The retired lawyer who fights parking fines – and raises thousands of pounds for charity

Instead of charging legal fees, Ian Fagelson asks clients to donate to Magen David Adom or World Jewish Relief


Ian Fagelson has made it his mission to fight parking fines, while raising thousands of pounds for charity (Photo: Josh Graham)

When Ian Fagelson retired from being a lawyer, he said he wanted to emulate the 19th century Jewish philanthropist Moses Montefiore – working for charity instead of for money.

And the 72-year-old is doing exactly that as he uses his spare time to fight off parking fines for people all over the country.

But instead of charging a fee, Fagelson, from Hampstead Garden Suburb in north-west London, asks clients if they can donate to charity, specifically to World Jewish Relief or Magen David Adom, the Israeli ambulance service. To date, he has raised more than £20,000.

Talking about how he got started, Fagelson, who is a member of New North London Synagogue, said: “I got into this about five years ago when I was unfairly penalised by Barnet Council for parking to take my wife to a medical appointment, using her disabled motorist’s blue badge in accordance with the guidance on Barnet’s own website.

“The council argued that a motorist is obliged to ignore the council’s guidance and should study the underlying legislation instead.

“That struck me as unfair, so I took the council to tribunal and won the case. I was so annoyed by the council’s conduct that I decided to offer help to others in similar situations, asking clients who can afford to do so to donate to charities I support.”

One of Fagelson’s most famous cases, which made it into the press was that of Gary Davies - not the DJ.

Davies had parked outside a theatre in Great Yarmouth last year at a spot where restrictions had been disputed for many years. Davies was charged with a minor criminal offence, but Fagelson argued that if he had committed an offence, it should have been a civil, not a criminal matter.

Seeking assistance online, Fagelson learnt that parking enforcement at this location had been decriminalised.

Although the case was scheduled for trial, Norfolk Constabulary ultimately dropped the prosecution in January, admitting that they should never have fined Davies, and agreed to cover his legal expenses.

In the end, it saw the police donate £1,500 to World Jewish Relief and Magen David Adom.

Fagelson said: “Everybody knows parking offences are no longer criminal. They are dealt with by local authorities. However, in Great Yarmouth, it seemed that no one had told the police about this.

“It was bizarre. They prosecuted Gary like it was a crime, and he was sent to the Magistrates Court. I ended up heading up to Yarmouth, spending £90 on petrol all for a £40 fine. But I did enjoy a lovely fish n’ chips!”

Many of the cases he deals with are for really vulnerable people, including a disabled Barnet resident who contacted him after the council fined her for leaving her car parked in its designated space without its blue badge. “She is being treated appallingly by Barnet Council. The council kindly provided her with her own disabled parking space outside her home.

"She is now abroad - with her blue badge - receiving cancer treatment, and the council has fined her for leaving her car parked in its designated space without the blue badge, even though it was clearly marked as the car for which the space was created. You couldn’t make it up!”

Alongside fighting off parking fines, Fagelson spent two years studying to become a City of London and Westminster tour guide, qualifying in 2018.

His tour topics include Jewish history, Shakespeare and the “very popular” Harlots walking tour in Covent Garden, which focuses on the sex industry in the 1660s.

What’s even more remarkable is that Fagelson has generated more than £100,000 for charity through his tour guiding business.

Occasionally, Fagelson’s legal activities intersect with his guiding ones, and he told the JC that an American family had booked him for a Jewish history tour in London, which they almost missed when BA cancelled their flight at the last minute. “We sued BA, who have already stumped up over £1,000 for MDA and WJR, but we say it isn’t enough, and I’ll be going to Uxbridge County Court to ask for a lot more,” said Fagelson.

The justice warrior also helped establish the Horizon Scandal Fund, an independent charity that provides grants to those affected by the Post Office Horizon Scandal, which saw the hundreds of employees wrongly accused of stealing, due to faulty computer software.

The grants cover various needs, including counselling, therapy, respite breaks, and hardship alleviation and aim to supports victims while they await compensation from the government. In May, the government announced that it had quashed hundreds of convictions.

Fagelson says that his strong sense of justice stems from his parents, who were both involved in the Jewish response to Oswald Mosley’s fascist movement. 

“My mother, in particular, was committed to righting wrongs wherever she saw them. Her own father had successfully defended himself against a malicious prosecution by corrupt police officers, but it destroyed his health and he never fully recovered.”

As Fagelson continues his ancestors’ legacy of challenging injustices, the resultant charitable donations have been warmly welcomed by MDA and WJR.

Daniel Burger, chief executive of MDA said: “Thanks to Ian’s generosity, his legal fees have been donated in part to Magen David Adom UK and will be used to help saves lives in Israel. MDA UK is always amazed at the breadth of our supporters’ activities and certainly from getting people off parking tickets to walking tours are two of the most unique!”

Paul Anticoni, chief executive of World Jewish Relief, told the JC: "We are deeply grateful to Ian for his generous decision to donate his legal fees to our efforts in Ukraine. This donation will aid our ongoing work in supporting those affected by the war, and we commend Ian for his outstanding dedication to making a difference."

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