One motorist’s war against a private car park fine could ‘bring down the system’ and pave the way for drivers to challenge every ticket issued by an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) camera.
Lawrence Carnie, 58, was slapped with a £100 ticket for a ’22-hour’ stay at a car park in Dartford, Kent in June last year – but he claims his overnight stay was actually two half-hour stays on two consecutive days.
So determined to prove his case, the retired bank manager said he was willing to pay thousands of pounds to fight the parking ticket – not just to avoid paying the charge but to call into question the very reliability of automated ticketing systems used across Britain.
But after MailOnline contacted previously bullish private parking firm GroupNexus, they performed a u-turn, and offered to cancel the charge ‘as a gesture of good will’.
But the father-of-two is not satisfied with the response as he wants to ensure unsuspecting motorists don’t get caught out like he did.
The driver, from Dartford, says the ANPR data from Group Nexus – previously called CP Plus – is so poor that ‘it would not hold up in court’, and he wants drivers to know this so they too can challenge unfair parking charge notices (PCNs).
‘I want to bring down the system,’ Mr Carnie told MailOnline. ‘I want ANPR in car parks to be scrapped until the data is of a standard that would hold up in court, but I don’t think that is possible.’
He added : ‘So many people that have come forward over incorrectly issued PCNs and said “I had to pay the fine” because they had no other choice.
‘If people don’t pay them debt collectors can come for them, or they can have CCJs issued against them, which is worse.’
After learning the fine was being cancelled, Mr Carnie said: ‘There’s no good will here and I believe they’re cancelling the charge because they know the data is wrong. If they are doing it on good will are they saying that they believe my car was there?
‘I am not just fighting my ticket, I am questioning their whole operation.’
His advice for dealing with an unfair PCN was: ‘Appeal and demand the data from the parking company. Report them to the BPA. Make it known that you are yet another victim.’
‘I want to bring down the system’: Lawrence Carnie, 58, was slapped with a £100 ticket for a a ’22-hour’ stay at the Tower Retail Park car park in Dartford, Kent in June last year – but he claims the alleged overnight stay which was actually two half-hour stays on consecutive days. Pictured: Mr Carnie at the Tower Retail Park car park
Mr Carnie says the ANPR data from private parking firm Group Nexus – previously called CP Plus – is so poor that ‘it would not hold up in court’, and he wants drivers to know so that they can challenge unfair parking charges
The parking conditions that firm GroupNexus display at Tower Retail Park car park
Mr Carnie added: ‘The underlying goal for me is to expose this company for what they’re doing to people. They know they’re operating on bad data and yet they’re issuing PCNs knowing that people will be intimidated into paying them.
‘I have no issues with a legitimate parking company issuing legitimate PCNs and having a fair appeals process. But they know they don’t have a reliable ANPR system.’
Mr Carnie originally appealed to the parking enforcers and adjudicator Parking On Private Land Appeals (POPLA), which is run on behalf of trade body the British Parking Association (BPA). But his claim that an error with the camera system caused the appearance of an overstay was rejected both times.
But MailOnline can reveal that Group Nexus were already aware of this ANPR issue by the time of Mr Carnie’s appeal. After directors were made aware, the parking firm cancelled a ticket caused by what appears to be the exact same error at a car park run by the same firm just a few minutes down the road.
As part of his appeal Mr Carnie received the logs of vehicles picked up by CCTV entering and exiting the Tower Retail Park car park between when he first arrived at 3.20pm on June 10 last year and then left at 1.30pm the next day.
Mr Carnie raised data quality issues with Group Nexus and the BPA but they both rejected his concerns, and claimed it was impossible for him to perform any analysis on the logs as the number plates (except his own) were partially redacted.
He said: ‘Nexus provided 383 pages of data in a PDF. There is no way that POPLA analysed that. Nexus told me that data could not be scrutinised. But luckily I could analyse it.
‘The appeals process and the fact that it costs way too much to fight this in court for a relatively small parking fine pressures people into paying them.’
Mr Carnie hopes his legal challenge will help motorists in the long term who have been hit with unfair parking tickets
Mr Carnie jas call into question the reliability of parking ticketing systems that use ANPR cameras (pictured at the car park)
The parking charge Mr Carnie was issued with after GroupNexus said he stayed at the carpark for 22 hours
The letter GroupNexus sent Mr Carnie sent after his appeal to the adjudicator was rejected
The log raises questions over data quality and the reliability of Group Nexus’s ANPR system at Tower Retail Park – which allows three hours free parking and no returns within two hours.
MailOnline’s own analysis of the data suggests that more than 100 cars in the 290 were logged either only arriving on June 10 or only leaving on June 11.
The data shows that at least 60 cars arrived after 3.20pm on June 10 but were not recorded leaving that day, and at least 45 cars left the car park before 1.30pm on June 11 but were not logged arriving that day.
Inconsistencies such as vehicles being recorded as entering twice, then exiting once (or the reverse) are also common within the data, which GroupNexus admits could be caused by obstructions to licence plate – for example by tailgating.
They said that they do not issue PCNs ‘do not issue any PCNs if a car’s details are picked up on entry and not on exit for some reason’.
But they said that, as Mr Carnie claims in his case, ‘it is incredibly rare for a vehicle to be registered upon entry, missed at exit and re-entry, and then picked up again on the second exit’.
They said that in these scenarios they would enforce the PCNs unless a successful appeal was made.
One vehicle is recorded to have entered the car park at 4.49pm on June 10 and then, without leaving, enter again at 6.06am the next day, before exiting at 6.13am and at 6.21am.
This driver could have appeared to have a 13-hour overnight stay, but they may have left on the evening of the 10th and drove in again the next morning.
