Law Reoprt: Wheelclamping on private land was lawful

Arthur and another v Anker; Court of Appeal (Sir Thomas Bingham, Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Neill and Lord Justice Hirst); 30 November 1995

The wheelclamping of a vehicle parked without authority on private land and its release only on payment of a fee was neither tortious nor criminal, provided that the motorist had seen, and could therefore be taken to have consented to, a notice on the land warning of such consequences, and that the release fee was reasonable, easily payable and resulted in prompt release.

The Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by the plaintiffs, David and Annette Arthur, against the decision of Judge Anthony Thompson QC, sitting in Truro County Court on 7 May 1993: (i) dismissing their claim against the defendant, Thomas Anker, an employee of Armtrac Security Services acting as the agent of the leasehold owners of a private car park in Truro, for compensation and damages for malicious falsehood and tortious interference with the plaintiffs' car; and (ii) allowing the defendant's counterclaim for pounds 660 in compensation for the cost of wheelclamps and padlocks removed by Mr Arthur, and for an assault by Mrs Arthur.

The Arthurs' car had been wheelclamped by Mr Anker after Mr Arthur had parked it in the private car park without authority, despite having seen a notice erected by Armtrac to the effect that vehicles left there without authority would be wheelclamped and a fee of pounds 40 charged for their release. Although he later accepted the fee was reasonable, Mr Arthur refused to pay it. Following an acrimonious argument, during which Mrs Arthur assaulted Mr Anker, both plaintiffs left. But that night Mr Arthur returned and succeeded in releasing his car. When Mr Anker returned next morning, both car and clamps had disappeared.

Against the plaintiffs' claim for compensation and damages, the defendant successfully advanced two defences. First was the old medieval self-help remedy of "distress damage feasant" under which, if a landowner found another's property causing damage on his land, he could seize it and withhold it from its owner until adequate compensation had been paid. Although aimed at livestock, the judge thought it could be adapted to apply to a car causing damage by using up space where it was at a premium.

Second was the defence of consent or "volenti non fit injuria", Mr Arthur having parked the car in full knowledge of the possible consequences and therefore being taken to have consented to them.

John G. Cooper (Natasha Arthur, Truro) for the plaintiffs; Timothy Ryder (Nalder & Son, Truro) for the defendants; Stephen Richards (Treasury Solicitor) as amicus curiae.

Sir Thomas Bingham MR, dealing first with the defence of consent, said that by voluntarily accepting the risk of being clamped Mr Arthur had consented not only to the otherwise tortious act of clamping but also to the otherwise tortious act of detaining the car until payment of the reasonable cost of the clamping and unclamping.

However, such implied acceptance would not extend to an unreasonable or exorbitant charge for releasing the car, nor would it apply where the warning was not of clamping but of conduct by or on behalf of the landowner which would damage the car. Nor might the clamper justify detention of the car or delay in its release after the owner had indicated a willingness to comply with the condition for release, and there must be means for the owner to communicate his offer of payment.

As for the remedy of distress damage feasant, his Lordship doubted if it could apply. Although it had survived and was capable of applying to inanimate objects, its application to a case such as this was plainly remote from anything ever contemplated by those who developed the remedy.

Lord Justice Neill concurred.

Lord Justice Hirst also concurred except on the remedy of distress damage feasant, on which issue he would uphold the judge's decision.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam