Lawrence Carnie, 58, has been on a nine-month crusade after he was handed a parking fine for a ’22-hour’ stay in June last year at a car park in Dartford, Kent
A furious driver says he is prepared to pay thousands to fight a £100 parking charge he was slapped with after staying in a retail park for ‘just half an hour’.
Lawrence Carnie, 58, has been on a nine-month crusade after he was handed the fine for a ’22-hour’ stay at a car park in Dartford, Kent in June last year.
Mr Carnie said he visited the retail park for half an hour stints over two consecutive days but was punished due to malfunctioning CCTV number plate recognition.
The car park is free for three hours but he claims he was never logged leaving the first time so was hit with the charge for overstaying, as to the system it look as if he arrived at 3.20pm on June 10 and left at 1.30pm the next day.
He appealed to the parking enforcers, Group Nexus, and the independent adjudicator, Parking On Private Land Appeals (POPLA), but was rejected both times.
The Tower Retail Park car park (pictured) is free for three hours but Mr Carnie claims he was never logged leaving the first time so was hit with a fine for overstaying
Mr Carnie, from Dartford, contacted the British Parking Association, who represent Nexus, about the alleged issues, but they denied any problems with the system.
Undeterred, he is carrying on with his battle and has sought legal help to fight the fine over his stay at the Tower Retail Park car park.
He said: ‘If I bumped into you in the street and said “give me £100” you wouldn’t do it.
‘That’s what’s happened here, they’re asking for £100 for not being there. It’s just so wrong what this company is doing.’
The motorist is being advised by CCJ Removals Services, who help people remove court judgments from their credit reports.
Paralegal Luke Memory specialises in challenging parking fines and is overseeing the case.
He said: ‘Cases like this do not usually make it to court as the legal costs are much higher than the fine but Mr Carnie is an exception to the rule.
Does it pay to fight unfair parking tickets right to the top?
Around 35,000 disputes are logged with the Traffic Penalty Tribunal each year – and crucially, two thirds of those challenging parking fines win their case.
We spent a day watching virtual hearings take place via video call – allowing motorists to have their day in court from the comfort of their living rooms.
> READ MORE: Inside the traffic tribunals where TWO IN THREE drivers win their appeals
‘Once a claim is made against Mr Carnie we would instruct a barrister to draft a defence statement which costs £500 and this would lead to a court hearing at which Mr Carnie would instruct a barrister and this would cost approximately £1,000.
‘It’s off-putting for the common man but Mr Carnie is happy to fight it in court.’
He added: ‘They are very clever these companies as the costs to defend a case is much higher than the fine so people would usually just pay.
‘My thoughts are he has a good case. What they are alleging is he stayed too long in the car park but their own evidence does not prove this and is littered with omissions and errors and clearly demonstrates that their records are inaccurate and unreliable.’
Mr Carnie added: ‘I am doing this purely because the data they provided was so bad.
‘They would have to show it to be impeccable but as I have found it doesn’t show that.’
Mr Carnie plans to request all his costs be paid for by Group Nexus if he wins his case.
After appealing the penalty through the independent adjudicators, POPLA, Group Nexus released a 356-page document showing all activity across that 24-hour period at the car park.
Mr Carnie used his knowledge of analytics and placed all the logs into a spreadsheet.
From there he deduced that Group Nexus’ data appeared to be missing a number of entries.
According to the document, Mr Carnie was spotted entering the shopping estate car park at 3.20pm on June 10.
He was then seen leaving at 1.30pm the next day with no other data entries for his car.
After looking through all 9,920 entries, he claims there are even more anomalies.
According to Mr Carnie 135 cars arrived or left the car park twice, and while 67 entered two times, 68 left twice.
There was also a single entry where one car exited the car park three times without even entering.
Along with this, Mr Carnie says that 96 cars were recorded going in on June 10 but were not spotted leaving that day.
