'I got a parking ticket as I visited my dying mum in Belfast City Hospital'
A man who received a parking ticket as he sat at his terminally ill mother's bedside has said Transport NI would not believe him when he lodged his appeal.
Robert McEvoy (50) had parked on an urban clearway on the Lisburn Road on May 19 within the permitted time as he rushed into Belfast City Hospital to be with his mother.
The 93-year-old had been brought to hospital by ambulance for what had been booked as a planned appointment after becoming seriously ill. Her son followed her in his car.
Mr McEvoy was delayed getting back to the car in time to move it for when the parking restriction applied at 4.30pm as he waited with his mother Helen - who had been left lying on a trolley - for test results.
But when he appealed the ticket on the grounds of exceptional circumstances, he said the parking enforcement section of Transport NI would not believe him.
The east Belfast man did not have a letter with the date of the appointment because the appointment had been changed on the phone twice, due to his mother not being well enough to attend.
He sent them a copy of his mother's disabled parking permit to prove who she was, and also the name and phone number of her consultant to verify they had been there.
He was left stunned when they would not accept that.
Mrs McEvoy's condition deteriorated after the appointment. She suffered from a rare form of cancer known as lymphoma. Her son sat by her bedside for her final painful days before she died on Monday. The letter from Transport NI telling him his appeal had been rejected arrived on Saturday, as he was at the hospital watching his mother in pain.
He said the attitude of the Transport NI staff he dealt with compounded the difficult time for his family, and voiced disbelief they would not accept his appeal.
"A quick phone call could have spared me all this anguish," he said.
"I have been parking there for 13 years bringing my mum to appointments at the Bridgewater Suite. It's the shortest distance to the door so it is easier for her, who obviously wasn't very mobile.
"Usually we are back by 4.30pm but that day was different, she was more ill and they were doing tests. She was lying on a trolley, I couldn't have left her.
"The results of the blood test came back just around 4.30pm - just when the parking restriction applied - and after that the doctors decided to admit her.
"So I ran back to the car to get an overnight bag I had brought just in case. I got back to the car just before 5pm, the ticket was issued at around 4.55pm.
"I thought with what had happened the appeal would go through fine, I was absolutely shocked when it didn't. They did not believe me."
Mr McEvoy refused to pay the fine, and it was only after the Belfast Telegraph contacted Transport NI that they agreed to cancel his ticket.
A spokeswoman for Transport NI said that "appropriate independent evidence" is needed for circumstances such as the McEvoy family found themselves in.
The letter that Mr McEvoy received from the parking enforcement unit of Transport NI stated: "... if you can provide evidence of your mother's 'medical emergency' from the Bridgewater Centre, we may reconsider the PCN."
Mr McEvoy said he was shocked, adding that he felt he had given all the evidence he could have. The east Belfast businessman is the younger of his mother's two sons.
They have been a close-knit family since his father died when he was just seven.
He said his mother had fought her cancer bravely and still been very mentally aware until almost the end.
Last summer he took her to Spain for a family holiday
A spokeswoman for the Department for Regional Development has insisted that all drivers receive fair treatment.
"To ensure that all drivers receive consistent and fair treatment, staff working in the department's processing unit must adhere to guidelines when considering a challenge against a PCN," she said.
"While there is no reason to doubt the information provided by Mr McEvoy, a PCN cannot be cancelled without appropriate independent evidence; which in this case, for obvious patient confidentiality issues, can only be provided by Mr McEvoy himself.
"However, given the particular circumstances that has now come to light, the department offers its sincere condolences to Mr McEvoy on the recent sad loss of his mother and we will gladly cancel the PCN."