This case arose from an adjourned hearing between ParkingEye and Mr Beavis. ParkingEye failed to book enough time for the original hearing and attempted to argue they were agents of the landowner, but using the novel approach of doing this without showing a contract with the landowner but instead using a two page document on agency prepared with the help of Jonathan Kirk, QC. It was apparent ParkingEye's LPC Law advocate had not quite got to grips with this document, as the following exchange shows.
As the case could not be determined in the time allowed it was adjourned and listed with another similar case, ParkingEye v Mr Martin, to be heard in front of HHJ Moloney QC as the designated circuit judge for the area. PakingEye were ordered to inform HHJ Moloney of all other similar cases in the south east of England with a view to stayed them to await the result.
District Judge Shanks: "Is that what your going to rely on?"
LPC "Well if there's guidance you could give........"
Judge "It's not for me to fight your case!"
LPC "No, no, no. But if your suggesting we should ....."
Judge (cutting across) "Look - I am not going to prepare your case for you. It's a yes or no. Is this what you will be relying on as a case?"
LPC "Um. Yes. I think so."
As other courts became aware of the situation, more and more cases dotted around the country were also stayed.
This case therefore suddenly took on a huge importance. It may well be true to say that if ParkingEye lost this case they would have had to either change their business models dramatically, or may even have been unable to continue. Other parking companies using the same business model would also be affected. Parking companies using different models may not have been.
£53 million and more was now residing on the outcome of a small claims case for £100.
ParkingEye bought in a high powered barrister, Mr Altaras, from the same chambers as Jonathan Kirk QC. The last time ParkingEye did this, it cost them £4,000 just to be awarded a £9 parking fee, and around £100 in costs.
Mr Beavis, originally helped by The Prankster in his defence, was now slightly outgunned. The Prankster stepped back and a new pro-bona defence team consisting of Andy Foster and Bargepole was assembled.
There was now the unusual situation of a small claims hearing for £100 being heard in front of a senior high court judge, with a barrister acting for the claimant at immense cost, and two lay representatives acting for the defendant. A large number of interested parties were also expected to turn up to watch proceedings, which had been booked for a full day.
On the Day
The team assembled early for coffee and last minute strategy talks, then decamped to the courthouse.
As the allotted hour neared, there was still not sign of ParkingEye, although the waiting area was filling up with bystanders and the ushers were busy making sure seating would be available. ParkingEye were still not there as the clock ticked past zero-hour, and wild theories emerged.
Was this a new tactic? Had they cancelled the parking charged at the last minute? Was not turning up at all their new strategy?
The defence team was then called into the court and while everyone else waited outside, ParkingEye's witness, Alex Cooke was whisked past with an escort.
The motley crue were then invited in, and seated, and shortly afterwards His Honour Judge Moloney appeared.
Everyone was immediately treated to the shock news that the case was being adjourned, the judge explaining that the claimant's counsel, Mr Altaras, had been phoned late last night by a person impersonating Alex Cooke. This person phoned the counsel office and was put through to Mr Altaras at his counsel house. The person 'explained' that HHJ Moloney had been taken ill, and that the case was therefore adjourned. The person then discussed aspects of the case with Mr Altaras.
This deception was only discovered just before court when a worried Alex Cooke phoned counsel to ask where he was. On learning of the deception, Mr Altaras wrote and sent a letter to court which the judge read out to the assembled parties.
HHJ Moloney explained to the audience that he had taken the unusual step of speaking personally to the claimant's barrister to ascertain the situation. This would not be normal conduct - but these were far from normal circumstances.
Mr Altaras could have made it to Cambridge by the afternoon, but there would not have been time to hold the case.
HHJ Moloney explained that he was keen to rule on aspects of the case for the benefit of courts in his area, and would therefore be holding the case as soon as possible, which meant April 4th at the earliest.
All parties agreed this was fair, and that they would confirm dates and availability as soon as possible.
The judge explained this was a serious contempt of court and that when the person who did this was caught they could expect punishment which may include a stay inside. The judge has asked the police to investigate.
HHJ Moloney then spoke to a friend of the court who has raised the point that many cases in the area were not in fact stayed as the original order has requested. The judge explained he had talked to ParkingEye about this and that parties in any non-stayed cases could raise this with the relevant judge themselves if they wanted a stay.
Mr Beavis then asked His Honor Judge Moloney if ParkingEye had previously asked for a stay of the case. His Honor confirmed that they had, because the counsel they wanted was not available. He had turned down the request and ordered them to find another counsel.
All parties then left, extremely disappointed with the wasted time. Mr Martin was especially unlucky because he is shortly to depart on his honeymoon, and understandably wanted this settled either way.
The Prankster considers there are three contenders for the phone caller.
1) An idiot, thinking they were playing a joke
2) Someone who wanted the case adjourned
3) Someone who did not want the case adjourned, but thought that the blame would fall on (2)
Although many people knew the claimant's counsel was Mr Altaras, only a few people knew that the claimant's witness was not the usual Jonathan Langham, but instead was Alex Cooke. Even fewer would be able to talk about the case without being rumbled by an experienced barrister like Mr Altaras.
Apart from those musings, there is little point in conjecture until the police investigation is over. Hopefully this will be a relatively short task. The phone call can be traced back, and the caller will soon find their collar being felt.
The Prankster hopes this is all correct from notes made of the proceedings. If anyone remembers differently, please contact The Prankster.