Author Topic: Received two PCNs from April 2023 with legal and court fees on top but this is the first time I am hearing about this  (Read 200 times)

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bz.08

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So earlier this week I received a letter from the Civil National Business Centre County Court regarding two unpaid PCNs dating back to April 2023. The letter gives me the option to either admit the amount claimed against me, to prepare my defence/contest the court's jurisdiction or to dispute the whole claim/make a counter claim. The letter also threatens me with the potential of further legal costs and interest accruing if I do not pay in the next few days. I believe the original PCNs were issued by a private company (according to the court letter, the claimaint is Hounslow Enforcement Ltd) and the alleged contraventions were in West London.

The problem is that this is LITERALLY the first time I am hearing about these alleged contraventions. I have not received any prior communication on this - neither in the form of tickets on my windshield (I guess these are ANPR tickets) on the days of the alleged contraventions nor in the form of follow up letters to my address. Based on the dates and locations detailed, it is possible that the driver incurred these PCNs but I have not seen any definitive proof (e.g. pictures of my car at said location) so far.

I have not moved address in the last 10 years and I have never had an issue like this before. I have received other PCNs through the post in the past and always paid promptly to avoid escalations. I would never just willingly risk bailiffs/CCJs by just ignoring PCNs.

I presume that the reason for this sudden revelation is that the initial PCNs and subsequent escalations were either not sent to me at all (IT error?) or somehow sent to the wrong address. The total amount requested is around £450 of which £350 is the total for the PCNs and the rest are legal fees. The actual PCN total would have been around £150 if I had paid within 28 days of issuance.

I read online that if I somehow prove I did not receive follow up communication then I can get them to revert to the original charge but how on earth is it possible to prove this (especially when I have not moved house)? If proven (again I have not seen evidence of my car breaching the rules), I am ready to pay the original PCN charges but I do not think it's fair at all to pay all the extra costs given that I have been completely ignorant to this situation.

What is the best thing to do in this case?
« Last Edit: January 25, 2024, 11:58:26 am by bz.08 »

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Nosy Parker

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The best thing is to fight and win (ie pay nothing) as you could have done with all other private PCNs that you might have paid in the past.

To start with upload a copy of the front page of the claim form (it’s not a “letter”) on an external hosting site like www.imgur.com and post the link here. Make sure to redact your name, address, vehicle number, all references and the MCOL password but leave all dates showing.

In the meantime it’s not a bad thing that you have no idea what this is all about as it will form an important part of the defence.

The most important thing is not to lose by default so even before you post the claim form, tell us the issue date of the claim
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b789

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As stated above, you need to show us a copy of the claim, especially the particulars of the claim (PoC). Whilst you know who the claimant is, who does the claim form say to send any correspondence to? Is it the same as the clamant or are they using one of a few dedicated roboclaim solicitors? For example, DCB Legal, Gladstones, BW Legal, Elms or A N Other?

Contesting this at a hearing, even if you were to lose, you would end up paying less than the original claim. These scammers invariably include costs/damages that are not allowed in a small claim. Unfortunately, most victims who get to this stage often capitulate because of irrational fears over their lack of knowledge of the legal system and pay up the inflated demands.

More often than not, a robustly defended claim will be discontinued when the roboclaim solicitors realise that they are not dealing with low hanging fruit on the gullible tree. It's just a pity that more victims of these scammers don't know or understand this.

You have already revealed this when you stated in your opening post:
Quote
I would never just willingly risk bailiffs/CCJs by just ignoring PCNs.
There is no way you can get a CCJ or have a bailiff knock at your door without going through a very thorough process. Despite the wording used in communications with these scammers, you would need to have a hearing in front of a judge, lose the claim and then ignore paying it within 30 days to actually get a CCJ on your record. Any CCJ paid within 30 days of judgment is automatically expunged from your record. The same gos for bailiffs. A CCJ for less than £600, unpaid for over 30 days will not qualify for a bailiff.

You are the victim of a speculative invoice from an unregulated private parking company (ex-clampers) for an alleged breach of contract. This is not a criminal matter. It is a civil matter. It's not Rumpole of the Bailey and horsehair wigs and flowing black gowns. Fight it.

