Lincoln Crown Court rules against county council in parking fine row

A Lincolnshire sea fisherman who was proved at Lincoln Crown Court to have wrongly been handed two parking convictions, has criticised Lincolnshire County Council for wasting thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money.

Alexander Sprott, 34, was taken to court by the county council after being accused of illegally leaving his van overnight in a coastal car park at Huttoft Car Terrace.

New regulations were brought in by the council in response to complaints from residents to prevent campervanners from parking overnight.

Huttoft Car Terrace. Photo: Google Street View

Huttoft Car Terrace. Photo: Google Street View

Fishermen are exempt from the laws provided they don’t sleep on site and the vehicle is less than 1.9 metres high.

Sprott, of Ascot Drive, Grantham, was originally convicted by Boston Magistrates’ Court of two breaches of the by-laws on May 11 and July 5, 2014 and was given a £830 penalty for fines and costs.

But Sprott took the case to appeal at Lincoln Crown Court, where he represented himself in front of a judge and two magistrates.

After a 90 minute hearing he was cleared of both offences and awarded £669 costs against the county council.

Following the decision, Sprott said: “I’m a law-abiding citizen. The council has wasted thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money.

“I’m elated to have won. It’s a great relief. This has been going on for over a year. I enjoy my weekends at the coast. I spend most of my free money there. I’m a very keen sea angler and I’ve been going to that beach for years.”

The council claimed Sprott’s VW van contravened the fishing permit regulations because it was too high and they claimed he had slept in his van.

But at the appeal Matthew Davey, the authority’s Environment and Community Projects Officer, admitted the van was never measured and instead he relied on details supplied by the manufacturer.

Sprott told the court that a police officer who later measured the vehicle found it was only 1.84m high and so not in breach of the regulation.

PC Zara Springall, who served on July 5, admitted she only tapped lightly on the windscreen before she slapped the ticket on the vehicle at 2am.

She said it was “possible” the occupant was asleep because she received no answer but she could not be sure.

Sprott said he did not hear her knock as he was inside his van listening to music on his headphones while tidying up after fishing.

He told the appeal hearing that the first fixed penalty notice issued on May 11 was simply a warning and he immediately took appropriate action in obtaining a fishing permit.

He argued that he should never have been prosecuted for that matter as it was simply a warning.

Judge Rosemary Coe QC, in delivering the decision of the bench, said in relation to the July 5 ticket the council had not established that Sprott’s van breached the 1.9 metre high regulation.

She said: “We find that they (Lincolnshire County Council) have not established, so that we are sure, that the appellant was asleep. Having heard the evidence of the appellant we are a long way from being sure that he was asleep.”

The judge ruled that prosecution for the May 11 ticket was an abuse of process as the warning notice given to Sprott said he would only be prosecuted for any future breach of the rules.

She added: “We are satisfied that this first prosecution should never have been prosecuted. The notice clearly states that this was a first offence and would be treated as a warning.

“We have no doubt that this was an abuse of process.”

After the case Matthew Davey, Lincolnshire County Council’s Environment and Community Projects Officer, said: “We are, of course, disappointed with the decision. However, we will continue to monitor the car parks over the summer and seek to continue to enforce the by-laws.”

As previously reported, the county council handed out almost 30,000 parking fines during a 10 month period on 2014.