Furious double-glazing fitter Darren Hubbert was stunned when he received a £100 parking penalty out of the blue – more than two months after being treated for an emergency at Queen Alexandra Hospital’s A&E.
Darren says that in mid-April he found himself in a crisis situation when after surgery for a hernia, the incision wasn’t healing properly leaving him in considerable pain.
He drove himself the short distance to the Cosham hospital’s A&E where he parked up. But when he attempted to pay, the meter was out of order and the coins dropped straight through the machine.
In too much pain and discomfort to search for another meter he went into the hospital and was seen by a triage nurse.
Darren says that he was so worried about being ticketed that while he was waiting to be seen by a doctor he decided to take a quick look outside for a parking attendant. As luck would have it a PCP Enforcement Agency parking attendant was nearby.
Darren said: ‘I explained I was a bit concerned that the ticket machine wasn’t working and he stood there and watched as I put the coins in the meter and they just fell to the bottom.
‘He replied the machine was broken, but told me not to worry as he’d seen me trying to get a ticket and it wasn’t a problem.
‘Then I heard my name being called. A doctor was waiting to see me. At that point the attendant said he knew the vehicle belonged to me, and not to worry about it.’
Subsequently, Darren was kept in as a day patient for further tests and treatment, and was not discharged until 5.30pm, some nine and a half hours later.
When he returned to his van he claims there was no ticket on it. He concluded the attendant had been as good as his word and thought no more about it.
But at the end of June, around nine weeks later, a parking penalty demand for the £100 arrived in the post like a bolt from the blue.
Darren was adamant he was never at any time aware of being ticketed. So the angry 50-year-old from Drayton dashed off a letter to PCP protesting about being slapped with an unfair retrospective bill he claims he knew nothing about and to which there was no right of appeal.
Darren’s story and outrage is depressingly familiar. Streetwise receives a regular stream of strikingly similar complaints from readers.
Many arise during inherently stressful emergency situations, or feature problems when appointments with specialists run late. Patients have not been slow in accusing PCP of insensitivity and unfair harsh ticketing for petty infringements.
We learned of the case of Linda Wallis who rushed her young daughter to A&E with agonising stomach pains. She paid for five hours’ car parking and was then given an official pass to display. When she returned to her car she found a £60 penalty notice on her windscreen which she refused to pay.
Streetwise featured the case of Good Samaritan Anne Waters who provided lifts to the hospital for a vulnerable elderly neighbour to attend cancer treatment appointments. She was faced with a demand for £100 when a minor part of her parking ticket was partially obscured by a border around the windscreen.
On reading of her plight a kindly reader forwarded a cheque via the paper to settle the matter. We contacted the hospital’s facilities contractor, Carillion, which agreed to investigate Darren’s complaint.
We advised Darren that parking control companies are legally allowed to pursue motorists for any unpaid parking charge notices. However, the parking tickets doled out by private firms don’t have any legal status for which people can be arrested or prosecuted in a court of law. Drivers cannot be compelled to pay up unless and until they receive an order from the civil County Court.
Commenting on Darren’s complaint, a Carillion spokesman told us that a ticket was issued in accordance with their parking procedure which contained information about how and where to appeal. It was placed on his vehicle’s windscreen and photographed.
He added: ‘On the day and time in question, parking tickets were issued by pay-and-display machines in the car park. If a driver reports a pay-and-display machine is not working then our parking attendants will direct the driver to a working machine.
‘In this case the process appears to have been followed correctly, from issuing the ticket through to the enforcement agency following up the request for payment and offering the correct advice regarding the appeals process.’
An outraged Darren was adamant that he had no knowledge of being issued with a parking charge notice and if he had he would have appealed. There was nothing attached to his van when he left the hospital. Someone must have removed it.
He said: ‘It’s appalling that your number-one concern is rushing to QA in the event of an emergency, having to make sure you have adequate change to feed a meter which may, or may not work, before you can even get to see a doctor.’
He wasn’t prepared to pay an excessive penalty or being compelled to search for a working pay-and-display parking meter before he could receive emergency treatment.
If Darren did receive a court order to pay up, he’d be prepared to fight his corner because the charge amounted to an excessive penalty. The current cost of parking at the hospital for up to 12 hours is £11.50.
Latest figures obtained by Streetwise from the parking appeals service (POPLA) confirm that nearly half (47 per cent) of all private parking penalties were overturned on appeal, and 53 per cent were upheld.
Less than four per cent drivers, 124 in total, were referred to the courts by parking control firms and actually ordered to pay up.