First, show us the Claim form, suitable redacted of claim number, your name and address, your VRM. PCN number and your MCOL password. Everything else should be visible.

Nosy Parker

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Echoing b789's sound advice, you don't come close to getting bailiffs or a CCJ if you fight a private parking ticket the right way.   
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bz.08

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The best thing is to fight and win (ie pay nothing) as you could have done with all other private PCNs that you might have paid in the past.

To start with upload a copy of the front page of the claim form (it’s not a “letter”) on an external hosting site like www.imgur.com and post the link here. Make sure to redact your name, address, vehicle number, all references and the MCOL password but leave all dates showing.

In the meantime it’s not a bad thing that you have no idea what this is all about as it will form an important part of the defence.

The most important thing is not to lose by default so even before you post the claim form, tell us the issue date of the claim


Please see the below link:

https://imgur.com/a/TDnLUir

The issue date is 19 January 2024 but I did not get this through the post until earlier this week.

b789

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You have until Wednesday 7th February to acknowledge the claim. Do this on the MCOL website. There is no advantage to delaying it. You then have until 4pm on Wednesday 21st February to file your defence which is sent as a PDF attachment to an email to ccbcaq@justice.gov. You must make sure you receive an automatic acknowledgement email which should be almost immediately after you send it. That is your proof of of having sent it. Your MCOL will eventually update with confirmation but it can take a while for that to show.

The Particulars of Claim fail to comply with Civil Procedure Rule 16.4(1)(e) and Practice Direction Part 16.7.5. This must be highlighted in the defence and it should be thrown out at allocation stage. Use this defence:


All you need to do is add your own, very brief, reason why you were at the location.


IN THE COUNTY COURT
Claim No.:  xxxxxx
Between

Full name of parking firm Ltd. (not the solicitor!)
(Claimant)

- and -

Defendant’s name from N1 claim (can’t be changed to driver now)


(Defendant)
_______________________________

DEFENCE

1. The Defendant denies that the Claimant is entitled to relief in the sum claimed, or at all.  It is denied that any conduct by the driver was in breach of any term.  Further, it is denied that this Claimant (understood to have a bare licence as agents) has standing to sue or form contracts in their own name. Liability is denied, whether or not the Claimant is claiming 'keeper liability', which is unclear from the boilerplate text in the Particulars of Claim ('the PoC').

Preliminary matter

2. The Defendant draws to the attention of the allocating Judge that there is now a persuasive Appeal judgment to support striking out the claim (in these exact circumstances of typically poorly pleaded private parking claims, and the extant PoC seen here are far worse than the one seen on Appeal).  The Defendant believes that dismissing this meritless claim is the correct course, with the Overriding Objective in mind.  Bulk litigators (legal firms) should know better than to make little or no attempt to comply with the Practice Direction.  By continuing to plead cases with generic auto-fill unspecific wording, private parking firms should not be surprised when courts strike out their claims based in the following persuasive authority.

A recent persuasive appeal judgment in Civil Enforcement Limited v Chan (Ref. E7GM9W44) would indicate the PoC fails to comply with Civil Procedure Rule 16.4 and Practice Direction Part 16. On the 15th August 2023, in the cited case, HHJ Murch held that 'the particulars of the claim as filed and served did not set out the conduct which amounted to the breach in reliance upon which the claimant would be able to bring a claim for breach of contract'. The same is true in this case and in view of the CEL v Chan judgment, the Court should strike out the claim, using its powers pursuant to CPR 3.4

CEL v Chan transcript jpg’s inserted here






The facts as known to the Defendant:

3. The facts in this defence come from the Defendant's own knowledge and honest belief.  Conversely, the Claimant sets out a cut-and-paste incoherent and sparse statement of case.  The PoC is devoid of any detail and even lacks specific breach allegation(s), making it very difficult to respond. However, it is admitted that the Defendant was the registered keeper of the vehicle.

^EDIT THIS PARAGRAPH RE WHO WAS DRIVING^. 

If you were driving, add 'and driver' after the word 'keeper'.
OR if the Defendant doesn't know who was driving, say that.
OR deny being the driver if you weren't: ONLY IF TRUE!

