16/12/2016 Peterborough County Court, Deputy District Judge Gill presiding.
In August 2014 Mr N M's vehicle overstayed by a few minutes in Central Car Park, Peter Street, Carlisle, a pay & display car park owned/run by Northwest Parking Enforcement Ltd. The vehicle was given a PCN detailing a 'charge' of £100 reduced to £60 if paid within 28 days.
NPE sent a notice to keeper and few threatening letters from themselves and a debt collection agency.
Fast forward to April 2016 when MIL Collections become involved having allegedly purchased the 'debt' from Northwest Parking Enforcement Ltd.
Guest report by Mr N M
On 7th July 2016 MIL Collections issued a claim form from the bulk claims centre Northampton in the amount of £150 comprising 'Debt' amount £100 with £50 'Admin' costs. The claim form was 'signed' by Alan Davis, Managing Directory. I acknowledged the claim and stated my intention to defend.
On 21st July I sent MIL a CPR Part 18 request for further information, specifically asking for confirmation that they held the original deed of assignment and when/where it could be inspected.
No response to this request was received despite 2 written reminders and several emails.
An initial defence was lodged, the main points being no valid assignment of debt (no response to CPR request received) and any such assignment being Champertous.
MIL requested transfer of the case to Truro however it was assigned to Peterborough County Courts, my nearest, and also allocated to the Small Claims track for a hearing date of Friday 16th December.
MIL went through their standard MO, namely a Part 36 offer of £100 followed by an open offer of settlement of £50. Both were ignored. I responded to the Part 36 offer pointing out that Part 36 does not apply of course to the Small Claims track.
On 27th November, I received MILs Court Bundle, containing as follows (amongst other things)
Witness statement by Christopher Barrett, head of Legal for MIL Collections
Deed of Assignment between Northwest Parking Enforcement Ltd & MIL Collections
Notice of Assignment sent to me
Photocopies of my car on day of parking, signage, terms and conditions, close up of expired ticket in my car
Contemporaneous History notes of timeline of events
My original CPR Part 18 request letter
Bear in mind at this time, I had already filed my witness statement and defence. My defence was only slightly amended from the original holding defence – I just added the extra times I had written and emailed MIL collections regarding the CPR Part 18 request.
There were several glaring issues with MILs Court Bundle as follows:
The Deed Of Assignment was not dated or witnessed. It did not make any reference to me in person or any reference to the original PCN, nor the 'debt' amount assigned.
The photocopies were of very poor quality and were ineligible - in particular the expired ticket.
The Terms and Conditions photocopy did not show the site location.
On the court date I was approached by a representative MIL collections had sent and asked if I wanted to discuss the case i.e. make a settlement offer. I offered £25 which she declined. Neither Alan Davis nor Christopher Barrett showed up, not surprisingly.
The Judge began proceedings – she stated she had some questions for both MIL and myself but asked MIL to state their claim. In essence, the representative tried to claim there was a case to answer based on a contract having been formed and broken and there being a valid assignment of debt. When I was asked to speak I emphasised MILs lack of compliance with my CPR request and my defence being based on no valid assignment of debt and therefore the claim being champertous. I also pointed out the issues with the Court bundle.
The Judge had also picked up on the deed of assignment namely that it was not witnessed, nor dated. She pointed out that my CPR Part 18 request was not applicable to small claims however she stated that nevertheless, MIL had a duty to abide by CPR and respond to my perfectly reasonable requests for the documentation stated in their claim in order that I may defend. She said it was particularly galling that the Court Bundle contained a timeline where my requests and reminders for information had been recorded as well as the original request itself.
She also picked up on the poor quality of the photocopies. The representative said she agreed and offered to show her better quality ones that Christopher Barrett had texted her that morning but the Judge was having none of it. She also asked for a breakdown of MILs £50 admin charges which the representative was unable to answer.
She also questioned the representative on the location and size of the (T&Cs) signage which was not clear from the Bundle. The representative was unable to answer.
In summary she threw out the case based on the deed of assignment not being valid. She said there was no need to consider the Champertous argument given this. She also slated MIL for their behaviour regarding CPR and their holes in the Court Bundle.
I asked for my costs to be considered namely loss of earnings, travel and admin expenses. She denied the admin but allowed £95 loss of earnings and £10 petrol i.e. £105 in total.
MIL Collections get the parking company to sign an undated 'Deed of Assignment' which does not have any references to parking charges, amounts and keeper names. They then at a series of later dates actually purchase the right to take legal action for disputed charges. During court claims they trot out the undated 'Deed of Assignment' and pretend it was signed at the same time as they purchased the right to sue.
DDJ Gill rumbled the scam and threw out the claim.
The Parking Prankster