Case No. C1GF00T3 PCM (UK) v Alan Johnson, Oxford County Court, 09/12/2016, before District Judge Matthews.
Claimant represented by Mr Grosvenor instructed by Elms Legal, Defendant represented by Bargepole.
This arose from a PCN issued at the infamous Hayes & Harlington station, where the private access road’s turning circle is blocked off due to construction work for the Crossrail project. Mr J had pulled in to drop off a prospective employee he had been interviewing, and stopped for a few seconds to let the passenger out of the car, during which time the PCM goon had stepped out of the shadows and taken a photograph. The original £100 charge had been inflated to £219, thanks to the creative addition of spurious amounts by the Gladstone’s robo-claim team.
The signage states “No Stopping or Waiting at any time unless parked fully within the confines of a marked bay for a maximum of 20 minutes”, although by the time a motorist has read the sign high up on a pole, it would be too late as the photo has already been taken. Mr J had appealed to the Operator and to the IAS previously, but the IAS decision was the expected rejection based on a unique interpretation of contract law known only to marsupials.
The principal defence arguments were:
- There could be no contract construed from the forbidding signage
- Absent any contract, a claim could only be brought in trespass, and only by the landowner
- Even if a contract could be construed, it would not be reasonable to expect a motorist to read the sign and decide whether to agree to the terms before a photo was taken and charge subsequently issued
- The IPC, IAS and Gladstones are all operated by the same two controlling minds, and the IAS appeal rejection must be viewed in that context.
- Whatever the outcome, the additional amounts added by Gladstones are not recoverable.
However, the case never got as far as any of that, as the Defence first raised a preliminary procedural matter. The Court’s directions had specified that all documents should be filed and served not later than 14 days before the hearing, meaning by 24 November. Mr J had received a witness statement of Georgina Philpot, dated 25 November, but in an envelope postmarked 28 November, which arrived on 1 December. The Judge confirmed that the Court copy had been received on 30 November.
The Judge asked Mr Grosvenor (who had been parachuted in at short notice for this case) for an explanation, and as he didn’t have one, suggested he take instructions. After a short adjournment, in which Mr Grosvenor appeared to be shouting into his phone, the best that could be offered was that Gladstone’s were “very busy, and it got overlooked”.
DJ Matthews was unimpressed, and proceeded to give his judgment:
- The case had been allocated, and listed for hearing, on 5 September, so the Claimant had more than adequate notice.
- The Directions, and dates of receipt of the Claimant’s bundle, were as stated by the Defence. He noted that Mr J’s email address was on the Directions Questionnaire, so they could have served the documents by that method, but didn’t.
- It is open to a Judge to apply sanctions for non-compliance, including rejection of statements or evidence, and that would apply here.
- Both the Defence witness statement and the Claimant’s disallowed statement included legal arguments, but there was no problem with that.
- This was not a minor breach. Gladstones are a professional firm, whereas the Defendant is a litigant in person, and the fact that they overlooked the Court timetable was inexcusable, and “a matter of concern”.
- It therefore follows that the Claim is struck out in its entirety.
We then got on to costs, and tried to argue further costs on the basis of unreasonable behaviour. But the Judge didn’t go with that, saying that it had been struck out for procedural reasons, and they may wish to resubmit a fresh claim. However, if they did, the Defendant could object on the grounds of abuse of process.
So Mr J was awarded his ordinary costs for loss of earnings, travel to court, and parking, totaling £114.20, and everyone except Mr Grosvenor went away happy.
The Prankster apologises for the lateness of this report. He was unable to stop laughing long enough to file it.
A most special irony is that the judge mistook Gladstones for "a professional firm".
The Parking Prankter