4. [EXPLAIN IN YOUR OWN WORDS...NB: defences are written in the THIRD person as 'the Defendant', not 'I did this' nor 'my/me'].

Explain briefly what business the driver had there & what went wrong?  If you don't know, didn't get any letters or it was years ago & you cannot recall, say that instead.  Signs unlit in darkness?  Did a permit slip off the dash? a VRM keying error?

If the PCN was issued at a residential site where the driver lives or was a permitted visitor, state those parking rights.

It is recommended you continue with this (yes, all of it)


5. The Claimant will concede that no financial loss has arisen and that in order to impose an inflated parking charge, as well as proving a term was breached, there must be:

(i) a strong 'legitimate interest' extending beyond mere compensation for loss, and
(ii) 'adequate notice' of the 'penalty clause' charge which, in the case of a car park, requires prominent signs and lines.

6. The Defendant denies (i) or (ii) have been met. The charge imposed, in all the circumstances is a penalty, not saved by ParkingEye Ltd v Beavis [2015] UKSC67 ('the Beavis case'), which is fully distinguished.

Exaggerated Claim and 'market failure' currently being addressed by UK Government

7. The alleged 'core debt' from any parking charge cannot exceed £100 (the industry cap).  It is denied that any 'Debt Fees' or damages were actually paid or incurred by this Claimant, who is put to strict proof of:

(i) the alleged breach, which is not pleaded in the PoC and requires further and better particulars, and
(ii) a breakdown of how they arrived at the enhanced sum in the POC, including how interest was calculated, which looks to be improperly applied on the entire inflated sum, as if that was all overdue on the day of the alleged event.

8. The Defendant avers that this claim is unfair and inflated and it is denied that any sum is due, whether in debt or damages. This Claimant routinely pursues an unconscionable fixed sum added per PCN, despite knowing that the will of Parliament is to ban it.

9. This case is a classic example where adding exaggerated fees funds the 'numbers game' of bulk litigation of weak and/or archive parking cases.  MoJ statistics of bulk litigators reveal that there are several hundred thousand parking claims per annum, with some 90% causing default CCJs totalling hundreds of millions of pounds.  No checks and balances are likely to have been made to ensure facts, merit or a proper cause of action (given away by the woefully inadequate PoC).

10. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities ('the DLUHC') first published a statutory Parking Code of Practice in February 2022, here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/private-parking-code-of-practice

 The Ministerial Foreword is damning: "Private firms issue roughly 22,000 parking tickets every day, often adopting a labyrinthine system of misleading and confusing signage, opaque appeals services, aggressive debt collection and unreasonable fees designed to extort money from motorists."

11. Despite legal challenges delaying the Code's implementation (marking it as temporarily 'withdrawn') a draft Impact Assessment (IA) to finalise it was published on 30th July 2023. The Government's analysis has exposed what they state are industry-gleaned facts about supposed 'Debt Fees'. The analysis is found here:  https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1171438/Draft_IA_-_Private_Parking_Code_of_Practice_.pdf

12. Paragraphs 4.31 and 5.19 suggest that the parking industry has informed the DLUHC that the true minor cost of what the parking industry calls debt recovery or 'enforcement' ( = pre-action) stage totals a mere £8.42 per recovery case (not per PCN).

13. With that in mind, it is clear that the extant claim has been enhanced by an extreme sum, believed to be routinely retained by the litigating legal team, not the Claimant.  In this Claim it is additional to the intended 'legal representatives fees' cap set within small claims track rules.  This conduct has been examined and found - including in a detailed judgment by Her Honour Judge Jackson, now a specialist Civil High Court Judge on the Leeds/Bradford circuit - to constitute 'double recovery'. The Defendant takes that position.

14. The draft IA shows that the intimidating letter-chains actually cost 'eight times less' than the seemingly 'price-fixed' +£70 per PCN. This causes consumer harm in the form of almost half a million wrongly-enhanced CCJs each year, that District Judges are powerless to prevent.  This false fee was enabled by the self-serving Codes of Practice of the rival parking Trade Bodies who suddenly aligned in 2021 re allowing +£70, each led by a Board of the very parking operators and debt firms who stood to gain from it. 


