/ Motoring

Barry Beavis: why I fought my parking penalty in court

Parking fine

When Barry Beavis was served with a £85 Parking Charge Notice by a private parking company, he wasn’t willing to just accept it and pay up. Here’s Barry himself on why he decided to fight the charge in court.

My name is Barry Beavis and I am involved in a legal battle that could save all motorists millions of pounds.

Parking tickets are a right royal pain the whotsit. We’ve all had a parking ticket and we’ve grudgingly paid what’s due. But are the charges actually fair?

There are two types of charge and two types of parking “ticket”. The first one is a parking ticket issued by your local authority, normally in the guise of a traffic warden or police officer. If you get one of these then you have usually done something wrong, as these are issued pursuant to the Road Traffic Act.

The second type of charge is for parking on private land. Something like a retail centre, a supermarket, an out of town shopping centre and cinema or even a hospital car park.

Fighting my parking penalty

I received one of these Notices from ParkingEye. I visited Riverside Retail Park in Chelmsford in April 2013. It offers motorists two hours free parking, but I had stayed for nearly three hours. I received a PCN (Parking Charge Notice) for £85 which I argued in a test case in Cambridge County Court was an unenforceable penalty, was not a genuine reflection of the parking company’s loss from motorists overstaying, and should not be allowed.

I had to research private parking companies to put together my defence in Cambridge. What I found made me so incredibly angry. I read experiences of people who had felt intimidated by letters asking them to pay the ‘fines’. This egged me on even more to fight my case on behalf of everyone who has been affected.

Yet, I lost. The judge ruled that there was a ‘commercial justification’ for the charges. New law was being written. Bad law, I think.

Taking it to the Supreme Court

I was amazed that the judge ruled against me. Contract law is simple in my opinion: if it’s a penalty then it is unenforceable. In my view, these parking companies had been getting away with it for far too long, yet here was a judge ruling in their favour. I was firstly shocked and then I became incensed; literally hopping mad.

I was given permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal and in February 2015 the case was heard. Last week the judgment was handed down.

Lord Justice Moore-Bick, Lord Justice Patten and Sir Timothy Lloyd agreed that the £85 charge is intended to deter motorists from overstaying in the car park. Yet, they also held – in an unprecedented ruling – that the charge is still enforceable as it is not ‘extravagant or unconscionable’. Simply put – £85 is not too much.

I have been given leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. I think I should. Do you?

This is a guest post by Barry Beavis, who took ParkingEye to court to contest his parking ticket. All opinions expressed here are Barry’s own, not necessarily those of Which?. Which? intervened in the Court of Appeal proceedings to protect the wider consumer interest, to safeguard existing consumer rights and to ensure the law is fair for consumers across all markets.

21 July 2015 update – off to the Supreme Court

This case is now being heard in the Supreme Court. The hearing is due to end later this week, with a ruling not expected until later this year.

4 Nov 2015 update – Supreme Court Ruling

The Supreme Court today gave its judgement on Barry Beavis’ case. Disappointingly, he lost. Parking fines issued by private companies have been ruled as fair and proportionate by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court agreed with Parking Eye that the £85 charge Barry received for overstaying by 56 minutes was justified as it discouraged people from overstaying at a site close to a railway station and law courts.

We intervened in the case to ensure important consumer rights that protect people from excessive fines in all sectors were not watered down. However, the ruling could now lead to people being more severely fined for things like missing appointments or being late for a nursery pick-up.

Our executive director Richard Lloyd said:

​​’This is a thoroughly disappointing judgment based on a narrow​ ​interpretation of the law. It will cause chaos if cowboy parking firms​ ​choose to take advantage of the ruling by hitting drivers with even​ ​more excessive charges. Our advice to consumers is to be on your guard​ ​and always appeal if you think a parking fine is unfair.’

We’re now planning to take the issue up with government ministers since a reversal of the judgment will require changes to the law.

Comments
Guest
Nelo says:
23 March 2018

Like the rest of you, I’ve also received a parking notice. I went back to check where I parked, I could see signaling at the entrance of the parking lot, but nothing immediately near where I parked my car (a row of roughly 20 cars). There was one sign in the vicinity of where I parked, but pointing to the other direction (back of the sign towards me, where it was blank) and probably the reason I didn’t see it. I am facing 100 pounds charge. I am thinking of appealing on the grounds of either insufficient signaling or excessive charge (considering that I was 40 minutes after the initial two hours that are free). Anyone has any recommendations?

