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Professor wins court case against parking firm after legal blunder

PUBLISHED: 06:40 21 August 2020 | UPDATED: 18:57 21 August 2020

Amanda Hopkinson was taken to court by NPE for not paying a charge at Earlham House shopping centre in Norwich. Picture: Antony Kelly/Kurt Kaindl

Amanda Hopkinson was taken to court by NPE for not paying a charge at Earlham House shopping centre in Norwich. Picture: Antony Kelly/Kurt Kaindl

Antony Kelly/Kurt Kaindl

A judge threw out an attempt by an enforcement company to make a motorist pay £100 for parking at a shopping centre, after its solicitors bungled the court case.

The terms and conditions of parking at Earlham House on Earlham Road in Norwich. Picture: Neil DidsburyThe terms and conditions of parking at Earlham House on Earlham Road in Norwich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

National Parking Enforcement (NPE) took Amanda Hopkinson, of Earlham Road, to Norwich County Court on Thursday after she refused to pay a £100 charge for stopping at Earlham House.

The Norwich shopping centre has been at the centre of parking controversy for years and NPE has taken dozens of motorists to court, who refused to pay charges.

But Judge Nicholas Reeves dismissed the claim by NPE against Prof Hopkinson, a former UEA lecturer, after it emerged that its solicitors, Gladstones, had filed the evidence against her too late. Judge Reeves said this was a “clear breach” of court rules.

It only emerged around 30 minutes into the hearing that Gladstones had fallen foul of a court order.

Professor Hopkinson's Mercedes (left) was parked in what she thought was a marked bay at Earlham House in October 2017. Photo: NPEProfessor Hopkinson's Mercedes (left) was parked in what she thought was a marked bay at Earlham House in October 2017. Photo: NPE

Before the case was dismissed, Gladstone’s solicitor George Mullen had attempted to adjourn the hearing, claiming he had not seen Prof Hopkinson’s witness statement and evidence.

However Prof Hopkinson had sent the court her documents eight months ago in January.

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The honorary professor of literary translation at City University, London, parked her Mercedes A Class at Earlham House in October 2017.

NPE said she was not parked in a marked bay and argued that this was a breach.

Earlham House shopping centre. Picture : ANTONY KELLYEarlham House shopping centre. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

But Prof Hopkinson refused to pay the charge as she said the bay markings were not clear.

On one side there was a white line and on the other side of her vehicle the ground was covered in autumn leaves and dirt, she said.

The grandmother also argued that NPE signs were not in place on the day she parked near the post office to send a present to her grandchildren.

But in a witness statement to the court Julie Le Caille, director of NPE, said: “The signage at the site is clearly visible and the information on the signage informs the driver of the parking conditions at the location.”

Speaking after the case, Prof Hopkinson said: “I feel very relieved. This has been going on for almost three years and it has been horrendous.”

Motorists have repeatedly hit out at NPE over parking charges at Earlham House, as well as the appeals process used by the industry.


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