish that the DVLA did not actually log what communications were sent out to individuals. Instead, it relied on a cumbersome "aggregate matching procedure" which has been described by one communications expert as insufficient to "prove" who is sent what – and it destroys even these records after just three months anyway.
In another case a Mr Duncan Peck, who also fell out with the DVLA over the matter of a lost S.O.R.N declaration, in Horsham County Court, Mr Peck explained that he had sent back his notice in compliance with the law.
The DVLA first claimed that he hadn’t: then that he had done so late. Besides, even if it had lost it, he should have phoned it when they failed to send him an acknowledgement. In this, it was relying on the small print on the relevant forms (V11 and V890) which stated that if do not receive an acknowledgement letter within four weeks, you need to ring.
Once more, according to Mr Peck, a judge begged to differ. In his view, the DVLA have no statutory power requiring anyone to ring them – or otherwise respond - should they not receive an acknowledgment letter.
This could turn out to be a serious blow for an organisation which has the until recently covered up its own inadequacies with a mixture of bluster and bluff, claiming legal powers it does not have, and being quick to send in the bailiffs should anyone dare to cross it.
The evidence from both Collins and Peck is that the DVLA does lose mail internally. Despite a claim that it "never loses mail" – allegedly made by an individual working in the office of the DVLA’s chief executive – the fact that it does, and that they do not have a clue how much it loses, was confirmed in yet another Freedom of Information request made by Mr Peck.
They make mistakes – as exemplified by the case of Lois Mallon, last September, before Teesside Magistrates’ Court. She was found not guilty of failing to notify a change of keeper in respect. However, the DVLA had insisted on prosecuting Ms Mallon despite her producing letters in court showing she had notified the DVLA when she sold her Peugeot 107 in January 2009.
It is quick to apply pressure. Mr Collins and Mr Peck both complain about intervention from debt collection agencies while their complaints were supposedly under investigation. In one case, the agency used by the DVLA was itself under investigation for unlawful conduct – but it took another FoI request before the DVLA would admit to this.
The DVLA has no internal review process, and while there is scope for complaints to be referred to an independent assessor, whether or not this happens is up to the Chief Executive. It is thus judge and jury in its own cause.
If the courts applied the letter of the law, the body that looks after our vehicle registrations could find itself millions of pounds out of pocket. One estimate suggests that the figure collected by way of SORN penalty notices is in excess of £10m per year.
Luckily, however, as has been demonstrated in a series of recent high-profile cases, the fact that something is unlawful is no reason for government to stop doing it – and that is pretty much the story in this case.
When questions have been asked previously about the DVLA’s conduct, they have been slow to provide a legal justification, relying mostly on the argument that they "would not" breach the law – so obviously they have not.
A spokesman for the DVLA told us: "The DVLA does not impose any requirements for customers to obtain proof of posting or use recorded delivery in their dealings with us. However, and this is a key point, the onus is on the customer to ensure their off-road notification is delivered to DVLA."
This appears to contradict the result of the judge's ruling in the case of Mr Collins.
They added: "With reference to non-receipt of acknowledgement letters by customers, there is no legal obligation on the customer to contact DVLA if they do not receive their acknowledgement letter. However, and another key point, we do advise customers to contact us if this happens so that we can confirm if their notification has been delivered to us or advise them otherwise how to comply".
Again, there appears to be some discrepancy here between the official line and the argument initially put forward in the case of Mr Peck. The DVLA declined to respond to questions about its ability to audit or track mail internally - or to confirm that it does lose mail internally.
This is at the heart of criticism levelled by Paul Watters, Head of Public Affairs at the AA. He told us: "I personally don't think a coach and horses has been driven through late tax/SORN penalties but I agree there are weaknesses.
"Any system that relies on the post is dependent on it being sent and received. We have highlighted this weakness on many occasions in particular with civil parking and traffic offences. Missing one piece of important paper can result in bailiffs at the door step.
"We believe that when penalty notice offence amounts escalate through non-payment the letters should be recorded - this would add to the cost but this could be covered by the well-heeled parking/traffic authorities who make big bucks from PCNs.
"We have called for there to be an open, independent and transparent appeal system for DVLA enforcement. We say that staying compliant should be made really easy and there should be tolerance of small mistakes. If the authorities lose sight of this they will also lose the support of motorists."
Just to sum up, I did everything that was legally required of me concerning the sending of the V5 registration document to the D.V.L.A when I disposed of my vehicle. As there is no legal requirement of me to pursue the D.V.L.A if they fail to send a notification letter I hope this will be the end of the matter. I realize the scale of the D.V.L.As operation. Mistakes have been and will be made in the future. Also the number of letters sent to the D.V.L.A makes it near impossible for the D.V.L.A to keep track of all incoming and outgoing correspondence. As there are probably thousands of letters sent to the D.V.L.A on a daily basis it is just as likely that some get lost or damaged in the postal system.