- Ruling that private company cannot pursue unpaid parking charges means many could be let off
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.