Thousands could beat parking fines after judge tackles £766k 'Mr Clampit' in landmark penalty claim case
Defeat: Simon Renshaw-Smith, owner of VCS, lost what may be a landmark case
Thousands of people facing parking fines may be let off after a judge ruled that one firm did not have the power to pursue a motorist for an unpaid penalty. Ronald Ibbotson was taken to court by Vehicle Control Services (VCS) after he left his car at a Wickes DIY store for 35 minutes. On his return, he found a ticket on his windscreen demanding £80, apparently because he had left the car park to go shopping elsewhere during the two-hour free parking period allowed.
When Mr Ibbotson refused to pay up, he was taken to court by VCS and ordered to pay £42.50 in costs.
But he appealed and last week a judge at Scunthorpe County Court dismissed the company’s claim and instructed VCS to give him the money back. Mr Ibbotson had learned that VCS did not have the legal go-ahead from the landowner of the Wickes store site to pursue parking charges. VCS is one of Britain’s biggest parking control companies. It operates on more than 600 sites at shopping centres, hospitals and universities all over Britain. The firm is owned by Simon Renshaw-Smith, who also runs a vehicle immobilisation operation called Mr Clampit.
The judge ordered Mr Renshaw-Smith to come to court next month to explain why he had pursued Mr Ibbotson when he had ‘no lawful contractual assignment of authority to do so’. Mr Renshaw-Smith, 45, lives in a £900,000 detached house in the Derbyshire village of Barlow, five miles from the Sheffield headquarters of VCS. Last year he paid himself a salary of £766,353 according to documents lodged at Companies House – and his main company, Excel Parking Services, had a turnover of £10.3 million and an operating profit of nearly £500,000.
The case is embarrassing for the industry-funded British Parking Association (BPA), of which VCS is a member, because Mr Renshaw-Smith holds a senior position in the organisation. A BPA spokesman said: ‘Our code of practice requires members to obtain authority from landowners to pursue parking charges from motorists on their behalf. ‘We audit operators’ contracts every year to ensure that they have that authority in place. In rare cases where contracts do not have this clause, they are found to be in breach of our code and, where appropriate, sanctions are applied.’
A VCS spokesman said: ‘We are taking legal advice in respect of the judgment and a possible appeal.’ Mr Renshaw-Smith was unavailable for comment.
Simon Renshaw Smith, for those unfamiliar with the name, is a total w*nk*r and has lost many cases, and won a handful (where the defence hadnt taken proper advice). If ever there was a a dildo to fit the sphincter ring of Private Parking , Renshaw Smith is it.
And just to rub salt into the wound, in a separate tax case..........
VCS v HMRC. In simple terms VCS's appeal was dismissed but the tribunal made decisions on a number of points wholly relevant to the PPC case. The UTT is a superior court of record and its decisions carry the weight of a High Court finding.
The appeal tribunal held:
1. VCS did not have any right to occupy land or to pursue any action in trespass (which is what VCS had claimed they were doing).
2. Such payments they received by way of "Parking Charge Notices" were not therefore a payment by way of damages and were not therefore exempt from VAT.
3. That on the basis of their standard agreement with landowners there could have been no contract formed between VCS and the motorist because its limited rights to access to the land did not extend to being able to offer the right to park.
4. The signs used by VCS cannot have effect because they have no right in law to make any offer to park in the first instance.
5. Any contract to park could only be formed between the landowner and the motorist
6. Any parking charges collected by VCS would therefore be, in effective, damages in breach of contract or trespass but because they were retained by VCS they constituted a standard-rated consideration and VAT was therefore payable against them.
Looks like the entire Private Parking Business Model has fallen apart, irrespective of how they try and change the law in the autumn. Most private landowners do not want to get there hands dirty when it comes to private parking tickets, and especially companies like Sainsburys. If you tackle them about the activities of the PPC's on there land, they attempt to wash there hands of the whole thing and say something like "Oh its nothing to do with us". The fact is its ALWAYS been to do with them, since they are vicariously liable for the actions of there agents, and thats why you sue them and the PPC to get your money back in court, but now they will have to give written authorisation to the PPC to pursue tickets (ie unsolicited invoices), which many will baulk at doing.