15. It is denied that the purported damages or Debt Fee sought was incurred or is recoverable. Attention is drawn to paras 98, 100, 193, 198 of ParkingEye Ltd v Beavis [2015] UKSC67 ('the Beavis case').  Also ParkingEye Ltd v Somerfield Stores Ltd ChD [2011] EWHC 4023(QB) where the parking charge was £75, discounted to £37.50 for prompt payment.  Whilst £75 was reasonable, HHJ Hegarty (decision later ratified by the CoA) held in paras 419-428 that unspecified 'admin costs' inflating a parking charge to £135 was not a true reflection of the cost of a template letter and 'would appear to be penal'.
 

16. This Claimant has not incurred costs. A parking charge model already includes what the Supreme Court called an 'automated letter-chain' and it is a model that generates a healthy profit. In Beavis, there were 4 pre-action letters/reminders and the £85 'PCN' was held to more than cover the minor costs of the operation.  The DLUHC's IA confirms that the parking charge more than covers the minor costs of the letters (NB: the debt collectors do not charge anything in failed collection cases).

17. Whilst the new Code is not retrospective, all non-monetary clauses went unchallenged by the parking industry. The 2022 DLUHC Code will replace the self-serving BPA & IPC Codes, which are not regulation and carry limited weight.  In a clear steer for the Courts and for the avoidance of doubt: the DLUHC say they are addressing 'market failure'.

18. In addition, pursuant to Schedule 4 paragraph 4(5) of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 ('the POFA') the sum claimed exceeds the maximum potentially recoverable from a registered keeper.  Further, the Claimant is put to strict proof of POFA compliance.

19. The Defendant avers that the DLUHC's analysis now overrides plainly wrong assumptions made by Circuit Judges steered by Counsel in astonishingly weak appeal cases that the parking industry engineered their way: Britannia v Semark-Jullien, One Parking Solution v Wilshaw, Vehicle Control Services v Ward and Vehicle Control Services v Percy. Far from being persuasive, regrettably these one-sided appeals cherry-picked litigant-in-person consumers without the wherewithal to appeal. Incorrect presumptions were made in every case; and there were major evidence discrepancies (e.g. in Wilshaw, where the Judge was also oblivious to the DVLA KADOE requirement for landowner authority). One Judge inexplicably sought out for himself and quoted from the wrong Code of Practice (Percy). In Ward, a few seconds' emergency stop out of the control of the driver was wrongly aligned with the agreed contract in Beavis.

20. The Defendant avers that there was no agreement to pay a parking charge or added 'damages' which were not even incurred, let alone quantified in bold, prominent text. This Claimant failed to erect well-placed, large and readable signs on a par with the yellow & black warnings seen in Beavis, and unlike the signage requirements set out in the DLUHC Code which reflects the already statutory requirement for 'prominence' (Consumer Rights Act 2015 - the 'CRA').



CRA Breaches

21. Section 71 CRA creates a statutory duty upon Courts to consider the test of fairness whether a party raises it or not. Claiming costs on an indemnity basis is unfair, per the Unfair Contract Terms Guidance (CMA37, para 5.14.3):

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/450440/Unfair_Terms_Main_Guidance.pdf

22. The CRA introduced new requirements for 'prominence' of both terms and 'consumer notices'.  In a parking context, this includes a test of fairness and clarity of 'signs & lines' and all communications intended to be read by consumers. Signage must be prominent (lit in hours of darkness/dusk) and all terms must be unambiguous and contractual obligations clear.

23. The Defendant avers that the CRA has been breached due to unfair/unclear terms and notices, pursuant to s62 and paying regard to examples 6, 10, 14 & 18 of Schedule 2 and the duties of fair/open dealing and good faith (NB: this does not necessarily mean there has to be a finding of bad faith).



Parking Eye v Beavis is distinguished

24. Unlike in Beavis, the penalty rule remains engaged in this claim due to the unconscionable added 'Fee'.  The CRA covers disproportionate sums, which are not exempt from being assessed for fairness because a late-added Fee is not the core parking price term and neither was it prominently proclaimed on the signs.

