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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Motorist gets parking charge back in court. Judge lambasts parking company for lack of proportionality

Our story begins when Ms X turned up to work one day at Fort Dunlop, Birmingham. As far as The Prankster can work out, Fort Dunlop is owned by Urban Splash. Parts are then rented out to Regus, an office management company, who then sublet to other companies. Ms X's car parking space was occupied by someone who should not have been there. Ms X had a parking permit issued by Regus. Regus photocopied parking permits to use a range of spaces which were then issued to Ms X's company, and from there one was given to Ms X.

Ms X therefore parked temporarily in someone else's space (Capita) and asked her boss what to to. The boss went to Regus, who had issued the permit, and asked what to do. Regus replied that she could stay there for the time being, but may have to move if someone complained.

However, later on Ms X found she was issued with a windscreen ticket. She therefore appealed against the ticket to the parking company, Parkshield. They turned down the appeal. She therefore appealed to the IPC. Unfortunately, although the IPC are mandated by goverment to run an independent appeals service, it is anything but. Motorists are not allowed to see the car parking company evidence, are not allowed a right of reply or to highlight new evidence. Worst of all, the process is easily open to corruption and manipulation because the assessors are chosen by the IPC without naming them.

Unsurprisingly the appeal was denied by the IPC. Ms X therefore decided to limit her losses by paying up, but to recoup the amount by filing a court claim. The claim was filed against both ParkShield and Urban Splash. A counterclaim was filed.

Behind the scenes Mr M. co-ordinated troops, helped with correspondence, tried to negotiate a fair settlement to both sides and compiled an impressive legal bundle. Several other people also contributed legal advice and help. The bundle fully debunked the parking companies initial right to charge the motorist, and their subsequent counterclaim. Sadly the judge was unable to read this before the hearing.

The case was heard by DJ Sehdev in Birmingham on 18/11/2014.

In court, Ms X was represented by Craig X, while ParkShield had Andrew Fitton, their commercial director present. Ms Bennett, a lawyer for hire from LPC Law, acted for both defendants. She was instructed by Gladstones solicitors who had done all the paperwork. Ms X was not present.

Ms Bennett immediately tried to ambush the claimant by providing the contract between ParkShield and the landowner. The judge explained he would not see the document because it should have been filed earlier. Ms Bennett said this was not done due reasons of commercial sensitivity. DJ Sehdev explained this was not a good enough reason. Craig pointed out that the claimant had written twice asking for the contract. He explained the claimant would be disadvantaged if the contract was allowed because he would not have time to study it properly, or contact named parties to verify its authenticity.

The judge explained his options were to disallow the document or adjourn the case. Craig stated if the case was adjourned he would apply for a wasted costs order.

Ms Bennett stated the defendants had been ambushed because they were expecting the claimant to appear so they could cross examine her. The judge was having none of that and explained that even if he adjourned the case now, there was no guarantee the claimant would turn up next time; as long as her representative had right of audience he could conduct the case without her.

The judge explained that without disrespect for both parties the case was wholly disproportionate to the time needed. If he adjourned it, the next hearing was likely to need a day of court time to go through all the legal points raised, not the hour scheduled. he explained that anyone sensible acting for the parking company should have taken a long hard look at the circumstances and waived the charge. The claimant had taken reasonable steps to ensure she did the right thing.

Ms Bennett stated that they disagreed with the Ms X's witness statement, that Regus did not have authority to allow Ms X to use a different space and that in any case the Parking attendent's photographs showed that there was an empty space Ms X could use.

The judge rubbished this, stating it was a movable feast and the space would not have been empty when Ms X tried to park.

Craig pointed out there was no evidence Regis did not have authority, because the defendants had not coughed up the contract.

Ms Bennett said the claimant had accepted the charge by paying it. The judge stated she had paid at the point of a gun and it was entirely reasonable to pay up to limit her losses and then to file a court claim to reclaim them.

DJ Sehdev then reiterated that a great deal of money had been spent on this case, out of all proportion to the costs involved, and that he was sure Mr Fitton had better things to do with his time than to spend another day in court.

Was there any way this could be resolved, he asked?

He gave both parties 5 minutes to discuss the situation and everyone left the room.

After some to-ing and fro-ing both parties agreed to a Tomlin order (no admission of liability by either side).

ParkShield agreed to refund the £61.50 parking charge, the £25 filing fee, the £25 hearing fee and to drop the counterclaim.

In return they asked the judge to adjudicate on the £155 fee for an application to adjourn which Ms X was forced to file because she could not get time off work for an earlier hearing. Craig explained that the defendants had refused to agree to an adjournment, although they had nt good reason, and this changed the cost from £50 to £155. He thought it would be fair for the claimant to pay £50 and the defendants the rest.

In the event DJ Sehlev decided to split the costs 50/50. He apologised that the fee was £155 even though the hearing fee was only £25, but explained it was not in his remit to change this. He explained it was to the benefit of Ms X employers that the case was rescheduled, while also chiding the defendants for not cooperating with rescheduling. He explained both parties should cooperate even if they did not agree on other aspects of the case. As it was six of one and half a dozen of the other, costs would be split. He hoped Ms X's employers would pay her half (Prankster's note - they did).

Prankster's Note

ParkShield will have forked out a great deal of money for no good reason when they could have easily cancelled the ticket at first appeal. Their costs will include:

£2.50 DVLA fee
£21 IPC appeal fee
Gladstone solicitor fee
£250 LPC Law fee (approximate)
£25 counterclaim fee
Time preparing the case, travel and parking for Andrew Fitton, and the loss of his day for useful work.
£25 filing fee
£25 hearing fee
£77.50 as half of application to adjourn
£61.50 parking fee returned.

It is not known whether ParkShield operatives or the landowner get s a bounty for tickets paid, and if so whether this will be reclaimed or whether ParkShield will absorb the cost.

Although no verdict was returned, a large number of other motorists have tickets from Fort Dunlop and so The Prankster will keep an ear to the ground to see if more cases are filed by motorists eager to get their money back.

Meanwhile Parkshield continue with a penal ticket regime to the detriment of relations at the complex. If one rogue car parks badly, cause other cars to also have to move this should not be seen as a cash cow for ParkShield to ticket all the cars. This is not what responsible parking management is about. Instead, there should be a system in place so that all motorists know what procedures to follow should a car be taking their spot. This would ensure that only the rogue car is charged and the other cars can still enjoy the parking they have paid for.


Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster












3 comments:

  1. No honorable mention for Mr M who put the whole thing together and produced an evidence pack so big that even ParkingEye are jealous?!?

    That aside, thanks for your help today and over the last 12 months Mr P. Very much appreciated.

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  2. I think that the motorist would have been better off not paying the invoice in the first place, instead:
    1) sending a letter to Parkshield denying all liability (to act reasonably and so limit costs), and then;
    2) subsequently ignoring everything except actual court papers (which Parkshield, having no case at all, would almost certainly never have filed).

    This would have saved the time and hassle of the court case, as well as half the cost of the adjournment fee, albeit that it was met by Ms. X's employer,

    Clearly, the "I"PC is a kangaroo court, and motorists should be strongly discouraged from lending it any undeserved legitimacy by appealing to it.

    That said, well done to all those involved with the claim, including the Prankster and Mr. M(cAlear?).

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  3. Round of applause for DJ Sehdev and common bleedin' sense.

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