Separate question: If I pay the charge now, can I still make a formal appeal to the “independent” parking service board or would that invalidate any future appeal?

Guest
Castle says:
30 March 2018

If you pay the charge you can’t appeal.

Guest
Ms Shepherd says:
24 March 2018

Is there a timeframe in which the private company can issue a parking charge notice from date of parking?

Guest
Castle says:
30 March 2018

Within 14 Days if there was NO ticket on your car; between 29 and 56 days if there was a ticket on your car.

Guest
Kathy says:
30 March 2018

Hi I have received 14 parking tickets – I had change my car but forgotten to change the registration in the parking app so there records show I have paid for my old car and not my new on . I did appeal to say it was just an honest mistake and I can only drive one car at a time . They refused my appeal and are still sending me letters from debt collectors. Do you think I should ask them just to take me to court ?

Guest

Silly forgetful you one that you will remember next time you change your car

Guest
chirag patel says:
4 April 2018

hi got parking ticket in post with my car enter in car park and after 2 hours coming out of of the car park they send me photo but it is not clear indicate when i am going out i cant see my car. can i appeal for that for in suffiecient evidence.

Guest
ellie192 says:
5 April 2018

I parked in a McDonald’s car park which is run by a MET parking firm. It states 90 minutes maximum stay. I work with children with disbilities and challenging behaviour. I appealed via POPPLA with a header letter from my job stating we were delayed due to incident. They rejected my appeal. The car is a council car and had a clear disabled badge with time arrived on it. My query is what is my next option and also if I have a disabled badge does that not make the ticket exempt as you can stay longer with a disabled badge – please advise.

Guest

ellie, a disabled badge does not automatically entitle you to free parking; local regulations need to be observed, whether in council or private car parks.

However, I think you should press your appeal on the grounds you state.

Guest
Castle says:
5 April 2018

As this is a private car park, the rules with regards to Blue Badges don’t apply. However, under the Equality Act 2010 the car park operator, Met, must make reasonable adjustments, which would include allowing extra time. (Unfortunately POPLA do not recognise the Equality Act).

The next option is to contact McDonalds and ask if they would cancel in these circumstances. You can also post on the Moneysavingexpert site where you’ll hopefully receive some further advice. (Please don’t use your real name if you do).

Guest

Your dispute was typed into a computer , the computer rejected you claim Approach the person at the top a person should deal with it differently not a stock answer from a computer which has NO common sense

Guest
Joe Bloggs says:
7 April 2018

According to our bill of rights you can’t be fined before trial.How is a parking ticket not a fine ?

Guest

You can be fined before trial (if you don’t want a trial). Fixed penalties – speeding is an example. A parking ticket is a penalty that you can ignore if you are prepared to fight it in the civil court.

Guest
vincent edwards says:
7 April 2018

Further to Malcom R’s comments. The “fine” in the case of supermarket car parks etc is really just a parking charge. In other words, it costs £85/£100 etc to park there unless you comply with certain conditions (e.g. not staying more than 2 hours). This would be much clearer if there were large notices at the entrance and around the car park stating that parking costs £100 unless you (e.g. do not exceed 2 hours, park only in marked bays etc……..

However this would lead to more people complying with the conditions, and the whole idea is to make money out of people who, for one reason or another, do not. It is much easier than clamping and immensely more profitable. Unfortunately the Cameron government passed legislation in 2012 to make this legitimate, and it was further supported by some rather ill-informed judges in the Beavis case.

In the case of speeding and on-street parking fines – these are fixed penalties offered as an alternative to going to court. They were introduced to stop the courts getting clogged up with minor motoring cases. You can still go to court, but it will cost you a lot more if you lose. Some motorists regard the purpose of these fixed penalties as revenue raising, but I think most would agree that they at least MIGHT have a role in improving road safety, and I think public opinion in general would regard them, sadly, as necessary.

Guest

Imposing a penalty for overstaying, or not paying for, your parking is reasonable in my view. What is not reasonable is the size of the penalty. I would like Which? to campaign to get this reduced to a reasonable level. Some agree that £20 is fair (except in exceptionally expensive car parks).

Guest

Traffic wardens are employed by many councils just to find those who overstay their allotted time because it fills the councils coffers with money and do nothing at all or very little about those who are badly or illegally parked If illegally or badly parked vehicles were targeted too the councils would make a lot more Short sighted or just what or do they too not know the rules on parking they should be enforcing