This was a Barnet Hospital case, where the defendant had gone to pick up her daughter, and spent 34 minutes driving around the access roads trying to find out which department her daughter was likely to be in. She had parked for a brief period in the 20 minute drop off zone, but never parked in any of the Patient & Visitor car parks. ParkingEye alleged that she did, and therefore owed the Hospital £2, which ParkingEye escalated to £100.
There was a previous hearing in December ,which was carried over to March. After this hearing, Mrs B contacted the Prankster, who enlisted the help of Barnet resident Mr Mustard, usually known for his expertise in Council tickets.
Some excellent detective work by Mr Mustard proved the ticket should never have been issued. Mr Mustard made a meticulous site visit, photographing and documenting all aspects of the car park.
This is the photograph ParkingEye filed as evidence claiming that it was of Mrs B leaving the Patient & Visitor Car park.
Mr Mustard noticed the writing on the road. There is only one place in the hospital with writing like this - the 20 minute free stay car park.
ParkingEye's own evidence was essentially worthless. Their pictures show the vehicle entering the Patient & Visitor Car Park but leaving a completely different car park!
Mr Mustard could not attend the hearing, so at short notice Bargepole offered to be Mrs B's lay representative. He took Mrs B's rather unstructured defence and prepared a concise summary for the judge, concentrating on the fact that no contravention occurred.
In court ParkingEye's representative Mr Harris, said that, as Mrs B’s initial defence on the MCOL form denied ever visiting Barnet Hospital, and then she changed it when she received the photos, her evidence should be treated as unreliable.
He cross-examined Mrs B, and tried to suggest that her subsequent witness statement, in which she denied ever parking, stating that she was driving around the entire time, was made up after discussing the case with her daughter, and 83-year old mother, who had been with her at the time, so it wasn’t a contemporaneous account. Mrs B stuck to her guns, and answered in a positive and assertive manner, to her credit.
Bargepole then pointed out that PE’s photos showed the vehicle entering from one part of the complex, and exiting from a different part, and did not provide any evidence that she had parked for any length of time, or at all.
The Judge sent the parties out for 20 minutes while she considered her verdict, and then went through the case in her judgment.
She found Mrs B to be a credible witness, and accepted her evidence that she never parked. ParkingEye had not made out their case to prove that she parked for 34 minutes, or at all, and the claim would fail on that basis. She also commented that ParkingEye's signage only talks about ‘parking’, and doesn’t claim that the clock starts ticking once you pass the ANPR cameras.
Costs were awarded to the defendant of £47.50 for a half day off work, plus £7.50 parking, total £55.
Bargepole's comment: the lesson to learn from this for anyone receiving a court claim, is don’t rush to put a load of rubbish down as your defence as soon as you receive the claim; acknowledge service and take the full 28 days.
Mr Mustard recreated Mrs B's journey and then made a subject access request to ParkingEye. The results show he was detected 42 times by cameras as he traversed the site.
When Mrs B made a similar request ParkingEye stonewalled her and refused to supply the data. The Prankster believes the data would have backed up her claim to have been driving around the site and that ParkingEye should therefore have vacated the claim.
Instead, they spent more than £500 pursuing a claim for an underpayment £2, which it turns out was never owed in the first place.
It is clear that the ParkingEye system at Barnet hospital is unreliable and is issuing tickets which it has no rights to issue. Moreover The Prankster believes that ParkingEye are, or should be, fully aware of this from analysing the camera tracks of Mrs B's journey.
It is also clear that the system at Barnet Hospital is in direct contravention of government guidelines, which state that:
Contracts should not be let on any basis that incentivises additional charges, eg ‘income from parking charge notices only’
Hospital car parks are huge sources of revenue for ParkingEye, and The Prankster believes this is a serious abuse which needs rectifying. Alternative methods of fairly managing hospital car parks should be used instead, with parking companies getting a management fee only and not a fee based on issuing parking charges.
The Parking Prankster