This case started a long while ago when ParkingEye issued tickets for two overstays in Borehamwood shopping park. The motorist did not bother to appeal. On reflection, this would have been the fastest way to win the case. On close examination of the tickets he believed these 'overstays' had never actually happened. He regularly popped in for a quick lunch and also sometimes visited after work for a brief shop on the way home. He never stayed in the car park on a working day for the whole afternoon. This therefore seemed like a classic case of ParkingEye's flawed ANPR system issuing tickets for one long stay when actually two visits had occurred, and there is a history of such cases in the car park, recorded by the Borehamwood Times.
On the 30th July 2013 ParkingEye issued a claim for 'parking without authority on private land'.
The usual to-ing and fro-ing of legal documents occurred.
At a late stage in proceedings The Prankster got involved and helped Mr Martin with aspects of his case. This resulted in several new defence aspects which needed to be raised
On 10th December Mr Martin asked for permission to extend the filing deadline. Judge Cross replied on 12th December and allowed an extension until 23 December.
Shortly before the filing deadline, Mr Martin became aware of the ParkingEye v Sharma case, so on 24 December 2013 he wrote to the court quoting several cases, including ParkingEye v Sharma, which he believed were the reasons ParkingEye were refusing to provide a copy of their contract.
On 30th December, ParkingEye offered to settle for £115. Mr Martin refused.
On 3rd January 2014, ParkingEye offered to settle for £100. Mr Martin offered £15. ParkingEye refused. (As it turned out, they would have been at least £500 better off had they accepted this offer)
On 7th January ParkingEye wrote to the court complaining about the late filing on 24 December, and before and asking that they be discarded. They provided a reply which contained untruths regarding ParkingEye v Sharma, stating that DJ Jenkins had scheduled a hearing to decide the matter, whereas he had in fact adjourned a case to allow ParkingEye to replace the claimant with the landowner if they wanted to. They also made the untrue statement that the defence was a template taken from online forums, whereas in fact it was due to the hard work of Mr Martin and The Prankster.
ParkingEye also quoted snippets from 10 non-binding small claims court cases, as is their wont.They later refused to supply transcripts.
On 22nd Jan 2014 the first hearing was held. One of the older, more experienced LPC law solicitors was taking the case for ParkingEye. The case was delayed, so Mr Martin chatted a bit about the case. The advocate stated he had won the previous case regarding the same car park, but this was in the Watford court, not St Albans.
ParkingEye had only booked an hour for the hearing, but with the paperwork for both sides approaching the output of a small country's paper mills, that was never going to work out. During the hearing it emerged the advocate had not brought the contract. He waffled a bit around the landowner witness statement, but DJ Cross took him to task. Mr Martin did very little talking. DJ Cross said he had previously decided on a ParkingEye case and had dismissed it as ParkingEye did not have authority to bring the case.
DJ Cross said a contract had to be submitted and adjourned the case to May. He asked Mr Martin what other points needed to be considered and allocated 2.5 hours for the hearing.
He ordered ParkingEye to create an indexed bundle and to co-ordinate with Mr Martin so this could be filed with the court.
Instead, ParkingEye sent Mr Martin a strange document listing vague contents they would put into the final bundle, and inviting Mr Martin to send his full set of documents. Mr Martin pointed out this was not an indexed bundle. ParkingEye said it was.
ParkingEye attempted to narrow the issues to be decided in the final trial by listing issues that 'had already been decided on'.
