An Essex chip shop owner has taken a stand for motorists everywhere after launching a landmark legal bid to sweep away “unlawful and disproportionate” parking fines.
Following news earlier this week that millions of pounds worth of unfair parking charges have been levelled at motorists, 48-year old Barry Beavis took the issue straight to the Royal Courts of Justice.
Striking a blow “for every motorist, in every car park”, the car park crusader has taken on private car park operators who penalise motorists with fines that he claims are disproportionate and unfair.
Campaign against private parking companies
His campaign was launched after he was charged £85 by private parking company ParkingEye for staying in a car park in Chelmsford for 56 minutes more than was supposed to.
Speaking outside the courts, he said: “What makes me angry is that these companies currently extort money by threatening and bullying people into paying up.
“A fine of £85 is not proportionate to overstaying by 56 minutes. I hope common sense prevails and the learned judges see that what is happening is unfair and unjust.”
According to a recent documentary by Channel 4’s Dispatches, private parking companies in the UK now issue as many as 2.5 million fines a year, amounting to a total of £100m demanded of motorists.
If the court rules in favour of Mr Beavis, it could potentially open the floodgates for drivers who believe they have been unfairly charged, with tens of millions of pounds hanging in the balance.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Tens of millions of pounds hang on this case. If it goes in favour of drivers then there are potentially huge sums to be repaid to those who have been unfairly ticketed.”
AA president Edmund King also weighed in on the situation, saying that motorists now face “an era of mass ticketing”, with cameras and other means of pressuring drivers in nearly all large car parks.
He said: “There is no longer the threat of a clamp but instead the threat of debt collectors and ruined credit references.”
“Commercially justified deterrent”
However, ParkingEye argued that its charges were “a commercially justified deterrent” for a city centre car park that sees a lot of traffic and where it’s necessary to discourage overstayers.
Jonathan Kirk QC, representing the company in court, described the level of charges as neither extortionate nor unconscionable but within the bounds of reasonableness.
Unfortunately, Mr Beavis will have to wait for the court’s verdict. After a one-day hearing, Lord Justice Moore-Bick, vice president of the civil appeal court, said that the decision would be deferred and given at a later date.