Briefly put, my niece allegedly parked without authorization on a staff car park at the rear of Specsavers in Harborne, Birmingham in December 2014. She had been given a permit by her employer to park there but on that particular day, her parking permit may have fallen from her dashboard. A parking ticket was placed on her vehicle for 'unauthorized parking' by the operator of the car park, Premier Parking Logistics.
The limited signage at the car park warned motorists that the car park was for 'permit holders only' and 'unauthorized or incorrectly parked vehicles would be subject to a penalty notice'. Rather than ignoring the ticket, (Premier Parking Logistics is not an accredited trade association), my niece unwisely appealed the ticket (thus providing her details) and the appeal was summarily dismissed. On my advice, she later ignored all other requests for payment from this company.
My niece subsequently received the usual 'letter before action' and 'notice of assignment' of the 'debt' from MIL Collections. She ignored this and was duly served with a County Court claim in February 2016 for almost £200 (original ticket penalty+court costs+administration fee).
Fortunately, I am legally trained (but no longer live in the UK) and drafted her defence: vehicle was authorized; no conditions breached; debt denied; POFA not complied with; lack of authority from land owner; no valid assignment of debt; claim void because of champerty and maintenance etc., etc. I also drafted a Part 18 request for information in relation to the authority from the land owner and the assignment of the debt. Of course, MIL did not respond.
In April 2016, my niece received a court date and court directions to exchange evidence and witness statements with MIL. The judge suggested that the case was suitable for court-led mediation; MIL wished to engage in the process but I advised my niece to decline the offer - there is little point in attempted to negotiate a debt that does not exist.
So, my niece sent the required bundle of evidence to MIL and the court and, surprise, nothing was received from MIL.
The court hearing was set for this morning (Friday 13 May 2016) and my niece and her dad (my brother) attended. On this occasion, MIL had engaged a local solicitor and he was present at the courthouse. Just before the case was to be called in, the solicitor provided my niece with the 'evidence bundle' (I use this term very loosely).
The evidence bundle contained a photograph of a sign which clearly did not belong to the car park on which my niece had parked; moreover, the sign contained irrelevant conditions in any event. MIL had kindly included a 'deed of assignment' which was undated and was signed by someone other than the proprietor of Premier Parking Logistics (one Walton Wilkins)! There was some vague reference to landowner authority in the statements but no evidence to show that Premier Parking Logistics had any legal standing to manage car parking and/or resort to litigation on behalf of the landowner.
My niece and brother went into court and it would appear that the judge was less than impressed. I had advised my brother to ask the judge to dismiss the case because of non-compliance with the prior directions of the court and that my niece was effectively being 'ambushed' with late service of the evidence bundle from MIL.
My brother tells me that the judge did not wish to hear any representations and merely asked the solicitor a couple of questions and informed him that the case was fatally flawed since there was no evidence of any authority from the landowner. He also criticized MIL for not replying to the Part 18 request. So, case dismissed and an award of costs for £94, payable within 14 days. The judge also told the solicitor to ensure that MIL pay the costs as ordered (we shall see).
It is clear that no responsible parking company would pursue a parking charge when the motorist possesses a valid permit to park. This charge should have been cancelled at the appeal stage. Responsible parking management is about deterring unwanted motorists, not penalising your own client's staff.
As to whether MIL Collections will pay the £94, The Prankster doubts it. MIL Collections have so far not been known pay any costs ordered by the court.
The Prankster therefore invites MIL victims to get in touch, together with the date of their court hearing and the amount still owed. It is possible that some concerted action can then be taken against them.
The Parking Prankster