Sunday, March 23, 2008

Death knell sounds for Private Land Parking Firms with landmark ruling

Now political pressure must be applied to the DVLA to stop ALL private firms accessing the DVLA data base.

Judge quashes £300 parking fine...because it set out to ‘frighten and intimidate’ driver

Mail on Sunday
22nd March 2008

Car park operators could be forced to stop threatening motorists with huge penalty charges after a landmark court ruling.

In a decision that will be welcomed by many aggrieved drivers, a judge has ruled that the demands for hundreds of pounds in penalties which a parking company sent to one woman driver were illegal because they were too high.

The court was told they were intended to "frighten or intimidate" her rather than compensate the firm for any lost income.

The case is expected to have far-reaching implications for private parking firms.
Labour MP Alan Meale, who has campaigned on behalf of motorists, said: "This ruling gives hope that people who have had money taken from them wrongly by parking companies may be able to recover it."

And the woman's solicitor, Martin Lee, said: "In future, companies that charge these sorts of sums will have them struck out unless they can prove that they are a proper account of any financial loss.

"The courts have shown that unfairly high bank charges are a penalty charge and therefore unjustifiable. The same principle applies here."

In a ground-breaking decision, the judge quashed a series of £100 demands sent to Victoria Hetherington-Jakeman, who had allegedly left her car at a shopping centre for more than the permitted two hours.

She was sued by Excel Parking Services, which is run by a man once acquitted of demanding money with menaces from the owners of clamped cars and who is allowed electronic access to the Government's database of 38million motorists – despite being temporarily barred last year following scores of complaints about its behaviour.

Ms Hetherington-Jakeman, 60, was sued for failing to pay three £60 parking tickets which she did not even know she had been given.
Her visits to the Portland Retail Park near her home in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, took place between September and November 2006.

But no tickets were left on the windscreen of her Mercedes and she heard nothing from Excel until the following January when she was sent a bill for £300, followed by letters from bailiffs threatening to confiscate her property unless she paid up.

Excel had used a fixed camera to record her numberplate as she entered and left the site. It then passed the details to the DVLA, which sent back an email with her name and address.
Mr Lee told Mansfield County Court that the levy of £100 per offence was an "unlawful penalty clause" intended to "frighten or intimidate" and therefore unenforceable.
This argument was accepted by District Judge Wall, who ruled that the fines did not have to be paid.

Last night, Ms Hetherington-Jakeman, who is head of quality control at a printing firm, said she was relieved her 14-month battle was over.

"Excel's behaviour has been absolutely disgraceful throughout. When I tried to contact them – and the only way to do that was on a 50p-a-minute premium-rate phone line – I got no response. They said they couldn't discuss the matter.
"They couldn't even get the most basic details right. First, they said my car was black, then silver. It's white.

"They claimed the initial £60 parking tickets hadn't arrived because of a hold-up at the Royal Mail, though the Post Office said that wasn't true.
"It's been very stressful but at least we have got the judgment we wanted."

Excel, which manages a number of hospital, retail and station car parks, is run from an office in Sheffield by Simon Renshaw-Smith, 41, who is also director of a wheel-clamping firm called Captain Clampit Ltd.

In 1993 he was accused at Sheffield magistrates' court of demanding £145 with menaces from two drivers whose cars he had immobilised.

Asked last night about the case, Mr Renshaw-Smith said: "The accusations against me were dropped. I was acquitted."

Last July, Excel was finally removed from the "approved" list of organisations allowed electronic access to the DVLA's database.

It followed complaints from around the country and the formation of a 100-strong action group in Mansfield made up entirely of motorists who claimed they had been unfairly treated by Excel.

The move meant that Excel was forced to apply for personal data by post on a case-by-case basis.

Yet the ban was lifted only three months later. A DVLA spokesman said inspectors visited the firm and decided it was using the data "appropriately".

MP Mr Meale said he would demand an explanation of the decision from Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly.
Martin Bingley, a spokesman for the Mansfield action group, said: "Excel has an appalling reputation for failing to respond to appeals and for insisting they are right and the customer wrong."
Excel, which has now lost its contract to run the Portland car park, said it was "disappointed" by the court ruling in Ms Hetherington-Jakeman's favour and was considering an appeal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I had forgotten all about your group until your email arrived, and was narrowly saved from my spam folder.

Unless the British people have lost all self-respect, there will come a day when there is a mass revolt against these jumped-up power-drunk organisations which are milking the decent citizen and turning them into criminals. I would happily take part in a mass 'park-in' on one of these private car parks, e.g. Clitheroe, which applies intimidating levels of fine and a stonewall attitude to all appeals to reason. It would give the matter major publicity, like the petrol blockades did, and perhaps with the right lawyer, we could win a human rights case in the courts.

Whalley, Lancashire

Blog Archive

only search Neil Herron Blog