On June 11, 100 different cars, that hadn’t arrived that day, were seen leaving, according to Mr Carnie. This would mean that a maximum of 196 people could also have been fined on just that day.
Ticket types: know your parking charge from a PCN
Deciding how to tackle an unfair parking charge depends on the type of ticket.
Expert Barrie Segal runs consumer champion website appealnow.com.
He says: ‘In law there is a vast difference between council parking tickets and private parking tickets.
Many local authorities in their pursuit of parking ticket income act unfairly in dealing with motorists. The behaviour of many private parking companies is even worse.’
Contested: An official council PCN is different to a private parking charge but the latter can seem to mimic the former
Check what is written on the ticket itself. It’s only official if it features the word ‘penalty’.
This means that it has been issued by a local authority and is an official penalty charge notice, or PCN for short. If you think your PCN is wrong, appeal first to the local authority that issued it.
You have 14 days to do this, or 21 days if it was sent in the post.
Include any evidence — such as photos and witness statements, as well as details including your car registration number, PCN number and your contact information.
If you’re unsuccessful at the end of the first stage, there’s usually still an option to pay a fine at a discounted rate of 50 per cent.
But if you’re adamant about taking it further, you have another 28 days to make a free formal appeal. Should this be rejected too, there is another step.
You can refer to an independent tribunal. In London this is the London Tribunals service, in England and Wales it is the Traffic Penalty Tribunal. In Scotland, motorists have 28 days to appeal to the General Regulatory Chamber.
> READ MORE: How to challenge parking fines and win
Mr Carnie said: ‘That one night they had 196 cars left unchecked meaning at 3am that car park should’ve been half full.
‘How can they be issuing fines off of this? Their data is so bad. What I really want is for Group Nexus to cancel all their parking fines from this car park.’
Mr Carnie added: ‘I know they have lost two of my photos which I know I can’t prove in isolation but there are so many entries that can’t be explained or have not been explained.
‘They are using this poor data to give out fines. There are people out there who can’t afford the fine let alone the legal process for it and so to be giving out fines on this data is wrong.
‘There are some entries which begin as 1322 which is essentially the area code for Dartford.
‘I think the ANPR system could be capturing phone numbers off the back of vans.
‘The data provided by Group Nexus demonstrates that cars are arriving and departing unnoticed by their ANPR cameras, this can and does result in tickets being issued in error.’
Despite this, their website acknowledges this problem.
The website states: ‘Repeat users of a car park inside a 24-hour period sometimes find that their first entry is paired with their last exit, resulting in an “overstay”.’
Mr Carnie has urged everyone who appeals a fine to properly analyse the evidence provided.
He said: ‘When a person appeals their Parking Charge to POPLA Nexus may provide evidence in the form of a PDF document showing all arrivals and departures. This is particularly true for these long “overstays”.
‘People should get the data properly analysed as it’s likely to be very poor.’
Group Nexus previously said of the case: ‘The PCN was upheld on the grounds that the motorist overstayed the free time allocation.
‘Issues with the cameras are extremely rare. When there is one, we virtually always find evidence of it on the system.
‘In this case we investigated the claim and could find no evidence that this vehicle had visited the site twice.’
The British Parking Association said an investigation was carried out but that the ticket was issued correctly.
A spokesman said: ‘The motorist appealed the charge issued to their vehicle to POPLA which was rejected as they deemed the charge to have been issued correctly.
‘The BPA carried out a thorough investigation of the motorist’s complaint about the management of the car park by one of its members and found there to be no breach of its code of practice.’
Group Nexus also reiterated their claim there is nothing wrong with their cameras.
A spokesman said: ‘The original challenge was rejected and the PCN upheld on the grounds that the motorist overstayed the free time allocation.
‘Issues with the cameras are extremely rare. In this case we investigated the claim and could find no evidence that this vehicle had visited the site twice.
‘The motorist then referred his challenge to POPLA, the independent adjudicator run by Ombudsmen Services who also rejected the appeal.’
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