"They just try to bully and manipulate you": Retired Bedford council officer takes on car park firm in two-year court battle - and wins

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A retired Bedford Borough Council planning officer has won a two year court battle against a major car park enforcement firm after being wrongly fined - and persuaded a judge to award HIM a pay-out instead.

Martin Anderson, 65, took on the "bully boy" company and successfully fought off the court claim against him after being fined £100 for parking in a pub car park.

The volunteer litter picker had pulled up at the Cardigan Arms in Corby to collect some rubbish on March 15, 2022.

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The local boozer acts as a collection point for the "Corby Wombles" so while Martin was picking up some litter bags, he stopped for a pint.

Martin Anderson next to his car.Martin Anderson next to his car.
Martin Anderson next to his car.

However he was slapped with the fixed penalty notice, despite the landlord having an open agreement the group can use the ANPR-controlled car park for their work.

Martin appealed the fine on the basis he had permission to park there but Civil Enforcement Ltd - who manage the pub's car park - refused to back down.

The dad-of-two's appeal was rejected despite the pub landlord also offering to help him get the charge overturned.

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The firm then threatened him with CCJs, bailiffs, court action and the price of the fine also rose to £277.65 to include fees and costs.

Martin Anderson doing some litter picking and the Cardigan Pub in Corby. Pictures: Martin Anderson / SWNSMartin Anderson doing some litter picking and the Cardigan Pub in Corby. Pictures: Martin Anderson / SWNS
Martin Anderson doing some litter picking and the Cardigan Pub in Corby. Pictures: Martin Anderson / SWNS

Martin, who worked as a principal building control officer for Bedford Borough Council, said: "I had two or three letters from different debt collection companies. They just try to bully and manipulate you. They threaten you with CCJs and I’m a landlord with several different mortgages so that could have some serious consequences for me.

"I don’t like being bullied and I didn’t want to stand for it. I was just enraged by it, I was just going for bin bags and I was invited there by the landlord. I just said 'I’m not paying and take me to court'. I never thought they would. I thought they’d think it was ridiculous.”

The firm argued he should have entered his registration details at the bar to register his vehicle - but there were no signs in the car park to inform Martin of this.

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Martin stood his ground and decided to represent himself in court after enduring two years of "bullying" and heavy-handed tactics by the company.

He appeared at Northampton County Court last Thursday (May 9) for the 'David v Goliath' battle against an advocate for Civil Enforcement Ltd.

After a two-hour hearing the case against him was dismissed and District Judge Nicholas Glassbrook awarded Martin £100 in expenses against the company.

The judge said there were inaccuracies in the firm’s witness statement which said that signage made clear that customers had to validate their parking - but it did not.

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Martin added: "I’m glad that I won but I’d asked for more money to cover the incredible amount of time I’d put into this. They pursued me for two years, bullied me, and stressed me out. They wasted the court's time and my time. What's £100 for two years of grief? It’s laughable."

Martin said when he arrived at the car park it was dark and wet and, although he had read the signs, they said it was for customer use only. Nowhere did they mention that punters had to sign a form at the bar to register their car.

He added: "I've been volunteering for the Corby Wombles for around four years and went to pick up some bags from the pub as it's a collection point. I had a beer while I was there. I was there for about 40 minutes.

“I discovered there was one sign saying there was one ANPR camera. But you don’t see the signs driving in.

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"I then got the letter through but I thought I was a customer, I shouldn't have to pay this. I got in touch with the landlord as I know him from the litter picking. He said he would try and get it cancelled.

“I didn’t see the tablet in the pub at all. I asked bar workers and they said there was a tablet at the bar but it wasn’t working and we had to write our names in a book. But there were no signs saying you have to log your car details.

“If I knew there was a chance of getting a ticket, I’d have parked in the free car park down the road.”

Martin says he was referred to POPLA, an arbitration service wholly funded by the private parking industry, but his appeal was refused.

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He added: "It’s like they’re marking their own homework. I thought, right, take me to court then. I was a legitimate customer, nowhere on the signs did it say you had to register at the bar for a ‘permit’ to park, so I just thought that there was no way I would lose."

But it has taken Martin two years and reams of paperwork sent backwards and forwards for the company to take him to court to try to force him to pay the charge.

The process has been so time-intensive that he says it was even a factor in him deciding to retire from his day job.

Martin did some digging and discovered Civil Enforcement Limited was owned by a series of off-shore shell companies.

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He said: "You can’t speak to anyone directly at all. You have to go through their website. It’s quite a job to take on the parking bully boys.

“I would not recommend anyone go through this. The government need to reintroduce the private parking code of practice. We need people to kick up a stink to get this legislation implemented."

Civil Enforcement Limited have been contacted for comment.