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Parking company Athena repays penalty to Second World War veteran from Boughton Monchelsea

A parking company has moved swiftly to refund a £45 penalty paid by a 96-year-old war veteran who over-stayed his permitted time by 11 minutes.

Peter Hughes from Haste Hill Road, Boughton Monchelsea, had driven his friend Sylvia Osborne, who is 92, to the Lidl Store in Tovil, as he does every Monday.

Pictured is 96-year-old Peter Hughes with his car
Pictured is 96-year-old Peter Hughes with his car

The pair only went round the store, then drove back, but Mr Hughes subsequently received a letter from Athena Parking demanding a £45 penalty, rising to £90 if not paid within two weeks.

The company's automatic number plate readers showed he had spent 1hr 41 minutes in the car park instead of the 1hr 30 minutes free parking allowed.

Mr Hughes paid the fine immediately. He said: "I understand that they want to discourage people from parking there who are not shopping, but that's just how long it took us.

"Lidl had recently re-organised the store and it was difficult to find where anything was. I'm not so mobile now and we did have to wait to pay while the store called someone out from the warehouse to man the till."

But when the Kent Messenger contacted Athena about the case the company immediately said they would refund the ticket.

Peter Hughes was delighted to hear his money was being refunded
Peter Hughes was delighted to hear his money was being refunded

Compliance officer Robert Williams said: "We were not trying to be mercenary, we were unaware of Mr Hughes' circumstances.

"Of course we will refund the money immediately."

Mr Hughes' neighbour Kevin Manktelow, who helps keep an eye on the pensioner, said: "Peter has a bad hip and struggles to walk, and that along with their ages makes everything take far more time than most folk.

"His till receipt shows the time he paid and the ANPR camera that triggered the fine shows the time he left the car park. Just from paying, to getting to the car and loading their shopping, to exiting the car park took 16 minutes.

"It's not right that a 96-year-old Second World War veteran, partially deaf through being next to cannons on a ship firing 8-inch shells while fighting for his country, should be subjected to the stress of this whole process. He is a hero and was made to feel like a villain."

Mr Hughes served as a Leading Seaman on the cruiser HMS Suffolk in the Indian Ocean during the Second World War and later on HMS Zenith during operations off Malta and Gibralter.

But Mr Williams said: "I would like to apologise to Mr Hughes and to thank him for his service.

"As a company we are supportive of our ex-servicemen and in fact we are corporative sponsors of the charity Combat Stress."

Mr Williams said furthermore, Athena Parking had adjusted their computer records so that in future Mr Hughes will be allowed three hours' free parking to ensure he has time to get around the store.

Mr Hughes said: "That's wonderful. I'm so grateful!"

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