Driver who ignored private firm's fines ordered to pay £24,500 in 'landmark ruling'

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

A woman who ignored numerous parking fines issued to her by a private firm has been ordered to pay £24,500, in a case that could have serious implications for drivers.

Carly Mackie, from Dundee, ripped up more than 200 of Vehicle Controls Services’ (VCS) parking penalties, believing that they were not enforceable in Scotland.

However, a sheriff has ruled in favour of the company and lawyers believe the landmark case could open the floodgates for “bully-boy firms”.

One parking company, ParkingEye, is already quoting the case on its website as proof that penalties are enforceable in Scotland.

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The case follows widespread concern about parking firms’ increasingly aggressive tactics in pursuing motorists for allegedly breaching their rules.

The case could now be a “game changer” for firms such as ParkingEye and Smart Parking as lawyers have quietly indicated that clients should ignore any penalties these firms impose, arguing that no one in Scotland had ever been taken to court for refusing to pay up.

Carly Mackie ripped up over 200 parking tickets issued to her (SWNS)

Miss Mackie, 28, regularly parked her Mini in an area reserved for residents in Dundee’s Waterfront district, where her mum and step-dad lived.

As she was not a tenant herself, VCS issued several penalties which Miss Mackie refused to pay them.

The stand-off went on for 16 months until the firm sent her a bill for £18,500.

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When that went unpaid, VCS took her to court and now Miss Mackie must find a way to pay £24,500 – a figure that accrues interest at the rate of 8% per year until it is paid.

Miss Mackie, previously argued she was entitled to park at the property where she was staying at the time.

Speaking in 2015 about the tickets she received almost daily, she said: “I’ve considered moving out. It just makes life so hellish.

Miss Mackie parked outside property where her parents lived (SWNS)

“I always make a point of parking in front of my own garage, where nobody else could park.”

Sheriff George Way ruled: “[Miss Mackie] has, in my judgment, entirely misdirected herself on both the law and the contractual chain in this case.”

He added that the company had a valid contract and residents in the area had a “legitimate interest arising from their title to the land to protect their property and amenity”.

The sheriff added: “Parking is not only an amenity but a valuable commodity in modern life.”

Lawyer Chris Buchanan from Glasgow firm Scullion LAW said the Dundee Sheriff Court hearing was a landmark case that set a legal precedent.

He added: “The worry here overall is does this open a floodgate? Do [parking companies] then rely on this precedent to take more to court?

“There will obviously be distinguishable points within that case and each case will no doubt have to be assessed on its individual merits but, yes, it could have a big impact for people going forward and it is certainly something for people to have to watch out for.”

Vehicle Control Services is a private firm that regulates parking in the area (SWNS)

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser has previously highlighted the distress caused by “bully-boy” tactics, including the threat of court action, increased fines and damage to an individual’s credit rating.

Keith Dryburgh of Citizens Advice Scotland said they had seen “a big increase in the numbers of people who have received unfair or disproportionate charges”.

He added: “Our It’s Not Fine campaign sets out people’s rights and encourages them to challenge charges they think have been applied unfairly.”

Vehicle Control Services said: “The terms and conditions are clearly displayed on prominent signs around the site. It is therefore not unreasonable to expect motorists to adhere to these.”

Miss Mackie and her family declined to comment on the ruling.

Top pic: SWNS