25. The Supreme Court held that deterrence is likely to be penal if there is a lack of a 'legitimate interest' in performance extending beyond the prospect of compensation flowing directly from the alleged breach.  The intention cannot be to punish a driver, nor to present them with hidden terms, unexpected/cumbersome obligations nor 'concealed pitfalls or traps'.  In the present case, the Claimant has fallen foul of those tests. Their small signs have vague/hidden terms and minuscule text, incapable of binding a driver.  Court of Appeal authorities about a lack of ‘adequate notice’ of a parking charge include:

(i) Spurling v Bradshaw [1956] 1 WLR 461 (Lord Denning's ‘red hand rule’) and

(ii) Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking Ltd [1970] EWCA Civ2,

both leading authorities that a clause cannot be incorporated after a contract has been concluded; and

(iii) Vine v London Borough of Waltham Forest: CA 5 Apr 2000, where Ms Vine won because it was held that she had not seen the terms by which she would later be bound, due to "the absence of any notice on the wall opposite the parking space".

26. Fairness and clarity of terms and notices are paramount in the DLUHC Code and these clauses stand unchallenged and are supported by the BPA & IPC.  In November 2020's Parking Review, solicitor Will Hurley, CEO of the IPC, observed: "Any regulation or instruction either has clarity or it doesn’t. If it’s clear to one person but not another, there is no clarity. The same is true for fairness. Something that is fair, by definition, has to be all-inclusive of all parties involved – it’s either fair or it isn’t. The introduction of a new ‘Code of Practice for Parking’ provides a wonderful opportunity to provide clarity and fairness for motorists and landowners alike."

Lack of standing or landowner authority, and lack of ADR

27. DVLA data is only supplied to pursue parking charges if there is an agreement flowing from the landholder (ref: KADOE rules).  It is not accepted that this Claimant (an agent of a principal) has authority to form contracts at this site in their name.  The Claimant is put to strict proof of their standing to litigate in their own name.

28. The Claimant failed to offer a genuinely independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). The Appeals Annex in the DLUHC Code shows that genuine disputes such as this should see PCNs cancelled, had a fair ADR existed.  The rival Trade Bodies' time-limited and opaque 'appeals' services fail to properly consider facts or rules of law and reject most disputes: e.g. the IAS upheld appeals in a woeful 4% of decided cases (2020 Annual Report).  The Claimant's consumer blame culture and reliance upon their own 'appeals service' (described by MPs as a kangaroo court and about to be replaced by the DLUHC, who have in the IA criticised the lack of transparency or independence) should lead Judges to realise that a truly fair appeal was never on offer.



Conclusion

29. There is now evidence to support the view - long held by many District Judges - that these are knowingly exaggerated claims that are causing consumer harm.  The July 2023 DLUHC IA analysis shows that the usual letter-chain costs eight times less than the sum claimed for it.  The claim is entirely without merit and the POC embarrassing.  The Defendant believes that it is in the public interest that claims like this should be struck out.

30. In the matter of costs, the Defendant seeks:

(a) standard witness costs for attendance at Court, pursuant to CPR 27.14, and

(b) a finding of unreasonable conduct by this Claimant, and further costs pursuant to CPR 46.5.

31. Attention is drawn specifically to the (often-seen) distinct possibility of an unreasonably late Notice of Discontinuance. Whilst CPR r.38.6 states that the Claimant is liable for the Defendant's costs after discontinuance (r.38.6(1)) this does not normally apply to claims allocated to the small claims track (r.38.6(3)). However, the White Book states (annotation 38.6.1): "Note that the normal rule as to costs does not apply if a claimant in a case allocated to the small claims track serves a notice of discontinuance although it might be contended that costs should be awarded if a party has behaved unreasonably (r.27.14(2)(dg))."
  

Statement of Truth

I believe that the facts stated in this defence are true.  I understand that proceedings for contempt of court may be brought against anyone who makes, or causes to be made, a false statement in a document verified by a statement of truth without an honest belief in its truth.

Defendant’s signature:

Date:
« Last Edit: January 26, 2024, 02:24:11 pm by b789 »

b789

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When you have edited the defence to your own circumstances, just show us paragraphs 3 & 4 that you have changed for review.

