A DRIVER who received a £100 charge after she pulled in to a private car park to take a 12-minute phone call has been ordered to pay thousands of pounds to a parking company.

The motorist, who wished to only be referred to as Norma, must pay about £3,700 to One Parking Solution after being "caught in the middle of two conflicting court decisions".

She originally won a case in front of a district judge last year. However the parking company appealed the decision and she has been told she will now have to pay legal costs.

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched on GoFundMe to help the driver, from Brighton, foot the legal bill and it has already raised more than £1,200.

Norma said she is exploring her options to appeal the court's decision, but this would be "expensive and risky", and she has until tomorrow to decide.

She said: "I was totally horrified. I'm not a wimp but this has really got to me.

"It has caused a huge amount of stress.

"I feel that for me to rely on the original judgment was not unreasonable.

"Why would I not rely on a judgment which was clearly well considered, since it took some weeks to be handed down?

"Why are people in my position left with little option to appeal due to the eye-watering costs at the Court of Appeal stage?

"And why are parking firms allowed to cause motorists such misery, distress and financial ruin?"

Norma was driving her car in Lewes in March 2019 when her phone rang.

She pulled in to the nearest available space to safely take the call she was expecting, at the Eastgate Wharf car park in the town.

Norma spent just under 12 minutes sitting in the car on the phone with the engine running.

The following week she unexpectedly received a £100 parking charge notice (PCN) from One Parking Solution in the post, on the basis she had not purchased a valid pay and display ticket while in the parking space, which would have cost £1 an hour.

She wrote to the company and argued that a grace period should have been given, but the case ended up going to a small claims court.

Last April, at Lewes County Court, Deputy District Judge Mark Harvey ordered One Parking Solution to pay Norma more than £500.

But this ruling was overturned by a Circuit Judge at Brighton County Court earlier this year, following an appeal by the parking company.

At the appeal hearing, Judge Simpkiss said: "In this case the defendant drove into a designated parking space, stopped and put the brake on.

"While the engine remained running, she was stationary and occupying the parking space for more than 11 minutes.

"In these circumstances an objective view of what she was doing, in the context of this area and what was clearly a car park, is that she was parking."

He added that the British Parking Association (BPA) code of practice states a grace period of ten minutes should be given for drivers to read terms on parking signage, but that "after ten minutes a contract would come into existence".

He said: "Thus, if the respondent had driven off before the expiry of ten minutes from her arrival in the parking space she would not be contractually bound to pay the charge."

At a cost hearing on May 14, Norma was ordered to pay almost £4,000 to One Parking Solution by June 11.

A crowdfunding campaign has been started by Lyn Reeves.

Writing on the GoFundMe page, she said: "Many of us who are supporting Norma can also see it is making her ill.

"She is extremely despondent and can hardly sleep for worry about getting a County Court Judgment or trying an appeal, at huge cost."

A spokesman for One Parking Solution said the company "fully concur with the court’s decision".

The crowdfunding page set up for Norma is here