Akumah v Hackney London Borough Council

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtHouse of Lords
JudgeLORD HOFFMANN,LORD SCOTT OF FOSCOTE,LORD WALKER OF GESTINGTHORPE,BARONESS HALE OF RICHMOND,LORD CARSWELL
Judgment Date03 March 2005
Neutral Citation[2005] UKHL 17
Date03 March 2005

[2005] UKHL 17

HOUSE OF LORDS

The Appellate Committee comprised:

Lord Hoffmann

Lord Scott of Foscote

Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe

Baroness Hale of Richmond

Lord Carswell

Akumah (FC)
(Appellant)
and
London Borough of Hackney
(Respondents)
LORD HOFFMANN

My Lords,

1

I agree that this appeal should be dismissed for the reasons set out in the opinion of my noble and learned friend Lord Carswell, with which I am in complete agreement.

LORD SCOTT OF FOSCOTE

My Lords,

2

I have had the advantage of reading in draft the opinion on this appeal of my noble and learned friend Lord Carswell and am in complete agreement with the reasons he has given for dismissing this appeal. I, too, would do so.

LORD WALKER OF GESTINGTHORPE

My Lords,

3

I have had the advantage of reading in draft the opinion of my noble and learned friend Lord Carswell. I agree with it and for the reasons given by Lord Carswell I too would dismiss this appeal.

BARONESS HALE OF RICHMOND

My Lords,

4

For the reasons given in the opinion of my noble and learned friend, Lord Carswell, with which I agree, I would dismiss this appeal.

LORD CARSWELL

My Lords,

5

The difficulties faced by motorists in finding parking spaces for their vehicles are matched only by those faced by local authorities in controlling parking in places for which they are responsible. The appeal before your Lordships is concerned with the power of a local authority to operate a parking scheme in one of the housing estates in its area, of which it is the landlord.

6

Woodberry Down Estate is a large estate of council houses owned by the respondent, the London Borough of Hackney. In or about 1994 the Council of the Borough ("the Council") introduced a parking scheme for this estate, as it has done for others under its control. It was instituted by a resolution of the Council and not by the passing of byelaws. The scheme designated parking bays and prohibited parking on other parts of the estate. Under its terms a vehicle may only be parked in the places provided for parking if there is exhibited on it a permit. Vehicles not displaying a valid parking permit or parked in places other than in designated parking bays can be removed and clamped. Permits of two kinds can be purchased, residents' annual permits and visitors' permits, which may be purchased by residents for their visitors or for their own use. A visitor's permit at all times material to this appeal cost the sum of £2.50 and was valid for parking on ten occasions.

7

Tenancy agreements for houses and flats on the estate contained a provision that the tenant must not park or allow visitors to park in a no parking area and must co-operate with any parking control scheme the respondent introduced. The visitors' parking permit contained ten spaces, entitled vouchers, for the ten permitted parking periods. On each voucher the holder of the permit was to enter the date, the time at which the vehicle was parked and its registration number. The permit contained a series of numbered instructions, of which the following are material to the present case:

"1. When you park display the Visitor's Voucher clearly in the window WITH THE CURRENT VOUCHER COMPLETED IN INK.

2. You must fill in the date, time of parking and registration number clearly.

3. ANY ATTEMPT TO ALTER ANY OF THE DETAILS ON ANY PARKING VOUCHER WILL RENDER THE PERMIT INVALID.

4. Purchase of this permit does not guarantee a parking space on the Estate.

5. Vehicles not parked in the designated bays will be clamped or removed."

8

The appellant held the tenancy of a flat at 15 Finmere House on the Woodberry Down Estate under the terms of a tenancy agreement dated 11 December 1998. He did not have a resident's parking permit – according to the appellant the Council refused to issue one to him because he was in arrear with some rent — and purchased visitors' permits from time to time. On three occasions when his car was parked in the estate persons described as parking officers, who were in fact employees of a clamping contractor engaged by the Council to enforce the parking scheme, issued a notice, known colloquially as a parking ticket and referred to by the Council as a penalty charge notice (a term generally applied to penalty notices for wrongful parking issued pursuant to section 66(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1991 and perhaps less appropriate for the present type of document). Each time a ticket is issued the parking officer notes in the space in the parking ticket marked "Contravention" a code number, which is intended to indicate the nature of the contravention in respect of which the ticket is issued. It is clear from the district judge's judgment in the proceedings to which I shall refer that the meaning of the codes was not made readily available to the persons charged sums of money for contraventions, which I can only regard as highly unsatisfactory. On each occasion the appellant's car was clamped. On the first two occasions he paid under protest the £60.00 charge in order to have it released, but on the third he refused to pay it and the car was towed away and has remained on the Council's premises ever since.

