Hi, just wanted to tell you about my experience in small claims in Manchester today. I was being taken to court by Gemini for allegedly parking at Stepping Hill Hospital and not paying for a ticket. I started to get letters from Gladstones Solicitors approximately last August 17. But the letters only stated I owed Gemini varying amounts of money but had no details about the PCN Numbers or date, time and place of parking. So I ignored them.
Eventually I got a letter from the small claims court based in Northampton in December saying Gemini (represented by Gladstones) intended to pursue the case via the court. It was only at this point that I found out the actual date of the alleged breach of contract because the court documents had the date, year and place of the alleged breach…but not the time the ticket was allegedly issued. The date of breach was recorded as 24th January 2017. I wrote my defense based on a template which was in part found on your website basically denying I was parked on that date.
About 3 weeks ago Gladstones sent me a pack of “evidence”. It was a PCN from Gemini, a letter before claim (that I never received from them) various other documents, a witness statement from the ticket issuer and some photographs of my car. They also had separate photos of the parking machines and signs…but not of my car and the signs together.
It was at this point I noticed there was a time stamp on the photos. The time stamp said 24-01-2017 16.12pm.
So, I work at the hospital. I fished out my old ROTA’s from January 17 and on my ROTA it stated that on 24th January 2017 I was on a night shift, so my shift will have started at 11.30pm. So basically this meant I could not have been parked in the hospital at the time / date that Gemini claimed I was parked there.
I took this evidence to court. I was met at the court in Manchester by Mr Pickup, whom I’ve read about on your website. I got very assertively told off by the judge for not writing a witness statement and I thought he wasn’t going to allow me to use my new evidence in the form of my rota. To be honest I just didn’t read the instructions on the form properly, but he agreed I could continue despite protestations from Mr Pickup.
Anyway, I showed the judge my ROTA. I accepted that the photo was of my car parked in Stepping Hill Hospital, but asserted to him that I had doubts over the voracity and accuracy of the photo’s date stamp. I suggested that maybe the camera’s date and time settings were incorrect and questioned whether they were inputted manually and maybe this had not been done properly.
Long story short, the judge dismissed the case against me. The judge told Mr Pickup that he felt I was a credible witness and the ROTA and the photo’s date stamp showed an anomaly that cast enough doubt on the whether I was indeed parked in Stepping Hill Hospital on that date and at that time.
I do believe I was probably quite lucky. I cannot explain the photo’s date and time coinciding with my night shift, it might be the camera was actually faulty, or there might be another explanation that would have been less favourable to me.
I suppose the thing I learned is that all you have to do sometimes is cause the judge to have a reasonable doubt as to the information on the claim, its a balance of probability. Mr Pickup could not of course provide any further evidence that would improve the chances of him winning the case.
The irony is that i did not want to go to court in the first place, so I sent a cheque to Gladstones Solicitors last week offering them £160 to settle out of court. They returned the cheque to me and declined my offer. I took the chance and went to court, exercised my rights to justice and won.
Thanks for sharing your story Jason. Sounds like you were lucky with the judge – typically they wont allow you to introduce evidence on the day. But a good point you make is that county court cases are based on the balance of probability. The judge determined that the evidence showed that on the balance of probability you weren’t there.