Your defence should include all the paragraphs shown. If you do add more to your paragraph 4, make sure that all subsequent paragraphs are renumbered sequentially. All you need are basic facts such as the reason you were at the location, eg. "I was a patron of the business/restaurant etc." or "I have no recollection of the reasons I would have been at the location and this claim is the first communication I have ever received on this matter".

Do not try and create "War & Peace". You are responding to deficient PoC. If it should ever get as far as a hearing, you will expand on your defence in your Witness Statement.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2024, 02:29:03 pm by b789 »

bz.08

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When you have edited the defence to your own circumstances, just show us paragraphs 3 & 4 that you have changed for review.

Your defence should include all the paragraphs shown. If you do add more to your paragraph 4, make sure that all subsequent paragraphs are renumbered sequentially. All you need are basic facts such as the reason you were at the location, eg. "I was a patron of the business/restaurant etc." or "I have no recollection of the reasons I would have been at the location and this claim is the first communication I have ever received on this matter".

Do not try and create "War & Peace". You are responding to deficient PoC. If it should ever get as far as a hearing, you will expand on your defence in your Witness Statement.

Thanks for the detailed response. I am unable to get into the MCOL website as I have lost my Government Gateway details - however, I have been informed by the County Court Business Center that I can respond via email too. They have given me one of response three options as outlined in the image: https://imgur.com/a/udciPzz

I assume the "Acknowledgment of service" is the one I should fill out and return? I am just confirming because in the image they say you should only fill this form out if:

If you need 28 days (rather than 14) from the date of service to prepare your defence, or
wish to contest the court’s jurisdiction



b789

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You need the 4th item... acknowledgement of service (AoS). That must be received by the CNBC no later than 7th February. That will then give you until 4pm on Wednesday 21st February to get the defence submitted.

All you are doing at this stage is the AoS. Do not use the defence form.

As they mentioned to you, you can submit the AoS form as a pdf attachment by email to ccbcaq@justice.gov. I would advise CC'ing yourself as that gives you an added bit of proof you sent it should someone claim you didn't send it. However, if it has been received by the CNBC, you should get an immediate auto-acknowledgement email back from them. If you don't, keep trying and if necessary, try again using a different email agent.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2024, 02:09:32 pm by b789 »

bz.08

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You need the 4th item... acknowledgement of service (AoS). That must be received by the CNBC no later than 7th February. That will then give you until 4pm on Wednesday 21st February to get the defence submitted.

All you are doing at this stage is the AoS. Do not use the defence form.

As they mentioned to you, you can submit the AoS form as a pdf attachment by email to ccbcaq@justice.gov. I would advise CC'ing yourself as that gives you an added bit of proof you sent it should someone claim you didn't send it. However, if it has been received by the CNBC, you should get an immediate auto-acknowledgement email back from them. If you don't, keep trying and if necessary, try again using a different email agent.

Thank you. Sorry one last question: I am just on the AoS form (as the deadline is by tomorrow) and it asks me to choose one of the following:

Quote
1) I Intend to defend all of this claim
2) I Intend to defend part of this claim
3) I intend to contest jurisdiction

I am not sure which of these I am supposed to tick?

b789

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#1. You intend to defend the whole claim.

You can use this online version of the AoS form if you can't scan in the paper copy tha you re completing:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5c45e568ed915d38a0611a61/n9-eng.pdf

bz.08

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#1. You intend to defend the whole claim.

You can use this online version of the AoS form if you can't scan in the paper copy tha you re completing:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5c45e568ed915d38a0611a61/n9-eng.pdf

Hello again! I am planning to submit it later and this is what I have for paragraph 3 and 4:

Quote
3. The facts in this defence come from the Defendant's own knowledge and honest belief.  Conversely, the Claimant sets out a cut-and-paste incoherent and sparse statement of case.  The PoC is devoid of any detail and even lacks specific breach allegation(s), making it very difficult to respond. However, it is admitted that the Defendant was the registered keeper anddriver of the vehicle.

4. I have no recollection of the reasons I would have been at the location as this claim is the first communication I have ever received on this matter.

Everything else in the template I have kept the same (except adding the parking firm, defendant name and claim no on the very first page).

Is this fine to submit?

Thanks a lot!