Car parking legal case may make private penalty charges enforceable

Posted on February 23rd, 2016 by Rob Marshall

parking

While GEM Motoring Assist is neither authorised to give legal advice, nor does it condone inconsiderate parking, we have been aware that parking penalty notices that have been issued on private land have been very difficult to enforce. While we are not legal experts, the issuer had to prove that a loss had been incurred, as a result of the parking infringement. Many people, therefore, may have ignored parking fines and subsequent threats of a fine increase, or court action, believing it to be difficult (or impossible) for a loss to be proven.

All that may have changed. At the beginning of November, the Supreme Court gave judgement on ParkingEye Ltd vs. Beavis. In it, Mr Beavis argued that an £85 penalty charge that was served on him by ParkingEye Limited was in excess of the loss incurred, by his vehicle overstaying in a retail car park by approximately one hour. Not only did the trial judge and the Court of Appeal disagree, the Supreme Court also refuted this argument. Mr Beavis, therefore, lost the case.

An expert overview, written by John de Wall QC (of Hardwicke Chambers) explains that the court decided that whilst the £85 might appear to be a penalty it was not as “ParkingEye had a legitimate interest in charging overstaying motorists, which extended beyond the recovery of any loss.” albeit that any sum charged must be proportionate to the interests sought to be protected (in this case the management of the carpark for the benefit of the retail outlets, their customers and the public).  However, the ruling opens up other queries that have not been tested in court, as yet. For example, does £85 represent a reasonable charge for a hour’s car-parking? Is the situation different in a fee-paying car park? Many other commentators hope that the judgement does not lead to a rise in numbers of unscrupulous operators.

While GEM has learnt that some people have received letters from parking firms, quoting the case, it would be interesting to hear if there were any further court cases, which could serve to highlight what is considered to be a reasonable sum, over and above any losses incurred, that could be charged to owners of vehicles involved in a parking violation.