A1JD0339 ParkingEye v Mr M. Chippenham Court, 16/12/2014 in front of DJ Asplin. Not being the driver is no defence. £100 awarded for claimant, plus £90 costs.
The Prankster rocked up in Chippenham Court to observe a ParkingEye case. He was primarily there to see if ParkingEye informed the judge that the case law they most rely on, ParkingEye v Beavis case was being appealed. As it turned out, that was not relevant to the case in hand.
ParkingEye were represented by Stacy Payne from LPC Law while the defendant represented himself. DJ Asplin conducted the hearing, and began by apologising for the formal setting. He explained he would summarise the case. The case concerned a Holiday Inn car park in Bath. The defendant's vehicle was parked there for 3 hours without being a guest of the hotel. The published charge for parking there for that length of time was £100. There are other charges for parking if you are a guest.
Prankster note. Without seeing the signage, The Prankster assumes the learned judge was wrong on this point. In all other ParkingEye car parks The Prankster has seen, the charge is for breach of contract; not a contractual charge as the judge described.
The judge made a wry comment as to the size of ParkingEye's bundle he had been forced to wade through beforehand, but commented that it contained authority from the hotel for ParkingEye to act, photographs of the number plate and signage, and that it went on at considerable length regarding the legalities of the case.
The defendant's case, on the other hand, consisted of the single point he was not the driver. The car was owned by his company and was a pool car which could have been driven by any of 5 other people, none of whom had admitted to being the driver.
The judge explained kindly that although the defendant might think that a clever defence, parliament had fixed that loophole 2 years ago, and that was no longer a valid defence.
He explained ParkingEye had a right to levy charges, that the driver was not staying in the hotel, and that the driver was responsible for the charge. As no-one had come forward admitting to be the driver, the responsibility therefore fell on the keeper of the vehicle. The case was over in 5 minutes without the claimant needing to speak, and with only a few sentences from the defendant.
DJ Asplin awarded the parking charge of £100, £15 court filing fee and £25 hearing fee. He explained he was not convinced about the solicitor filing fee of £50 but after some debate between himself and Ms Payne, in which the motorist did not join in, decided to award it.
Prankster note. There are several reasons why this fee of £50 is not valid. HHJ Moloney in ParkingEye v Beavis did not award this fee.
Ms Payne, looking somewhat embarrassed, explained she had also been requested by ParkingEye to ask for her costs. The judge asked where she came from, which turned out to be Great Malvern. The judge queried that although Chippenham's solicitors were in decline, surely ParkingEye could have found someone local. Ms Payne explained she was not asking for travel costs but her fee of £175 plus VAT. The judge ruled these were not allowable costs in a small claims court unless the defendant had behaved unreasonably, which he had not.
The final total came to £190 which the defendant paid immediately.
Prankster note. The defendant was lucky. Not being the driver has no hope of being a valid defence. Other judges may have ruled he behaved unreasonably in defending the claim, and so awarded higher costs.
So as it turned out, Beavis was not mentioned at all, and all Ms Payne had to do was quibble about costs. The Prankster recommends that motorists research the legal aspects of the case more fully before preparing a defence, and that if they don't want to do this, the safest option might be to pay up rather than risk an extra £200-£300 of costs.
Of course, the best option is to fully engage with the appeals process and get the charge cancelled at POPLA. So far, all ParkingEye's charges have been found to be penalties (and therefore invalid) by POPLA.
The Parking Prankster