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Parking company sues top QC, loses

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Doughty Street barrister achieves what fish and chip shop owner Barry Beavis couldn’t

A Doughty Street Chambers QC has proved victorious in a spat over an £85 parking ticket.

Car park management company ParkingEye sued Nicholas Bowen QC after he overstayed a free two-hour limit. Sussex University graduate Bowen is a tort law and human rights expert with over 30 years experience in legal practice.

Bowen pulled into an M4 service station in May 2016 just before midnight because he was tired at the wheel and in need of a nap. The top silk said he woke up at about 2.20am and drove off. ParkingEye told Legal Cheek:

[T]he motorist overstayed the two hours free of charge period by 35 minutes without purchasing a parking ticket. This was the reason for his parking charge being issued.

Bowen — who recently appeared in the Supreme Court in a case we termed “a tort student’s dream” — claims he did not see the two-hour limit notices. When he subsequently discovered signs referencing 24/7 charging, this information: “was in microscopic print in a different part of the car park requiring 20/20 vision or a magnifying glass.”

Amal Clooney’s chamber mate probably has £85 to spare, but didn’t pay on a public interest basis. He tried to appeal the fine internally and, when sued by ParkingEye in the county court, refused to roll.

In an email to the company, seen by The Guardian, Bowen said:

My defence was that your contract was unenforceable, and that you have no legal right to charge members of the public for night parking in service station car parks. Charging overstayers at night is unfair and a violation of consumer protection law. I defended your misconceived claim on a public interest basis, as it would have been far easier just to pay the ticket.

ParkingEye claims to win 90% of its county court hearings — but not this one. The judge struck out the case and ordered ParkingEye to pay Bowen £1,550 in costs.

Capita-owned ParkingEye was not in attendance at the county court. Bowen described this as “pretty poor show.” But the company said it did send a representative who was told the case had not been listed. ParkingEye told us:

In spite of us being told the hearing had been taken off the list, the motorist’s representative appeared before a judge without our attendance and we have not had the opportunity to provide our arguments as appropriate and fairly, as we had intended. ParkingEye is now considering its options within the time limits set out by the court.

With ParkingEye mulling over its options, could the case end up in the highest echelons of the justice system?

It wouldn’t be the first time for such a parking ticket dispute. Readers may remember Barry Beavis (pictured below), a fish and chip shop owner from Essex who refused to pay what he believed was an “unfair” parking charge. Despite being knocked down at first instance and in the Court of Appeal, Beavis continued his legal fight all the way up to the Supreme Court.

barrybeavis
And that’s where he lost (again). The judges, headed by Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger, decided the £85 charge was “neither extravagant nor unconscionable.”

Despite the defeat, Beavis’ plight captured hearts and attention. He was helped out by pro bono legal advice and representation throughout the case’s journey, and managed to crowdfund thousands of pounds to help with legal costs. We wonder if Bowen’s ParkingEye spat will be as impactful.

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33 Comments

Wankington Bear

These wankers tried this with me.

I came first.

(15)(0)

Anonymous

Fnar fnar

(5)(0)

Lalalaw

Same happened to me at a Supermarket car park, also involving ParkingEye. Made a bit of a scene at the check outs and the Supermarket paid the fine for me!

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Doughty Street hate conservatives.

(4)(3)

Anonymous

So they sent a ‘representative’ from LPC who failed to show up on time and then lied to the client and the agency that it wasn’t listed. I faced that before when having the misfortune of going up against these agents in the country court.

(15)(7)

Anonymous

Court lists are published online. The LPC staff (and, for all I know, ParkingEye themselves) regularly check them and can easily see for themselves whether us agents are lying to them.

I can tell you from personal experience that courts do all sorts of bizarre things with lists. I can absolutely believe that they could tell one party the case wasn’t listed while wheeling the other party in to court.

(10)(1)

Just Anonymous

Agreed. Without further evidence, the allegations against the poor agent here are most unfair.

(19)(1)

Anonymous

How often are the court lists online accurate? I often find them to be wrong. I just doubt that an usher will tell one person the hearing is on and another that it is off.

(1)(1)

Just Anonymous

We find a crucial clue in the Guardian’s report of this story. That article cites LPC as saying their agent was told the case had come off the list because Parking Eye hadn’t paid the hearing fee.

A very plausible scenario thus presents itself:

1. The agent turns up and is told by the usher that the case isn’t on the list. The usher doesn’t know why – the usher wouldn’t know why. S/he simply assures the agent that it’s not on the list and so there will be no hearing. The agent accepts this and toddles off.

2. Bowen and his counsel turn up, and are told the same thing. They do not toddle off. They’ve come to make a point, and they’re going to make it. They produce the notice of hearing and demand an explanation.

3. The file is found, and Bowen and his counsel go in before the judge to find out what’s going on. The judge informs them that upon inspecting the file, it appears the matter has been struck out automatically for non-payment of the hearing fee.

4. Bowen’s counsel says, “that’s all very well, but what about our costs. My client has been put to considerable expense in preparing his defence, and Parking Eye has completely wasted our time and money. This conduct is clearly unreasonable.
I appreciate Parking Eye is unrepresented, but it would be disproportionate to adjourn our application for costs when PE’s position is so clearly indefensible.”

5. The judge finds this compelling and awards £1,550 in costs.

Did the above actually happen? I don’t know. But it’s plausible. Given the existence of a very plausible and non dishonest explanation, we should not be hurling accusations of dishonesty from the sidelines.

(28)(0)

Just Anonymous

Idiot. Amend 1 slightly to have the agent check with the court office, which informs him/her that the matter has been struck out for non-payment of the fee (thus explaining how the agent reported the same to LPC later). Then have the agent toddle off as before.

I really shouldn’t browse Legal Cheek for fun at this time after finishing work…

(10)(3)

Anonymous

sorry, run that past me again, “”””TOP”””” (tho he probs is) silk sleeps in car at night at m’ way services! WTF?

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Hahaha

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I tried to pay the London congestion charge using the telephone line, but each time I phoned and was entering the ID information, it cut off. I tried three times, all before the deadline to pay. I was cut off every time. It was nearly 10pm at night, so I drove home.

I received a fine for not paying. I appealed, and even showed the w**k**s at Capita who run the scheme my phone bill which showed my 3 attempts to pay via 3 phone calls.

They refused to withdraw the fine. Capita argued that I should have known earlier in the day that there would have been a possibility of the phone system failing that night, in some Capita-induced telepathic haze no doubt, and have used the variety of alternative methods of payment earlier in the day. This twisted logic sums up Capita.

I had to go to the parking tribunal, making a trip to London to do so. Nobody showed from Capita, just as in this case. Case was thrown out, the tribunal chap shaking his head in disbelief that Capital could even have gone after me in the first place.

Behind every failure dealing with members of the public like this, you’ll probably find Capita behind it.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Always happy to see justice served to those extortionate car park companies that take pride out of fleecing thousands of drivers a day

(9)(1)

Dusty Wig

The Bowen who represented the Yorkshire Ripper was Paul.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

“Doughty Street barrister achieves what fish and chip shop owner Barry Beavis couldn’t”…
only because the claim was struck out when no one turned up for Parking Eye. Consequently there has been no reasoned decision on the merits of this case.

(21)(1)

Barry Beavershot

This is about me.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Top QC AND Amal in one article, KK has reached the pinnacle of her career!!

(12)(0)

Anonymous

I don’t understand how costs of 1550 could be recoverable on this…small claims court presumably. Even if it got moved to the multitrack , lc do not report that Bowen qc was represented by anyone but himself.

Please help me understand.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

The quote in the article from ParkingEye says “the motorist’s representative appeared before a judge”, which might imply that he did indeed have someone representing him.

Not sure whether this is also part of your question, but you might find CPR Rule 27.14(2)(g) helpful. It’s an exception to the normal small claims costs rules.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Presumably this was a pre-allocation strike out application, so small claims costs wouldn’t apply. Not sure how £1550 was racked up through Litigant in Person costs unless Bowen had instructed sols.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Even if you’re right that it was pre-allocation, I’m pretty sure there’s a rule or authority of some kind which suggests that if a case is obviously GOING to be small claims then even pre-allocation costs can be caught by the small claims rules. Apologies I can’t remember the source offhand. I just know I often have that problem trying to get costs on those types of hearings.

You’re right, though, that £1,550 seems excessive on any interpretation!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Thank you Alan Blacker.

(1)(0)

Katie's wannabe lover

It looks like it was a trial. I regularly got unreasonable costs from claimants when they didn’t attend the trial. It’s highly unreasonable to pursue a claim and then not attend. Obviously if they came to us very shortly after with a valid reason beyond their control we would agree to set the judgment aside (and the costs order)

(0)(0)

Crazed maritime lawyer

Yes yes but did he invoke SCOPIC?!?!

(2)(0)

Anonymous

You are such a nerd and it REALLY turns me on.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

If he’s a QC and has been a barrister for 30 years, why mention where he went to uni?

(5)(1)

Anonymous

There’s an unwritten convention that silks may ask leading questions and may also park anywhere without penalty.

Did you not know that?

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Don’t get bogged down in a bog – a judge once said. I agree with this decision.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

“Impactful” is not a word.

Just sayin

(1)(0)

Anonymous

The original supreme court decision that these amount to a contract is contrived, to say the least. Tory ‘logic’ creating contracts out of thin air.

An intention to create a legal relationship? A meeting of minds? Yeah, right.

(0)(0)

Andrew

A simple tried and tested template to use to reject any private company’s ‘invoice’:

https://www.esolutionsgroup.co.uk/pcn

(4)(1)

Anonymous

Tried & tested when exactly, Andrew?

GPEOL is a difficult one since Beavis (SC)

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.