Civil Enforcement Ltd Vs McCafferty is a famous court case that went to appeal. In the original case at Watford County Court on 3rd October 2013, Civil Enforcement Ltd lost, and their charge was found to be a penalty. The driver had claimed that the £150 charge was a penalty, and therefore unenforceable under contract law.
On 21st February 2014, CEL appealed the case. Civil Enforcement turned up with Queens Counsel Richard B Ritchie to represent them and went face to face with Ms McCafferty who represented herself.
Civil Enforcement Ltd’s case revolved around theri claim that £150 was a contractual charge and that motorists had the option to pay £5 for a single day of parking by phone, or if they did not pay within 10 minutes of arrival, they were contractually obliged to pay £150.
Ms McCafferty’s defence was that the purpose of the charge to act as a deterrent, and was therefore a penalty. And also that the cases cited by Civil Enforcement’s QC involved individually negotiated contracts between parties of equal standing, and therefore not relevant to the present case.
The words on the contract were: “If you do not pay within ten minutes of arrival or if you park longer than the period paid for you agree to pay £150 to Civil Enforcement Limited (reduced to £75 if paid within 14 days)”.
The judge noted that the requirement to pay £150, although in smaller print size than the rest of the sign, did form part of the contract. However, the judge said it was clear to him that the £150 was not a genuine offer to park at that price and that its main purpose was to deter. He ruled therefore that the the £150 was not recoverable.
He dismissed the appeal, and awarded the Ms McCafferty her costs.
The significance of this loss is that it was an appeal heard by a senior judge, and that judge has effectively ruled that this contractual-based charge was found to be a penalty. This ruling is not binding on other courts, but can be cited and should be persuasive to other cases in County Court.
The full court judgement can be read here.