Motorist turns detective to overturnPenrith supermarket parking fines

Date: Friday 19th January 2018

A MOTORIST hit with a pair of £85 parking fines after shopping at the Morrisons store in Penrith turned detective to prove that the camera system in its car park is making errors.

Mike Shuttleworth, of Newton Reigny, was fed up when he received demands from car park operator ParkingEye, telling him his Land Rover Freelander had overstayed at the Brunswick Road store for several hours on 5th January, 2017, and again on 16th December, 2017.

The December notice stated his car was parked there for three hours, 17 minutes, when he said he had been there for only five to 10 minutes. Mr. Shuttleworth, aged 72, remembered the visit because he had popped in to purchase flowers for his late wife’s grave.

“I knew there was no way I’d been there that long,” he said. “It really annoyed me. The rules state that you can park for free for up to two hours but then cannot return until two hours after that.”

As he wracked his brains, Mr. Shuttleworth, who is retired, remembered that on both occasions he must have visited the store twice on the same day but had no way of proving this — having paid in cash and not used his store loyalty card in January, 2017, or kept his receipt — and so paid up.

The former IT specialist then came to the conclusion that the cameras must be mistaken and had calculated his total time in the car park as one long stay, rather than two short visits. After he raised the issue in store, a Morrisons representative agreed to waive the December fine.

“I told Morrisons that their system is incorrect and it does not register the fact that you have left the car park and come back to it in the same day, but no-one seemed that bothered,” said Mr. Shuttleworth. He hatched an elaborate plan to test his theory.

He deliberately visited the store on 2nd January, 2018, and made a purchase, using his store card to “log” the time he was there. Before exiting the car park, he also took a photograph so he would have a digital record of the time he departed.

He then drove to a pay and display car park in Keswick and paid for parking there to prove where his vehicle was and at what time — taking a photograph of his car in place with the ticket. To further bolster his case, he then drove to a second car park in Keswick and did the same. Once he was certain the two-hour non-return time at Morrisons had elapsed, he returned to Penrith and re-entered the store car park for his second visit of the day.

He made another purchase using his store card, and took a photograph of his car so he had a record. Sure enough, several days later, Mr. Shuttleworth received a parking charge notice through the post from ParkingEye, which stated his car had been left at Morrisons for a total of three hours, 43 minutes — on the day it was parked in Keswick.

The £85 demand had to be paid within 28 days, with the amount being reduced to £50 if he settled within a fortnight, but Mr. Shuttleworth refused and has gone to appeal.

He said: “I don’t like being ripped off but there’s other people out there who aren’t as persistent as me. I’d like to know if anyone else has had this happen to them and whether this is happening all over the country.”

Since the Herald took up his case, all fines have been waived. A Morrisons spokesman said: “Parking Eye is investigating. This could be a technical issue. We’ve cancelled Mr. Shuttleworth’s charges and encourage any customers who think they’ve been incorrectly charged to get in touch.”

A ParkingEye spokesman said: “We encourage people who have received a parking charge to appeal if they think there are mitigating circumstances, and instructions about how to do this are detailed on all communications and on our website.

“In this case the driver has had his charge cancelled as a gesture of good will.”

The Herald has since learned that there are occasions when the cameras fail to capture the registration plates of vehicles leaving Morrisons’ car park. These can occur when drivers are so close to the vehicle in front that the registration plate is obscured, or if a registration plate is dirty. Bad weather can also mean the cameras fail to properly photograph the registration plate of a vehicle exiting the car park.