A disabled man from the West Midlands says he was bullied into handing over £512 by a debt collecting company called Marston Debt Recovery, for a parking fine he received in London.
Mr Punton, who is a wheelchair user was visiting London with his personal assistant when they parked their vehicle in a blue badge parking bay. Having displayed his valid blue badge correctly, or so he thought, Mr Punton later returned to his vehicle to discover he had received a parking fine because some boroughs of London operate their own blue badge schemes which are different from most of the UK and Europe.
Unaware of the regulations, Mr Punton did not initially pay his parking fine of £150 as he assumed there had been a mistake and he could not afford to pay the fine. Within a few weeks he was contacted by Marston Debt Recovery suggesting he now owed them £275.
Mr Punton said:
“A man named Mr Mills from Marston Debt Recovery came to visit me and told me that extra charges had been placed on top of the original £150 fine, which in itself seemed excessive for a genuine mistake in the face of very ambiguous blue badge parking regulations in London.”
“I rang the company and told them I had difficulties paying the fine because I was on a low income and in receipt of the ESA benefit. They seemed quite understanding and said that someone would get in touch with me to discuss my ability to pay the fine and come out to see my ESA letter. But several months passed by and no one ever came back to discuss my financial situation, I forgot all about it.”
In September Mr Punton received a telephone call from Mr Miller who he said was a lot more threatening and told him that he now owed £512. Mr Punton said that Mr Mills became verbally threatening towards him on the telephone and said he was going to come round with a group of people to remove his personal belongings.
“I felt he was very aggressive towards me and he said he had already been to my house when I was out and heard my dogs barking. What upset me more than anything was that he told me he would be bringing someone with him to “sort out” my dogs. They are not guard dogs, they are just my pets and presented no danger to Mr Mills, so I found this threat very frightening and upsetting.”
“He said he would break into my house and remove my things. I felt very intimidated and put my telephone onto speaker mode so that my PA, Mike, could witness Mr Mills’ aggressive manner towards me.”
When Mr Mills arrived at Mr Punton’s home he continued to demand £512 and denied that Marston Debt Recovery had made a commitment to discuss Mr Punton’s financial situation. Mr Punton said that he felt so bullied and intimidated that he paid the £512 out of funds which normally pay for his personal care and independent living support.
Mr Punton said:
“I feel very shocked by the way Mr Mills behaved on behalf of Marston Debt Recovery and ultimately on behalf of Westminster Borough Council. Mike and I both felt abused and intimidated by him. He told me “I’m not interested in your finances, I just want my money. If you don’t let me in I will knock your door down and start removing things”. When I told him I was a tenant and that most of the furniture belonged to the landlord he said he would take whatever he finds. I paid him the money because I was so worried about his threat to my pet dogs. Our experience of Mr Mills was that he is a thug and a bully.”
‘’If I am being threatened and bullied in such a manner by an employee from a supposedly professional company like Marston debt recovery who are working on behalf of London tax payers, then there must be other vulnerable people up and down the country who are going through the same trauma and being victimised by unmonitored bullies like Mr Mills. I feel that heavy handed tactics like this need to be challenged and brought to the public attention.”