9

On the first of these occasions, 26 January 2000, the parking ticket had endorsed on it "Contravention 04", which, as was eventually made known to him, meant that the car was parked on the estate without displaying the appropriate permit. It has been found in the courts below and is not in issue that this was incorrect. On the second occasion, 15 March 2000, the ticket was endorsed "Contravention 09", which meant that the vehicle was parked on a footway. The person who completed it had also written "fake visitor" in the section of the marked ticket entitled "Location". Again it has been established that the code was wrong, since the appellant was parked in a parking bay and there was no footpath in the vicinity. No reason has been put forward why the parking officers could have made such egregious errors. On the third occasion, 5 April 2000, the ticket bore the notation "Contravention 16 permit in pencil". Code 16 covers burnt-out vehicles, which is palpably inappropriate and incorrect, for the vehicle was not burnt out. If the notation has any validity, it must be that the voucher was completed in pencil, contrary to Instruction 1 on the permit. The evidence in the courts below was not clear whether the voucher was in fact completed in pencil, as the appellant denied it and there is no explicit finding in the judgments. There appears to be good reason for the requirement that the permit be completed in ink, to reduce the possibility of alteration of the entries. There is some question whether if it were written in pencil, that could invalidate the permit so as to make the holder liable to a penalty for parking contrary to the terms of the scheme, viz by displaying a permit which was not validly completed. This is not, however, in issue in the present appeal and I shall not express a definite view on it. I would only observe that the standard of accuracy on the part of those who were operating the parking control scheme at the material times was lamentably low and in urgent need of improvement.

10

The appellant appealed to the housing services manager, but each appeal was dismissed on the ground that the three parking vouchers in question had been tampered with, invalidating the permit and justifying the issue of the parking tickets and the clamping of the vehicle.

11

The appellant commenced the present proceedings in Shoreditch County Court, claiming the return of the £120.00 paid by him to have his clamped car released and damages for wrongful detention of the car. He represented himself and made the point among his submissions that the Council did not have authority to institute the parking control scheme. The point was not argued in detail and the district judge dismissed it briefly. She held that the codes endorsed on the first two parking tickets were incorrect and that Code 16 was incorrect for the third. It is not clear whether she found that the third had been written in pencil or whether she thought that, if it was, that fact would justify the issue of a parking ticket. Her decision turned upon her finding, upon her examination of the permits, that they had been altered or tampered with and were therefore invalid. She accordingly held that the appellant had not parked on any of the three occasions with a valid voucher and that his claim must fail.

12

In a very detailed notice of appeal to the county court the appellant raised the point that the parking scheme was invalid, since it should have been done by byelaw under section 23(1) of the Housing Act 1985 and section 7(1) of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1975. When the case came before the court the appellant again represented himself. His Honour Judge Cotran stated that in the face of the appellant's evidence he could not accept the findings of the district judge, based on her own examination of the vouchers. He also took the view that completion in pencil would not invalidate the vouchers or entitle the Council to clamp a vehicle. He allowed the appeal and adjourned the matter for assessment of damages. He did not deal with the question of the validity of the scheme.

13

The Council appealed, with the permission of the full court, to the Court of Appeal (Buxton LJ and Moses J), which allowed the appeal on the ground that the district judge was entitled to find that the vouchers had been altered and were therefore invalid. Mr Akumah was represented before the Court of Appeal by Mr Kadri QC and Mr Pipi, who also fully argued the issue of the council's power to operate the parking control scheme, the issue before your Lordships. The leading judgment was given by Moses J, with whom Buxton LJ...

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