Advice about ticket fraud

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Crisp1604

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Hi all, I am hoping to find out some information about my prospects after I was caught without a valid ticket today.

I was travelling between Shortlands and Herne Hill in London.

I have had financial problems and stupidly I bought a London travel zones 1 and 2 weekly ticket this week as I couldn't afford a zones 1 to 4 until I get paid on Friday. I was caught today by ticket inspectors and admitted to what I had done. It is the first time I have done this and I cooperated fully and gave all information requested. The inspector said she would put a word in in my favour and I will write to the Southeastern trains prosecution office to explain my situation.

I have been through personal problems recently and only just started working again. I stupidly didn't ask for help from family/friends for my zones 1-4 ticket but instead got a zones 1-2 and hoped I wouldn't get checked as I couldn't afford the correct ticket this week. In recent weeks I have been buying the correct ticket so at least that will show up when they check my photocard number.

So I was caught bang to rights, it was a one-off offence due to difficult personal circumstances and I was honest and fully compliant with the process.

What do you think the chances are of being prosecuted for this fraud?

Any advice/insight would be greatly appreciated
 
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Crisp1604

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Thanks for your reply - that gives me some hope!

I anticipated paying a fine if I was caught but didn't realise how serious it could be and that I could face criminal prosecution. My main hope is that the train company would prefer to accept a financial settlement without taking it through the courts, and this was a one-off with the difference in cost being £15. Of course it is the principle that matters but surely I won't get a criminal record for the sake of £15. I'm terrified to be honest.
 

SurfSteve

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What happened? Where did you get caught and who by?
I've got a similar case ongoing at the moment if you look at my posting history.
 

Crisp1604

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On the train at Penge East station by Southeastern revenue officers. They took my details/statement and said I would get a letter in the coming weeks.
How long was it until you heard from them in your case?
 

Crisp1604

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I am going to write to them first - my girlfriend is in the States right now and due to give birth in 2 months time. If I get a criminal prosecution it would prevent me from visiting my new born child - I'm so ****ed it is unreal.
I know it is my fault, I just never imagined it would be taken this seriously. I thought they gave out a fine and I was prepared to accept that and pay when I have the money after pay day.
 

Bungle158

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Rail companies have been known to settle in cases involving thousands, but l have just read reports of prosecutions for a few £s.

In the greater scheme of things, £15 is peanuts. However, be honest with yourself and decide whether you might have tried the same ploy again, had you succeeded. This may be how the operator views your case.

On the bright side, this does not appear to be fraud, nevertheless, based on your account, there seems to be intent sufficient to proceed under the Regulation of Railways Act, i.e. a criminal offence.

To lessen that possibility, your job is to convey as much remorse and responsibility for your actions as you can. My gut feeling is that a settlement is likely, though not certain.

Edited in light of recent post.

If convicted, you would not be able to use the US Visa Waiver scheme. However, you could still apply for a visa and submit an account of your circumstances in support of the application.
 
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cuccir

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In terms of what has happened and what will happen:

You'll get a letter within 6 months but probably a little sooner than that. This letter will probably ask you to give your side of the story, although they probably already have enough evidence to prosecute you if they wish. You should repeat what you've said here; be careful to state that this has only happened once. Emphasise your remorse and ask to settle this out of court for the fare owed plus the costs.

It would be appropriate to mention in your response that you've got a baby in the USA (by the time you hear from them you may well be a father!) and you would like to avoid a criminal record to ensure continued access to ESTA in order to travel to the states.

I would not suggest writing first - we've no evidence that preemptively getting in touch helps and it can sometimes confuse matters.
 

Crisp1604

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The thing is that I genuinely couldn't afford the correct ticket - my thinking was that if I get caught I will be given a fine which I will pay when I have the money. It hasn't been an attempt to just get away with cheaper tickets for the sake of it.
And yes it was technically intentional non-payment so that might mean I get the book thrown at me.
All I can do for now is explain my circumstances and express my genuine contrition.
 

Crisp1604

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Can anyone else offer some speculation as to whether I'm going to end up with a criminal record over this?!
 

Spurs

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Can anyone else offer some speculation as to whether I'm going to end up with a criminal record over this?!
It's possible, but far from certain. The railway could choose to reach an out of court settlement, which would mean you'd have to pay them some money but there'd be no legal case against you. This is *probably* the most likely outcome - you were lucky to be caught by SE rather than TFL - but we can't promise anything. They may prosecute you under the railway bylaws, which do not leave a normal criminal record, but unfortunately is relevent for US visas - see below. This would be a slam-dunk case because it's strict liability, if you didn't have a valid ticket you're automatically guilty no matter what. Finally, they may prosecute you under the Regulation of Railways Act, which is a full, recordable criminal offence but would meant they'd have to prove you intented to avoid your fare. From what you've said it sounds like this would probably succeed, but it isn't entirely certain and potentially a solicitor could be helpful (though others can advise better than me on that one).