Mr Martin pointed out these issues were in no way decided on, and listed the issues still in contention. ParkingEye threw their toys out of the pram and said they would not be filing an index bundle, and that if Mr Martin wanted to submit any documents to court he had to do this himself.In order to save time at the next hearing, ParkingEye suggests that it would be prudent for the parties to agree the outstanding issues in this case, so that these can be dealt with expediently and in order at the next hearing. As we are in email contact, we contend that it would be sensible to agree on the outstanding issues via email. ParkingEye will then send you a copy of the trial bundle, which you can agree, and which will then be sent to court by 28th February.It would appear as though the Judge is satisfied that ParkingEye has the right to bring this claim, although he requires to see the contract held with the site, which will be provided in due course. We do not consider this to be an outstanding issue, as we believe that the Judge will decide this matter based on the contract that is provided to him. We contend that he is convinced of the legality of the claim, as long as ParkingEye has the appropriate authorisation.It would also appear as though the Judge is with the claimant when considering your claim that you entered, exited and re-entered the car park. We believe that he has stated that he accepts that this is a contractual issue (not trespass) and that he will decide the matter in law on this basis. We therefore do not consider this to be an outstanding issue.
Mr Martin wrote to Judge Cross explaining that ParkingEye had not complied with his directions, and asked for the case to be struck out.
The Prankster contacted Bargepole to see if he was willing to turn up for the re-hearing. Bargepole agreed, but was slightly alarmed by the paperwork, which was in danger of needing a small warehouse for storage purposes. He stripped the case down and filed a skeleton argument concentrating on the essentials.
During the actual hearing Judge Cross started off by saying that he was going to look in depth at the issue of standing, and decide on that first. If the Claimant had standing, the case could continue, and if they didn’t, it would fail.
Mr Taylor, the LPC Lawyer, presented the Claimant’s case on that point, and relied on the Appeal Court Judgment in VCS v HMRC, as well as the landholder witness statement. Bargepole argued that because VCS involved pre-arranged parking permits, it was a different type of contract to the present case, and could be distinguished. He also pointed out the lack of compliance with Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) of the witness statement, and suggested that it could not be relied upon.
The Defence case relied on various County Court transcripts we had submitted (PE v Sharma, PE v Gardam) and also the Court of Appeal Judgment in PE v Somerfield, where it was ruled that PE could not sue in their own name, and that the monies were due to Somerfield.
Everybody was then sent outside for 20 minutes while DJ Cross considered his decision.
His first observation was that the claim, on the particulars, appeared to be on the basis of trespass, but in fact it was for breach of contract. He was disappointed that PE had not complied with his previous order regarding the trial bundle and evidence.
He then addressed the witness statement issue, saying that their witness statement was ‘sloppy, and a disgrace’. It failed to comply with CPR 18.1 (no full name and address), 18.2 (not all from the witness’s own knowledge), 32.19 (not an original document), and since it was just signed A. Bloggs, there was no way of knowing whether the deponent was male or female.
He decided that, as this was small claims, he would allow the statement, but that didn't help the Claimant, because paras. 5 to 12 related to another document (the landowner contract) which had not been served or produced. These clauses were therefore hearsay, and not admissible.
There was another document filed, on PE headed paper, which appeared to relate to a continuation of a contract. However, the same comments applied to this, namely that it was about as useful as a chocolate fireguard.
The Judge then went on to talk about VCS, and in essence said that the case could be distinguished because of the way in which permits were issued, and because VCS sued for trespass, which was not the issue here. His analogy was that if his neighbour put up a sign and charged people £1 an hour for parking on the Judge’s driveway, he couldn't enforce payment through the courts if someone decided not to pay. (He also, in passing, rubbished the bit in VCS about forming a contract to sell you Buckingham Palace).
He mentioned that he had dealt with other PE cases before, and was constantly amazed that they don’t produce the landowner contract in their evidence pack. He wondered what it is that they might have to hide.
The Prankster agrees with Judge Cross. ParkingEye do provide their contract in a substantial number of cases. Where they do not, it has been found in a number of cases that this is because they have something to hide, such as Rheidol retail park where there are actually two landowners and not one, or in other cases, where the company names on the landowner witness statement has been found not to exist. In other cases, ParkingEye have redacted areas which have been found to be extremely pertinent in other cases.
To re-iterate, ParkingEye have in a large number of court cases submitted contracts where the redacted text is highly pertinent to the case.
The Prankster will let Hill Dickinson have the last word, who, he notes, agree that the practice of incorrectly redacting documents is unlawful and improper.
The Parking Prankster