The Prankster helped a defendant prepare a suitable witness statement and defence regarding a DEAL case. Here is the defendant's report, along with surprising revelations about ParkingEye v Beavis from the judge.
I arrived at York County Court quite nervous at around 11 for my 11.30 hearing. I was hoping this would be another “no-show” by DEAL but my hopes were dashed at 11.20 when a smartly dressed lady came into the waiting room, walked over to where I was sitting with my wife and asked if I was the defendant. I must admit my heart sank a little when she introduced herself as the solicitor who would be appearing for DEAL – I’d prepared well and got my arguments ready, but I still wasn’t looking forward to crossing swords with a trained solicitor in front of a judge.
The solicitor then asked me if I’d done this before. When I said I hadn’t she ran through how the process in the courtroom worked. She asked me to confirm that my argument was that the “fine” was unenforceable, and I said that was one of my arguments, but I had several others. She looked a bit less confident when I said this, and asked if I knew there was a case being reviewed at the Supreme Court on the “unenforceability” argument, and her face dropped a bit further when I said I did, assuming she meant ParkingEye v Beavis. I got the definite impression (as did my wife who was sitting next to me) that she was fishing to see how much I’d looked into it and prepared to defend the claim.
The solicitor then told me she hadn’t got my witness statement, and had I prepared one. I replied that I had (based on the template you kindly supplied me at short notice – thanks again) and that I’d sent it to York County Court and DEAL on the same day, so they must have received it. She replied that they hadn’t supplied it to her, and asked me what my other arguments in court were going to be. I replied that that was surely something that we should go over in court, not in the waiting room, and she confirmed that I wasn’t obliged to tell her what my arguments would be. I said ok then, I won’t. She looked at her notes and then stated that what she’d decided to propose was a “discontinuance of the claim”. At this point I thought “Oh here we go again, she’s going to say that if I’ll pay £215 here and now we don’t have to go into the courtroom”, but no, it became apparent that she was offering to drop the claim completely as long as I wouldn’t push for costs. I was very happy with this outcome to be honest, although I tried not to show my delight. I agreed that this would be fine. She said we’d only be in the courtroom for a couple of minutes while she explained to the judge what we’d agreed.
A couple of minutes later we were called in and after we’d sat down the judge began a preamble, confirming the details of the claim as he understood them. When he finished speaking the solicitor for DEAL said that she’d had a conversation with me and we’d agreed that DEAL would discontinue the claim and I wouldn’t claim costs. She rationalised this on the basis of she didn’t want the case to be stayed until after Beavis and for us all to have to reconvene at a later date. She then stated that as DEAL hadn’t applied in advance for a discontinuance she was actually requesting that the judge dismiss the claim at this point. He looked a bit surprised and went over what he understood she wanted him to do, outlining the alternative that we could have the hearing and stay judgement until after Beavis if necessary. I was getting uneasy now as it sounded like he was trying to change her mind, but as she and I had agreed not to continue I didn’t know if he could actually do this or not. Anyway, he explained to me what the discontinuance meant, and confirmed that he would dismiss the claim as requested by DEAL’s solicitor.
As we got up to leave the judge said he would like to go through the details of the DEAL claim with their solicitor, as he said had there been a hearing there were some things he would have seriously struggled with. He outlined various points, including one I’d picked up when I was preparing to defend the claim, which was that Ashley Cohen’s first paragraph in his witness statement is that he’s authorised to speak for CEL. As the judge said, CEL were not a party to this case, so this, and presumably the rest of what Mr Cohen had said in his statement, was therefore irrelevant. Moreover he didn’t think it was a witness statement, all that was in it was information he must have been supplied with by DEAL (not sure if this was right or not). He then questioned the relevance of an assignor/assignee agreement from 1st July 2014 which they had included in their bundle of documents. This had no relevance to my specific case, as it had been assigned before this agreement. Also DEAL had never provided any proof of signage (although I noticed that the solicitor had brought along a photocopy of a sketched plan of the car park with signage marked on it). He commented that he thought in the circumstances that the judgement we’d agreed on (ie dismissal) would have been the appropriate one.
One word of caution he did give me though, was that, as he put it, “the word on the street” is that the Supreme Court will not change the decisions made in the Beavis case by the lower courts. He also said his understanding is that the judgement will be given on 21st October. His final words to me, in the context of the Beavis case, were that he thought I was quitting while I was ahead, which he thought quite sensible.
Overall not a pleasant experience (though the relief and sense of achievement when I realised DEAL weren’t continuing with their claim were fabulous feelings), over three years of harassment, nasty letters and mounting amounts supposedly owed with each letter. At times I wondered if it wouldn’t have been better to pay up early on, but, with support and advice from websites like yours and others, I never considered caving in and paying, and I’m really glad I didn’t. Given that the solicitor did turn up, and had brought evidence along with her (such as the signage plan of the car park), I can only assume that they were planning to continue, or hoping I didn’t turn up. Once I had, and they realised I had a decent defence (or didn’t know the strength of it given that they hadn’t supplied the solicitor with my witness statement) that would at least make them doubt the certainty of their success in a hearing they obviously calculated that the odds weren’t necessarily in their favour. I’m sure they do the same thing all over the country. I actually felt a bit of sympathy for the solicitor (although obviously not too much as I’m sure she was well paid for her day in York!) as I got the impression that she hadn’t had any involvement with the claim at all up to the hearing, but she had to sit and take the flak from the judge about the quality of their case. She told me afterwards she’d come from Leeds, so I guess DEAL must retain solicitors dotted around the country and just send along the one nearest to the court where the hearing is being held. Anyway, she was quite friendly and professional before, during and after the short time we spent in court. The judge too seemed friendly and personable, not really what I was expecting.
Anyway, thanks again for the documentation you sent me, although it was never heard in court I think the very fact that the solicitor realised I had submitted a witness statement probably swung her decision on their best course of action, and even if it didn’t, it did mean that I went in there far more confident with my preparation than I would have been without one.
Best wishes, keep up the good work and I hope things don’t change for the worse after the Beavis judgement.
The 'word on the street' may or may not be correct, and in any case the devil will be in the details - how many of the seven judges ruled for each party, and what the exact points of law were.
A result for ParkingEye will legitimise the practices which lead to the kind of fraudulent behaviour shown recently by the likes of UK Parking Control. It will drive the aggressive enforcement practices championed by the likes of ParkingEye, such as entrapment zones, designed to fail guess-on-exit systems, providing false information to the court and driving away customers to the detriment of retailers. They will reinforce dodgy business relationships such as between Gladstone Solicitors and the Independent Parking Committee and lead to the creation of ADR Entities such as the IAS which do not obey the legislative requirements and are therefore no more than kangaroo courts.
The Prankster will therefore wait and see what the actual verdict is.
The Parking Prankster