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Home Folkestone News Article
John Garrod had been prosecuted because bailiffs had seized the car and, as outlined in a seizure notice, insisted it was legally theirs when he had taken it back.
But Mr Garrod, of Napier Gardens, Hythe, believed he was still the lawful owner.
The prosecution at Canterbury Crown Court offered no evidence against him and he was formally acquitted.
The 63-year-old said: "I am incredibly relieved that this is over. It put an enormous strain on me and hung over me for 18 months. I pleaded not guilty because I had not stolen the car."
He said his business had subsequently closed and the issue had put significant pressure on relationships in his family life.
Mr Garrod was acquitted in a hearing of only a few minutes in what was meant to be the start of a three-day trial.
His car had been seized outside his home on June 16, 2012, by bailiffs the Marston Group in lieu of £360 unpaid charges.
These stemmed from a parking ticket issued in Canterbury in September 2011, which would have cost £25 if paid immediately.
As the penalty remained, unpaid costs rose to £82 by the next January when Canterbury City Council got a county court warrant.
The costs and associated charges rose to £360 by the time a member of Marston turned up at Mr Garrod's home five months later.
The car, a red 2001/02 Renault Scenic, was immediately clamped and a woman bailiff said it would be taken away shortly.
It remained immobilised outside Mr Garrod's home overnight, but next day he said he returned home and found the clamp broken off.
He believes word had got around the neighbourhood about the clamping and an unknown sympathiser had freed the car.
"Cash has been so short that there have been periods where I've had to choose between paying parking fines and paying my mortgage..." - motorist John Garrod
Mr Garrod continued using it, but the bailiffs reported it stolen.
He was finally stopped by police while driving the car in Canterbury and arrested on June 27, 2012. Marston then took back the car.
There is no suggestion the bailiffs acted unlawfully in the case.
Mr Garrod, a father of three young children, explained he had not paid the original parking penalty because he was financially desperate at the time.
He is a CCTV installer and his one-man company at the time, Kent Closed Circuit Ltd, was not earning enough. It has since folded.
He said much of his work is in town centres and he has had parking fines before, adding: "Cash has been so short that there have been periods where I've had to choose between paying parking fines and paying my mortgage."
No one from Marston Group was available for comment.
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