Following the debacle of Link Parking Ltd -v- Cowles - Chippenham County Court 24-11- 2015 ref B5GF95H3 we understand that Link Parking - its sole director and shareholder Martin Toby Gardner and his/its/their solicitors - Gladstones Solicitors of Knutsford, Cheshire were once again in action in Barnsley County Court on 18th March 2016.
The Action concerned Link’s contract to manage parking at a block of flats in Yeovil, Somerset. The contract with the management company of the flats was signed on 17th September 2014 - there was no indication of when the contract should start – Link issued a PCN to the Defendant timed at 08.49am 17/09/2014 photographic evidence allegedly supporting the PCN timestamped 08.50.20 and 08.50.38. Their Claim was for damages for “not clearly displaying a valid permit” – the Claim was poorly pleaded at first instance and then expanded in the Claimant’s evidence disclosed 14 days before the final hearing.
Companies’ House confirms that Martin Toby Gardner is the sole director and sole shareholder of Link Parking Limited – he was effectively the Claimant in these proceedings. Gladstones Solicitors acted on his/the company’s behalf throughout - possibly as a result of Link’s membership of Independent Parking Committee Ltd - an “Independent Trade Organisation” of which the only two directors and shareholders shown at Companies’ House are also the only two Directors of Gladstones Solicitors Ltd.
Neither Mr Gardner nor his solicitors attended the hearing on 18th March. We understand that the evidence disclosed by the Defendant in this matter raised potentially embarrassing questions for Mr Gardner. Neither the Court nor the Defendant was aware that Mr Gardner would not be appearing. Mr Gardner’s home and place of business was some distance from the court - his solicitors were approximately an hour away. As the District Judge commented, there would have been provisions for the award of loss of earnings and travel expenses if Mr Gardner had been successful.
It was suggested that some notice had been given to the Defendant when Mr Gardner’s Statement had been served, 14 days before the hearing, that he may not be attending – no evidence of this was provided – we have to doubt there was any.
Mr Gardner and his solicitors chose not to attend Court - preferring instead to make what in rugby circles would be described as a “hospital pass” of this matter - described later by the District Judge as “fundamentally flawed” - to an independent advocate who conducted the matter entirely professionally and courteously - definitely deserving better!
Since Mr Gardner chose not to attend Court to prove his Evidence, ie the Witness Statement he had signed and filed, this would be regarded as “hearsay evidence “ and the Judge would be allowed to place such weight upon it as he wished. If as suggested, Mr Gardner had considered the financial and we suggest the personal embarrassment factors in this matter, his Witness Statement - presumably prepared on his behalf - would have dealt with the matters commented upon by the District Judge which resulted in the dismissal of his case!
The District Judge heard representations from Link’s Advocate and evidence from the Defendant and did not wish to hear any representation on behalf of the Defendant.
Dismissing the Claim – the District Judge commented;-
This case was fundamentally flawed. There was a burden upon the Claimant/Link Parking to prove on the balance of probabilities that the Defendant was in breach of a contract by not displaying a valid Permit and should therefore pay damages resulting from that breach.
For there to have been a contract there would have to be an adequate display of signage of which the Defendant would have been aware;- Mr Gardner has not attended – he has produced;
Plan; this is a Google Earth copy plan. It does not identify the site or who produced it or when. There are black lines drawn upon it and dots which are suggested show the signage at the site. There is writing on the Plan - I do not know if this is Mr Gardner’s or someone else’s - he does not say in his Statement – there is a ref to Type 1 and 2 signs fixed alongside each other.
There is further ref to Site No 57 - I note that the PCN in this matter shows Site code 67 and Operator 000004 - these are also unidentified. Mr Gardner shows an “image” - not a photograph - of a sign he say is shown on the site. This is a multipurpose sign - shows no site/location reference.
Only one “image” is exhibited – it is unclear which type is displayed in the unidentified photographs produced by Mr Gardner. There could and should have been clear photos of the signs which appeared on the site.
