Retired magistrate Clive Sowerby, 78, refused to pay hundreds of pounds in fines to a private parking firm during a legal dispute which began in October 2019 and ended in a David vs Goliath showdown
Image: Stourbridge News/SWNS)
A grandad who was left “financially devastated” after being slapped with a £272 fine over a 50p parking debt has won a David vs Goliath court battle to overturn the decision.
Retired magistrate Clive Sowerby, 78, refused to pay hundreds of pounds in fines to a private parking firm during a lengthy legal dispute which began in October 2019.
The grandfather-of-three was served with a County Court Judgment (CCJ) over the 50p discrepancy when he parked in Crown Lane, Stourbridge, West Midlands.
He had put £4 in a pay and display machine not realizing the cost had just been put up to £4.50 and weeks later he was hit with a £60 fine.
Clive wrote to the firm explaining his mistake but they replied in November 2019 telling him the penalty had increased to £160.
I have contacted the firm again and heard nothing back until January last year when they replied to say the case had now to court.
Premier Parking Logistics told Clive he had been issued with a CCJ with the fine going up to £272.55.
Clive said the CCJ had ruined his chance of applying for a loan to expand his shoe shop business he has run for 50 years.
He also feared the black mark on his credit score would delay his retirement plans and affect how much he could leave his family in his will.
But defiant Clive continued to stand up for himself and refused to pay the fine, despite concerns about his family’s financial future.
He has now successfully overturned the judgment issued against him following a hearing at Worcester County Court and says “finally common sense had prevailed”.
Dad-of-two Clive, of Stourbridge, said: “I hate injustice and I love my town.
“You can’t do anything with a CCJ, it’s really crippling. But I’ve done this for the community.
“We don’t need people like this doing business in our town and I think people need to stand up for themselves when they know they are not in the wrong.
“The way the parking company went about their business was both unjust and ruthless.
“I’ve had to appeal three times and finally common sense has prevailed. Previously it felt like the court were aiding and abetting this kind of behaviour.
“They simply said at first I had the financial means to pay but I successfully argued the fine was grossly unfair.
“The signage was shambolic so you could not see the charges had increased. They had put a sticker up over the zero to indicate it had gone up 50p.
“There was a tree blocking part of the tariff board and another sign about the price rise was just cellotaped to it.
“There was no intention on my part to avoid paying, we spend around £700 a year parking there, we just didn’t notice the price hike
“It has been nice to finally put the parking company in their place and to clear my name.
“I will have to go to a small claims court to recover costs but I have enough on my plate looking after my wife who is having chemotherapy for leukemia.
“This is enough of a victory for now. I know hundreds of other motorists will be in similar situations and it just goes to show justice can be done.
“But it should also serve as a warning these private parking companies will take motorists to court.”
During lockdown, Clive’s shoe shop had been closed while he and his wife shielded but unknown to him, the parking firm had been sending letters to that address.
Clive, who was a magistrate for 22 years and now cares for his wife Helen, added: “They knew shops would be closed at that time.
“That was another underhand way they went about things.
“Previously I ran the shop for 50 years with a good reputation and unblemished record.
“My wife was in tears when she found out saying ‘this would not have happened if I didn’t have leukemia and Covid, it’s my fault.’
“What can you say to that? It was heartbreaking.”
Despite repeatedly writing to the parking firm to explain his circumstances, his reasoning fell on deaf ears.
Clive said: “I had been hoping for a more human response over the whole matter rather than just forms demanding money.
“You have to stand up and be counted somewhere along the line against total injustices.”
The case was delayed by the pandemic but came before Deputy District Judge Bush on March 16 where the claim was dismissed.
Since the saga began it has emerged that Dudley Council owns part of the car park and the authority had now updated the signage.
Premier Parking Logistics said previously the initial charge was issued for an expired ticket and parking charges had increased months earlier.
A spokesperson said people have 14 days to pay a parking charge notice and 21 days to appeal.
A spokesperson for Premier Parking Logistics said: “The county court judgment stated to dismiss the CCJ but it still cost him over £200 to set the judgment aside.
“The court ruled that he was not entitled to any expenses which proves we were correct in issuing the judgement.
“We believe the judgment was made in sympathy rather than hard facts, that’s why we were advised not to pay his expenses.
“He initially failed to pay full payment for parking. It is his responsibility to make sure he has paid the full tariff before leaving the car park.
“The charge issued advised he could make payment of £60 or appeal to us or an independent appeals service of which he ignored.
“We also offered the full rate of £100 after this to be paid within 28 days of which he also ignored.
“We advised we would forward the unpaid debt to debt recovery.
“He then corresponded with the debt recovery agent during lockdown and advised them to change his residential address details on file to his business address therefore advised all post to be sent to his business.
“He was aware correspondence was requested to be sent to his business address during lockdown so he was responsible for collecting his mail.”