Solicitor Lee Corr of Thorntons Solicitors writes on private parking fines in Scots law.
“Don’t worry it was a private car park they cannot enforce a parking ticket, just bin it!”
Scots law on private car parks is a heavily debated subject but there is a common misconception amongst the public that parking charge notices from private car parks are unenforceable. Historically, the law was unclear. However, in 2015 the Supreme Court (the UK’s highest Court) ruled that Parking Charge Notices were enforceable so long as the car park’s terms and conditions were clearly displayed. A case in April brought by a private parking company in Dundee Sheriff Court has resulted in a judgment against the driver of the vehicle in the sum of £24,500. This decision follows the 2015 Supreme Court judgment. It has now been reported that the driver has been declared bankrupt with debts of £37,546. This again puts the issues of private car park fines in the public domain.
The Recent Case
Carly Mackie, 28, persistently parked outside her relative’s house at City Quay, Dundee without paying the parking charge. Signs showing the parking terms and conditions were displayed. She ignored these as she believed she was entitled to park in front of her family’s garage and that the tickets issued were unenforceable. She believed that private parking charges were illegal and unenforceable in Scotland.
However, the company that enforces the car parking rules, Vehicle Control Services, took her to court last year after she racked up £18,500 in penalties. Earlier this week, Sheriff George Way stated in a written judgment that Ms Mackie had “entirely misdirected herself on both the law and the contractual chain in this case” before ordering her to pay £24,500 to the parking company.
Current Scottish Law on Private Car Parks
Parking tickets issued by private companies in private car parks are not fines, they are classed as Parking Charge Notices. This is different from Penalty Charge Notices which are issued by council traffic wardens and the police. Penalty Charge Notices are regulated fines, backed by legislation.
When you park in a private car park the terms and conditions of the car park must be clearly displayed along with a warning of the charge payable for failing to display a ticket/permit or overstaying. If the terms and conditions of the car park are clearly displayed and you park in that car park, you are agreeing to those terms and conditions. You are entering into a contract with the landowner or car park operator. If you fail to adhere to the terms and conditions of the car park you may be issued with a Parking Charge Notice.
Failure to Pay Parking Charge Notices
Failure to pay a Parking Charge Notice will result in the landowner or car park operator pursuing you for the sum contained in the charge notice. The landowner or car park operator will allow you an opportunity to pay and may permit you to enter into a payment arrangement. If you ignore or refuse to pay the Parking Charge Notice the landowner or car park operator can take legal action against you.
In order for the parking company to succeed at court they must establish, on the balance of probabilities, who was responsible for parking the vehicle. This differs from the approach in England where legislation exists holding the registered keeper as accountable for payment of Parking Charge Notices irrespective of whether they were the driver of the vehicle.
What you should do when parking on private land
- Make sure the terms and conditions of the car park are clearly displayed and read them. However, ignorance of the terms and conditions is not an excuse or indeed a defence to a court action.
- If you accept the terms and conditions of the car park, pay the charge stated to park there. If you do not accept the terms and conditions of the car park, do not park there.
What should you do if you are issued with a Parking Charge Notice
- If you have been issued with a Parking Charge Notice and were the person responsible for parking the vehicle, you should pay the fine.
- If you have been issued with a Parking Charge Notice but you were not driving the vehicle at the time, you should explain this to the landowner or car park operator. They may ask you to prove this and state who was responsible for parking the vehicle.
- If you have been issued with a Parking Charge Notice and you followed the terms and conditions of the car park you should explain this to the landowner or car park operator. Mistakes can happen and if you have been issued with a Parking Charge Notice when you clearly have a ticket displayed, keep your parking ticket and send a photocopy of it to the landowner or car park operator.
- If you are unsure of your options when issued with a Parking Charge Notice or court proceedings have been raised against you, seek legal advice at an early stage.