Another example shows a vehicle arriving at 5.05pm on June 10, and then, without exiting, arriving again at 8.20pm. The vehicle was then logged exiting the car park at 21.02pm the same day.
Group Nexus have claimed Mr Carnie’s analysis is inaccurate as the data as was ‘significantly redacted’, by way of removing the last two digits off number plates – saying that a matching first five digits cannot be a confirmation of the same car.
A spokesperson said: ‘Mr Carnie has clearly gone to great length with his analysis of the data that was provided to POPLA. However, for GDPR reasons the data provided to POPLA was significantly redacted (nearly 50%). Hence, the analysis is incomplete and inaccurate.’
However, Mr Carnie branded the assertion that the data was not possible to scrutinise ‘ludicrous’. ‘If they are saying their supporting evidence cannot be scrutinised, then why are they providing it as evidence?’
He asked: ‘Would they sign an affidavit saying the unredacted data doesn’t have any errors in that 22-hours period?’
The parking firm said that they had issued six PCNs on June 10 and eight on June 11 of which:
- 8 have been paid
- 1 was cancelled – an employee who forgot to register
- 1 was cancelled – a contractor working on site
- 2 outstanding unpaid
After MailOnline wrote about Mr Carnie’s fight last week, dozens of furious readers shared their experience of receiving unfair parking charges due to what they believe was faulty ANPR systems.
Annette Chatten, 54, received a parking ticket from Group Nexus for an alleged overnight stay at the nearby Prospect Retail Park car park in April – which was run by CP Plus – in April last year, caused by the same ANPR error that landed Mr Carnie a charge.
She was charged £170 for a nearly 19-hour stay on April 2, despite her Fiat Punto actually being parked there for two separate half-hour stints over consecutive days when she was in the area to tidy her father’s house after he had died.
The first the couple heard of the parking charge was in a supposed ‘second letter’ in May, telling them the fee had already been doubled.
She promptly wrote a letter on May 25 explaining that she did not stay at the car park overnight and could prove it with CCTV footage – but the parking firm were uncommunicative.
Her husband Dr Ian Prescott, a retired FTSE 100 director, then wrote to Group Nexus and their directors in an effort to get the charge removed, but they refused.
After they didn’t pay, the charge was passed onto a debt collector who sent numerous ‘threatening’ letters. Mrs Chatten suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and says the stress of dealing with the hefty parking ticket worsened her condition.
The parking charge was eventually withdrawn in mid-June after Dr Prescott sent the CCTV still to Group Nexus, proving the car was not in the car park at the time.
But the couple still received threatening letters from the debt collection agency until August, only stopping after further complaints to the BPA and Group Nexus.
Dr Prescott said: ‘I think the company operates unprofessionally. They did not listen to issues about the ANPR.
‘They are ignoring it so they can get more revenue from parking charges… and people pay because they are frightened.’
After learning about Mrs Chatten’s ordeal, Mr Carnie was outraged.
‘Nexus knew about this issue, and they know that my situation was exactly the same as Annette’s, where they eventually accepted there was a problem,’ he said.
Mr Carnie’s legal advisor Luke Memory, a paralegal and director of firm CCJ Removals, said the revelations over poorly logged parking camera data could ‘bring down the system’.
He explained that while police have to audit the reliability of speeding cameras, to ensure that misidentifications are minimal, the obligation for private parking companies to do the same is not as strong.
However, the BPA’s code of practice says: ‘You must keep any ANPR equipment you use in your car parks in good working order. You need to make sure the data you are collecting is accurate, securely held and cannot be tampered with.’
As part of his appeal Mr Carnie received the logs of vehicles picked up by CCTV entering and exiting the Tower Retail Park (pictured) car park between when he first arrived at 3.20pm on June 10 last year and then left at 1.30pm the next day
Mr Memory told MailOnline: ‘If you get caught speeding by a police officer at the side of the road, you can ask if that equipment has been calibrated properly,’ but you can’t ask the same of private parking firms.
He said incorrect parking charges are often issued at car parks or drive-thrus if ‘someone else obstructs the camera’.
‘If the camera can’t see you leaving… and you come back the next day it will think you stayed overnight – which is improbable.’
Mr Carnie hopes his legal challenge will help motorists in the long term who have been hit with unfair parking tickets. He said: ‘It’s a scandal that’s a big issue that’s never been dealt with on anything more than an individual level, they should be properly regulated but they’re not. The data is of a poor quality and not of a standard that would hold up in a court – and they know it.
‘They must know that they’re doing this to many people and it’s unfair to the point of being cruel, especially for those who really can’t afford it.
‘It’s just so wrong.’
The British Parking Association previously said an investigation was carried out into Mr Carnie’s case but that the ticket was issued correctly.
A spokesman said: ‘The motorist appealed the charge issued to their vehicle to POPLA which was rejected as they deemed the charge to have been issued correctly.
‘The BPA carried out a thorough investigation of the motorist’s complaint about the management of the car park by one of its members and found there to be no breach of its code of practice.’
A spokesperson for GroupNexus said: ‘There are no issues related to the use of ANPR or the quality of the data produced. In addition, our experience in reading the data over the last 20 years has established a clear process for enforcing parking restrictions or not, at all our locations.
‘For example, we do not issue any PCNs if a car’s details are picked up on entry and not on exit for some reason, usually because tailgating has obscured the number plate.
‘However, It is incredibly rare for a vehicle to be registered upon entry, missed at exit and re-entry, and then picked up again on the second exit. In such instances, we would enforce the parking restrictions unless proven otherwise through our, or POPLA’s PCN challenge process.
They added: ‘Based on the data, we stick by our original findings, however as a good will gesture towards Mr Carnie, and in this instance alone, we have decided to cancel the PCN.’
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk