Thursday, 25 May 2017

Motorist awarded £900 for data protection breach by parking company

D6GM2199 CEL v Mr B, Bury County Court, before DJ Osborne

This thread on MSE details the story of a motorist awarded £900 because a parking company committed data protection breaches against him.

The parking company was Civil Enforcement Limited (CEL), who have a long history of making bogus inflated court claims and then discontinuing if a robust defence is filed.

Mr B. was the vehicle keeper but was not the driver on the day. As CEL do not use keeper liability, they had not valid claim against the keeper. In addition, and aided bylaw firm Wright Hassall, they artificially inflated the claim from £100 to £300 by adding spurious amounts. Mr B filed a counterclaim for breaches of the data protection act. True to form, CEL discontinued the claim, which left only the counterclaim to be decided.

Barry Beavis assisted Mr B in preparing the paperwork and acting as his lay representative.

The case was heard by DJ Osborne at Bury. The DJ was initially critical of the defendant for failing to file papers and obey court directions.

However, he then interviewed Mr B as witness, establishing the validity of the counterclaim and the distress caused.

In his judgment DJ Osborne ruled a data breach had occurred, the tort of damages was applicable and that £500 was not an unreasonable amount in the circumstances.

He added an additional £405 in costs, part of which were awarded under rule 27.14.2(g) for the unreasonable behaviour of CEL.

He also stated he was disappointed in the claimant bringing an unfounded case, and in the behaviour of Wright Hassall who were otherwise a respectable law firm.

Prankster Notes

It is important to obey all court instructions. Witness statements and evidence need to be filed on time, otherwise a winning case can be lost by procedural errors.

A number of cases have now established that a data protection breach can occur when a parking company pursues a charge which is not valid, or an over-inflated charge, or both.

The size of damages will depend on the facts of each individual case .This case establishes that a claim of £500 is not unreasonable for the particular circumstances of today's case.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster

Saturday, 13 May 2017

UKPC lose residential case. Will victim get costs before UKPC are wound up?

C8HW3P0T – UKPC v Miss B, before District Judge Jones. 12/05/2017

UKPC were represented by Mr Elfer (not a practicing solicitor or a regulated barrister). Bargepole appeared as the Defendant’s Lay Representative. £1590 was claimed, for multiple tickets for parking at her own residence.

This was a residential parking case, for which Barry Beavis had assisted with the defence submissions. The main defence points were:

1/ Miss B had a tenancy agreement, predating UKPC’s appointment, which granted her rights to park without the need to display a permit.
2/ Ticketing bona fide residents was not within the purpose of the scheme
3/ The signage forbade unauthorized parking, therefore there was no consideration and so no contract
4/ There was no evidence of a chain of authority from the landowner to the Claimant
5/ This was clearly distinguishable from ParkingEye v Beavis

Bargepole wasn’t going to challenge the Claimant’s advocate’s Right of Audience, as the Defendant wanted this done and dusted on the day, with no adjournments. But as it turned out, he didn’t need to. The DJ started by asking all the parties who they were, and in what capacity they appeared. Mr Elfer stated that he was there as a Lay Representative. After a few seconds of stunned silence, the DJ asked if I had a copy of the Lay Representatives order, and Bargepole directed him to s3 (2)(a), which says that a lay representative can only represent a party if the client attends.

Mr Elfer argued that in CPR PD 3, a judge has discretion to hear any person, even if excluded by the Order, and that it would be in the interest of the overriding objective to allow him to speak.

The DJ agreed that he could exercise discretion. However, the Claimant had not notified the court that their Witness, Mr Kieran Ali, would not be attending, and had not previously notified the Court that they wished the hearing to be conducted by a person who was not an exempt person under the LSA 2007. They had not notified the Defendant of any of this either, and this potentially disadvantaged the Defendant who would not have had the opportunity to question the Witness in a case involving complex issues.

The ruling was that the Defendant had acted entirely properly in complying with Court directions, and arranging for a lay representative to put their case, whereas the Claimant had not. Therefore, Mr Elfer could not represent the Claimant in the absence of any representative of the Claimant company.

Bargepole  then directed the Judge to CPR 27.9, dealing with non-attendance of parties, and he agreed that this applied. He would ignore all of the Claimant’s submissions, and based on the Defence argument that the Defendant had an unfettered right to park granted by their tenancy, the claim was dismissed.

On the subject of costs, Bargepole  referred to the Costs Schedule sent by the Claimant’s legal representatives, SCS Law, which the Defendant had received a few days ago, and Bargepole only became aware of on the morning of the hearing. This document set out total costs £651.20, including the £70 filing fee and £115 hearing fee. The other £466 was an inventive matter of pure fantasy, including £195 for drafting a witness statement, a £105 advocate fee, and £96 ‘fixed fee for issuing claim’, despite the claim form already including the standard £50.

Bargepole  submitted that this was not only an abuse of process, but also a deliberate attempt to mislead the Court and the Defendant, and possibly crossed the threshold of Contempt of Court. As such, it was evidence of unreasonable behaviour by the Claimant, which, together with their unreasonable behaviour in failing to discharge their obligations to the Court, meant that additional costs could be claimed under CPR 27.14(2)(g).

Miss B was therefore awarded a total of £170.80, to include Bargepole's advocate fee. Bargepole also asked the Judge to make the costs payable within 7 days, as UKPC are due in the High Court on 22 May for a winding-up petition by HMRC, and Miss B wanted the costs paid before they went out of business.

Bargepole also advised Mr E to submit his invoice ASAP, if he expected to get paid for his work today.

Prankster Notes

Parking companies are well known for submitting fictitious costs. This time it backfired on them.

Even if UKPC had sent a proper advocate, they had little chance of winning. In a residential claim, the lease will usually overrides any signage erected by parking companies, although the actual wording will be key and may vary from claim to claim.

The point of a residential scheme is not to penalise the residents, but to stop non-residents abusing the spaces, and parking companies would do well to keep that in mind.

Happy Parking

The Parking Prankster