/ 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
KIM HADLEIGH says:
17 April 2020

Hello,
I hope you can help please. Back in February I received a Parking Charge Notice for entering a private car park (managed by Apcoa Parking) without a valid payment/permit. The car park is situated on a side road next door to a pub with a beer garden. It was only upon entering the side road I discovered that the pub did not have its own car park and was unable to do a 3 point turn to leave. This meant that I had no choice but to enter the paying car park as it was a continuation of the road I was on. Effectively, I had to do “U” turn in the car park and left immediately without parking.

Anyway, I received a PCN £85.00 charge (£50.00 if paid early) for this incident which I ignored. Today I got a letter from a debt recovery company demanding that I now pay a parking charge balance totalling £155.00! I did not receive any reminder notices from Apcoa Parking before this letter. I called the debt company to try and explain but the woman on the phone was really rude and was not at all interested. She just wanted payment from me.

I have looked on the Apcoa Parking website and was able to locate the original photo evidence which was on my PCN notice, but the option to appeal has expired so could not take it further. One of the pictures is a very dark night picture which does not show a car or a number plate, just 2 front headlamps! This picture is dated 27th Jan at 18:52. Then there is another picture in colour of the front of my car which shows my number plate quite clearly but it is dated 29th Jan at 14:29 which I believe would have been the correct date.

I have kept the screen shots of these pictures. So, the way that the cameras are positioned in the car park there should be a back view of me entering (which there isn’t) and a front view of me leaving. This would prove time of entry and time of leaving. There is no option it seems to contact Apcoa Parking to explain my situation. Should I now just ignore all communication from the debt company and wait for a court order if it materializes? And would I be looking at paying loads of money if I lost the court case?

Kim

Kim – My opinion is that you should indeed “just ignore all communication from the debt company and wait for a court order if it materializes”. Without a court order or warrant the parking charge cannot be enforced. If it should get to court, which I doubt, your evidence as stated here would lead to cancellation of the parking charge notice since no parking took place [your car was never stationary].

Kim says:
18 April 2020

Thank you for your quick reply John. I will do that. I intend to take photos of the road leading to the car park and also the position of the entry and exit cameras and any signs, just in case. I do hate injustice. I will let you know what happens.