Photos; these and the photographer are not identified - they show a car parked in a bay datelined 17/09/2014 timelined approx. 08.50. Were the signs referred to type 1 or 2 or neither ?- it is not clear – there is no evidence. It is also suggested that these photos show the Defendant’s breach by not displaying a Permit. They do not. A photograph of the car’s windscreen for example is not produced - there is no evidence.
Contract; this is dated 17th September 2014 - the same date as the photographs. It is not clear and there is no evidence when the contract started and there is no evidence as to who put up the signage and whether this was before or after the commencement of the contract or before or after the Defendant parked. Clearly if the signs were put up after she parked there can be no contract with her– there is no evidence. The Contract also refers at Sch 2 to “Number” of signs which is blank which further suggests that no signage was available to the Defendant.
Amount; the claim is for £150 – the sign “image” refers to a fee of £100 - £60 if paid within 14 day s. It further refers “Enforcement action may incur additional costs that will be added to the parking charge” - presumably this means that if taken to Court further charges may be incurred - this cannot be proved - there is no evidence.
Therefore on the balance of probabilities I shall dismiss this claim;
1) Claim dismissed
2) Claimant to pay Defendant witness expenses of £88.05 by 8th April 2016
Link Parking has been a member of Independent Parking Committee Ltd since April 2014 – they have been subject to that “Independent Trade Organisation’s” Audit provisions. It was put on notice that details of that Audit would be requested on this hearing.
Clearly there are fundamental difficulties with this Company and its observation of the Code of Practice prescribed by “IPC” – which provides in its preamble - “The Independent Parking Committee (IPC) is an independent body that encourages transparency and fairness within the
parking sector throughout England Wales and Scotland to the benefit of motorists and parking operators”.
The Parking Control Industry has attracted much negative comment and despite the suggestion that Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 would remove rogue and “cowboy” elements - it would appear that the existing controls are ineffective.
By the way the costs were paid without difficulty or further comment.
The guest blog above was provided to The Prankster. The following comments are The Prankster's alone.
It beggars belief that parking companies continue to use such an incompetent firm of solicitors as Gladstones. Time and time again The Prankster has blogged of claims where the witness statement prepared by Gladstones is full of holes and/or the judge finds there is no claim to answer.
A solicitor has a duty of care to their client to advise them whether they have a realistic chance of success, and also to inform them of the likely costs. It is clear that the only winner in these cases is Gladstones. Even if Link had won this claim they would only be getting £100, while they would have to pay the solicitor who represented them £150 to £300, Gladstones £50 to file the claim, and Gladstones an estimated £100 to prepare a witness statement. So Gladstones make £150 while the parking company lose up to £350! Perhaps someone should direct Mr Gardner to a maths course.
Even worse, the directors of Gladstones are also the directors of the IPC (Intergalactic Pudding Club**), a trade association for parking companies. If Will Hurley and John Davies truly believe that Link had a valid claim in this case, then the whole foundation of the IPC is built on a lie - a trade association run by people with poor understanding of the law regarding parking and therefore no credibility.
And of course if Will Hurley and John Davies knew that Link had no reasonable prospect of success then in The Prankster's opinion they are no better than scammers.
So, are Will Hurley and John Davies fools or knaves? Either way leaves the parking industry in a difficult place.
Incidentally, the IPC code of practice has this to say regarding enforcement on new sites.
Where there is any change in the terms and conditions materially affecting the motorist you may place additional (temporary) signage at the entrance making it clear that new terms and conditions/charges apply, such that regular visitors who may be familiar with the old terms do not inadvertently incur parking charges. This signage should be in addition to the signage ordinarily requiredThe Prankster has never known any IPC member obey this directive, including of course Link Parking in this particular instance. If the IPC wish to retain any credibility they need to start enforcing their own code of practice - if not, this suggests that Will Hurley and John Davies are merely sophisticated scammers, fooling the DVLA into giving the IPC ATA status by pretending to have a reasonable code of practice while in fact not bothering to enforce it.
The Parking Prankster
** or some such - The Prankster loses track