As for the American situation. The first thing I'd say is not to panic. In all likelihood they will give you a visa regardless. However, please do not be tempted to try and get away without admitting your offence if you are convicted. While they probably wouldn't catch you out immediately, if you ever needed something more than a visitor visa (quite possible if you're going to have an American-born child, or Britain no longer takes part in the ESTA scheme in the future) you will need a police cerificate. At this point they would see that you'd lied to originally get the ESTA, your visa would almost certainly be declined, and you could be permanently barred from entering the country - or, in a worst-case scenario if they take a more hardline attitude in the future, arrested and prosecuted upon your arrival. So be honest, do not go through the ESTA programme if you are convicted, and instead apply for a standard tourist visa. This will probably involve paying for a police cerificate and doing an interview at the American embassy, but this is ultimately a minor offence and given your circumstances you should eventually be successful with a bit of luck and full honesty.

https://uk.usembassy.gov/visas/visa-waiver-program/additional-requirements/

https://www.nacro.org.uk/resettleme...ling-to-specific-countries/the-united-states/
 

Elwyn

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Something that crosses my mind is that OP says he had “financial problems” and so did not buy the correct ticket. The estimated fare difference is £15. OP says that he is worried he might not be able to visit his pregnant girlfriend in the United States if he gets a conviction.


So OP can’t afford a £15 rail ticket but can (apparently) afford to travel to the USA. If I were the rail company and considering whether or not to prosecute, I’d wonder about this. OP needs to think about how this mitigation argument might be interpreted by them.
 

Crisp1604

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The same reason I can pay them on Friday this week. I get paid from both of my jobs on Friday but have not had enough money this week to cover my costs.
 

Crisp1604

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In fairness I am a recovering addict so I deserve everything I get, which as it stands is not being able to go and see my new born son. I am trying my to get back on my feet but yes it's my fault ultimately.
 

najaB

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In fairness I am a recovering addict so I deserve everything I get, which as it stands is not being able to go and see my new born son.
You deserve no more or less than anyone else. You're trying to turn your life around so you should get the same treatment as any other person.
 

Elwyn

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My comments weren’t intended to be critical. I don’t know your whole circumstances. My advice was just intended to prevent you from digging yourself into a hole.


As I see it, the suggestion that you might not be able to get a visa for the US implies an ability to pay for an air fare that must be vastly more expensive than the rail fare you may have avoided. (If you can save up and pay for an air fare to America, logic suggests you can pay for your UK rail fares too). I’d be cautious about advancing the US visa argument in any mitigation in court or to the rail company, as a reason for not paying the appropriate rail fare in the UK. (I used to work in law enforcement, albeit nothing to do with rail travel, but if I heard that as an argument, in these circumstances I wouldn’t be impressed. And, I suspect, neither would a court).
 

cuccir

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In fairness I am a recovering addict so I deserve everything I get, which as it stands is not being able to go and see my new born son. I am trying my to get back on my feet but yes it's my fault ultimately.

You're a long way from this. A settlement is likely, and even a conviction does not prevent US travel; it just means you need a visa rather than an ESTA.
 

some bloke

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It might be unusual to get a conviction before this visit, if it's in two months.
 
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MotCO

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The thing is that I genuinely couldn't afford the correct ticket - my thinking was that if I get caught I will be given a fine which I will pay when I have the money. .

I would caution against saying this in your formal response. This would imply that you had every intention of avoiding the correct fare, and hoped you wouldn't get caught. Others have said what you should say in your response.

I would offer two other pieces of advice. Since you may not recall all the details when you are eventually asked for your side of the story in 6 weeks' time or so, write down all the details, times, trains, what you said, what you did etc. whilst it is still fresh in your mind. Secondly, start saving up!
 

Hadders

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My advice is not to contact the train company until they write to you. As others have said this could take several weeks though.

When you do get the letter it will say they are considering prosecuting you and ask for your version of events. Reply with a short concise letter, apologising for the situation, stating what you have learned and offering to pay the train company's costs in dealing with the matter as well as the outstanding fare. Don't give a sob story as it won't help.

If you engage with the train company at the appropriate time, in the right way, there is a decent chance of an administrative settlement (as it is technically called) which will keep the matter out of court. You will only get a criminal record if you are prosecuted in court and convicted.
 

Crisp1604

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Thanks- the problem is that I should be in the states when the letter arrives so I have to contact them first and explain that.
 

Haywain

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Thanks- the problem is that I should be in the states when the letter arrives so I have to contact them first and explain that.
That wont help your argument that you couldn't afford the fare.
 

Haywain

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The fact that someone has money on Wednesday doesn't preclude them being penniless on the preceding Monday...
But that isn't necessarily how it looks, and if you are talking to a company who might choose to prosecute it's best not to use something that might be hard for them to believe.
 

najaB

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But that isn't necessarily how it looks, and if you are talking to a company who might choose to prosecute it's best not to use something that might be hard for them to believe.
The important thing is being able to provide a reasonable explanation. For example, the OP's claim that he was waiting on pay from both his jobs could be backed up with bank statements.
 

Crisp1604

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Yes I can prove that my bank account has been empty this week and will have money tomorrow. It is entirely true that I didn't have the money although not saying that makes it ok to get on the train without valid tickets.
It is just the reality of the situation and I have been buying correct tickets before then.
Of course I still have a responsibility to manage my finances better but the problem is that I haven't done that and found myself short of money the week leading up to pay day. I can't see any other way of explaining it because that is the truth. I can pay them for it tomorrow.
I was just trying to get to work!
So can I ask what is my best course of action now? I need to go to the states in a month, I get paid tomorrow. Should I contact them today? What exactly should I tell them?
Thanks again for advice.
 

Crisp1604

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That wont help your argument that you couldn't afford the fare.

I know it seems hard to believe but I have screwed my finances so much that I can't get any form of credit and when I have run out of money in my account that is it - I have no money at all until I next get paid.
I can show my bank statement that would prove I had 0 this week and tomorrow will have money from 2 pay checks.
 
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