A PRIVATE company involved in issuing parking tickets at the Showgrounds Retail Park in Omagh has never taken a case to court in Tyrone in the last five years.
UK Parking Control Ltd, which describes itself as the UK’s leading specialist in car park management, is the company behind the £60 parking tickets which have appeared on the windscreens of cars at the popular shopping location. A series of the fines, which rise to £100 after 14 days, were controversially issued to disgruntled shoppers on Christmas Eve.
Despite bearing similarities to official Penalty Charge Notices issued by Transport NI (formerly Roads Service) or Fixed Penalty Notices issued by the PSNI on public land, the tickets imposed by UKPC do not have the same legal power.
Rather than being a criminal matter, parking on private land such as car parks at privately owned retail parks is considered a civil matter.
It means the ‘Parking Charge Notices’ imposed by UKPC and other private companies can only be enforced by taking the recipient to the small claims court.
However following a freedom of information request, the UH has learned that the NI Courts and Tribunals Service possess no records of cases involving UKPC in the last five years.
The revelation flies in the face of the company’s claim on its website that it will commence court proceedings against anyone refusing to pay.
“Amateur lawyers posting on internet forums often advise people to ignore parking charges, claiming that they’re not enforceable by law.
“This is bad advice. In fact parking companies take people to court every month and in most cases the judge finds in our favour,” claims the UKPC website.
While UKPC appears to have achieved some success in taking civil cases in England and Wales, it has not followed through in a similar way in the Tyrone and Fermanagh court division.
What the company has done locally, is send out letters purporting to be from debt recovery agencies.
“If we don’t receive payment from you we will pass your details on to a registered debt recovery agency, and you may also become liable for the costs they incur as a result,” states the UKPC website.
The practice has sparked fears among local people that their credit rating may be affected.
But local solicitors have clarified that credit ratings will only be affected if the court rules against the recipient.
“Until such times as it is brought to court, it can’t affect your credit rating,” said Omagh solicitor Michael Fahy.
“Only when they go so far as to have a debt essentially translated into a judgement, does that impinge upon your credit rating.
“The debt has to be enforced,” he added. “After a judgement is obtained, if there is still no payment made, then it is sent to the enforcement of judgements office.”
The UH contacted UK Parking Control Ltd on several occasions, but the company declined to respond to any queries.