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Senior Judge Spanks Civil Enforcement in Appeal Hearing

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At: Luton County Court
Before: Mr Recorder Gibson QC
Date: 21/02/2014
Case No.: 3YK50188 (AP476) On Appeal from Watford County Court
Appellant: Civil Enforcement Limited – Repesented by Barrister Richard B Ritchie QC
Respondent: Kerry McCafferty – Assisted by myself

This was an appeal by CEL against a ruling by Judge Wharton at Watford County Court on 03/10/13, that CEL’s charge of £150 was a penalty, and therefore not enforceable. The original Judge had followed OBServices v Thurlow closely, and reached the same conclusion.

The grounds of appeal were that the Judge at first instance had failed to properly recognise that the £150 was a contractual sum, and was not therefore subject to any test as to whether it represented a genuine pre-estimate of loss.

I was accompanied to the hearing by Andy “Two Dinners” Foster from Pepipoo, who was able to provide some helpful pointers as we went along.

The first issue to be decided was that of representation. The CPR rules do not allow for right of audience for a Lay Representative in an Appeal hearing, but the Judge has discretion over that. Mr Ritchie objected to my speaking on the Respondent’s behalf, and the Judge asked Mrs McCafferty (who had conducted her own case at the original hearing) why she wanted my assistance. She explained that I had written the skeleton argument for her, and was generally more au fait with the issues. He ruled that she was sufficiently articulate to conduct her own case, but that I could assist as a McKenzie Friend.

He then asked Mr Ritchie to present the case for the Appellant, which really centred around the fact that the £150 was a contractual charge, motorists had the choice to pay £5 for a day’s parking by phone, or if they didn’t pay within 10 minutes of arrival, they were contractually liable to pay £150. He quoted at great length, passages from Euro Appointments v Claessens, Exports Credits Guarantee v Universal Oil, and others in support of his arguments. Behind him were sitting Mr Abrahams and a lady from CEL, and they brought with them an actual sign.

The respondent was asked to reply, and we relied on the main points in the skeleton, which were that the purpose of the charge was to deter, and it was therefore a penalty; that the appeal had been brought on different grounds from those at the original hearing; and that the cases cited by Ritchie involved individually negotiated contracts between parties of equal standing, and could therefore be distinguished from the present case.

We were sent out for half an hour while the Judge considered his decision, and at this stage it was difficult to tell which way he was leaning.

When we returned, he went through his summary, the first point being that the requirement to pay £150, although in much smaller font than the rest of the sign, did form part of the contract to which the Respondent agreed. However, he had to look at the construction of the contract, and it was clear to him that the £150 was not a genuine offer to park at that price, but its main purpose was to deter. It was, therefore, a penalty dressed up as a contractual term, and not recoverable.

He dismissed the appeal, and awarded the Respondent her costs. I had applied for costs as a Lay Rep, but as I was now only a McKenzie, no costs were payable.

Ms McCafferty went off a happy bunny, not having to pay a penny of their £350 claim, and Andy and I found an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant, who will now have to put their prices up after his visit.

I have been providing assistance, including Lay Representation at Court hearings (current score: won 57, lost 14), to defendants in parking cases for over 5 years. I have an LLB (Hons) degree, and have a Graduate Diploma in Civil Litigation from CILEx. However, any advice given on these forums by me is NOT formal legal advice, and I accept no liability for its accuracy.
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Comments

  • kirkbyinfurnesslad_2
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    Now We are even beating companies represented by QC's!!!
    Well Done You lot!!!,
    Proud to be a member of the Anti Enforcement Hobbyist Gang.:D:T
  • Coupon-mad
    Coupon-mad Posts: 135,016 Forumite
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    Yay! Another one to adduce in defences and this time, that rare beast, an appeal heard by a Senior Judge!
    PRIVATE 'PCN'? DON'T PAY BUT DON'T IGNORE IT (except N.Ireland).
    CLICK at the top of this/any page where it says:
    Forum Home»Motoring»Parking Tickets Fines & Parking - read the NEWBIES THREAD
  • ledsons_teeth
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    Bargepole. I wish I owned a hat so I could take it off to you. I am constantly amazed at the hard work you do in these cases. And great results into the bargain. CEL actually turning up to court is a rarity, I believe. Maybe they know the Prankster is two away.
    Well done Sir.
  • Half_way
    Half_way Posts: 7,163 Forumite
    First Anniversary Name Dropper First Post
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    the £150 was not a genuine offer to park at that price, but its main purpose was to deter. It was, therefore, a penalty dressed up as a contractual term, and not recoverable.

    what action will civil enforcement, and/or those who allow them onto their land be taking to address the issues raised by this?
    will they be contacting any one who has paid this so called contractual charge to offer an apology and a refund+costs ( where applicable)?
    From the Plain Language Commission:

    "The BPA has surely become one of the most socially dangerous organisations in the UK"
  • The_Slithy_Tove
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    bargepole wrote: »
    it was clear to him that the £150 was not a genuine offer to park at that price, but its main purpose was to deter. It was, therefore, a penalty dressed up as a contractual term, and not recoverable.
    :j :dance::dance: :j
  • esmerobbo
    esmerobbo Posts: 4,979 Forumite
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    Well done, to all concerned!

    May be of interest to another contractual agreement outfit!;)
  • trisontana
    trisontana Posts: 9,472 Forumite
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    Now We are even beating companies represented by QC's!!!
    Well Done You lot!!!,

    I blame it all on those "armchair lawyers" who seem to know the law better than the professionals.
    What part of "A whop bop-a-lu a whop bam boo" don't you understand?
  • Stroma
    Stroma Posts: 7,971 Forumite
    Uniform Washer
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    If it's an appeal, does it mean its binding on other courts?
    When posting a parking issue on MSE do not reveal any information that may enable PPCs to identify you. They DO monitor the forum.
    We don't need the following to help you.
    Name, Address, PCN Number, Exact Date Of Incident, Date On Invoice, Reg Number, Vehicle Picture, The Time You Entered & Left Car Park, Or The Amount of Time You Overstayed.
    :beer: Anti Enforcement Hobbyist Member :beer:
  • bod1467
    bod1467 Posts: 15,214 Forumite
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    Stroma wrote: »
    If it's an appeal, does it mean its binding on other courts?

    Exactly what I was wondering. However I suspect it's not at a high enough court to be able to set a precedent. :(
  • bargepole
    bargepole Posts: 3,234 Forumite
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    Stroma wrote: »
    If it's an appeal, does it mean its binding on other courts?
    Persuasive, but not binding.

    I have been providing assistance, including Lay Representation at Court hearings (current score: won 57, lost 14), to defendants in parking cases for over 5 years. I have an LLB (Hons) degree, and have a Graduate Diploma in Civil Litigation from CILEx. However, any advice given on these forums by me is NOT formal legal advice, and I accept no liability for its accuracy.
This discussion has been closed.
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