Alleged fare evasion...

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danhats

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So back in January, I had to get the train to meet a client. When I got to the station, they were unable to take card payments as their systems were down so I was told by staff and the numerous posters they had up to pay on the train. Within one stop, a train inspector came through the carriage, with my card in hand, i explained the situation at the station and asked to buy a ticket. He said that he was unable to issue one and would have to give me a fine which I could appeal and get reduced to the price of the journey.

A few days later I send off a letter with a copy of the penalty fare explaining the situation. I've heard nothing back until yesterday when I received a court summons. Within this court summons is a witness statement by the ticket inspector stating that I didn't have a ticket because I had 'no means of payment' when in fact it was him that had no means of payment, I was holding my debit card when he approached me. Also, he's included a copy of the penalty fare notice which curiously states a different penalty fare to the one I was given on the day (I still have it). He says in his statement that my intention was to try and get away with it. I've been wanting to pay for my bloody journey since day one!

Anyway, I'm now wondering what my options are. Obviously, I don't want to plead guilty as I have every intention of paying for my journey but had no correspondence from the TOC since my letter. At the same time though, if I plead not guilty then I could incur more costs from the court :/

Any advice would be gratefully appreciated.
 
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danhats

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No, I wrote to them to appeal the fine but said I was more than willing to pay the amount for my journey.

I heard nothing back until I received this court summons.
 

bb21

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The appeals process runs parallel to the Penalty Fare system, so you should have paid the Penalty Fare within the given time scale, which would be refunded in the event of a successful appeal.

Do you have any proof of postage for your appeals letter?

What station did you start your journey at, and which train company did you travel with? It may help us piece together what might have happened.

What is your court date?
 

gray1404

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Some very concerning issues here, the OP says the PF noticed produced in evidence is different to the one they received on the day. Also, she states that the inspector has lied in his statement. Furthermore, this sounds like a situation where a PF should never be charged. i.e. unable to buy a ticket before boarding AND given permission to travel.
 

Fare-Cop

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Some very concerning issues here, the OP says the PF noticed produced in evidence is different to the one they received on the day.

If a Penalty Fare Notice remains unpaid and is subsequently cancelled and a Summons is issued there will be a difference in the amounts shown. The PFN would have shown the amount of penalty, i.e; twice the single fare or £20, whichever is the greater, but the Summons will allege only the amount of the single fare avoided.

Also, she states that the inspector has lied in his statement. Furthermore, this sounds like a situation where a PF should never be charged. i.e. unable to buy a ticket before boarding AND given permission to travel.

If the circumstances are exactly as described by the OP, I agree that a PF ought to be successfully appealed, but in addition to the notice handed to the traveller at the time, there are normally at least two further letters that have been sent to the traveller before a notice is cancelled and an allegation is forwarded for issue of a Summons.
 

danhats

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It states that I was unable to produce a valid ticket and had no means to pay the fare due. This is untrue as I tried to buy a ticket at the machine and at the counter in the station. It was the inspector that had no means to take the payment.

I even asked at the time about the return journey and he said it would be fine if I showed the notice and explain the situation.

It says two letters were sent out but I haven't received anything.

I travelled with Southeastern... notorious for providing a terrible service.
 

jon0844

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The card you wanted to pay with was a card that can be used on a train where live authorisation isn't available?
 

najaB

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It states that I was unable to produce a valid ticket...
That sounds like a Byelaw 18.2 offence, to which you have a valid defence - Byelaw 18.3 says that no breach occurs if there were no working facilities to buy a ticket and/or you were advised to board without a ticket by either signs or staff.
...and had no means to pay the fare due.
I can't see what legislation this in reference to. That aside, by not paying the PF you have opened the door for a potential RoRA prosecution as the case could be made that you were given opportunity to pay the PF and chose not to. A lot of weight has to be given to:
It says two letters were sent out but I haven't received anything.
It seems a bit odd that of three letters sent, you have only received the summons. You should query this in any correspondence you have with them, requesting when and to what address the letters were sent. If it turns out they were sent to an incorrect address then it may be possible to turn the clock back and either pay the PF or, more profitably, show Southeastern that it shouldn't have been issued in the first place.
 

jkdd77

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It states that I was unable to produce a valid ticket and had no means to pay the fare due. This is untrue as I tried to buy a ticket at the machine and at the counter in the station. It was the inspector that had no means to take the payment.

Forgive my repetitiveness, but what is the *exact* wording of the charge?

Does it say "Contrary to byelaw 18(1) or 18(2)" or "Contrary to S.5 (3) (a) or (b) of the Regulation of Railways Act 1889", or both?

The latter would be more serious and more difficult to defend.

As the Penalty Fare Regulations make clear, a PF is a civil matter and failure to pay a PF is not a offence in itself, albeit that failure to pay the fare actually due, (usually the single fare, although in this case you may be able to claim entitlement to any railcard or other discounts available), may well be a separate offence.

The PF was never legally due, and is certainly not due now, since it has been cancelled; indeed, since the matter has proceeded to a prosecution, the PF is now irrelevant; the court will, at least in the case of a fare evasion prosecution, focus on your actions in attempting to pay the fare *actually due*, both on the day and afterwards.

It would have been better if you had made an attempt to pay the fare *actually* due after the fact, by sending it directly to the TOC, rather than simply offering to do so. As it is, the TOC will presumably claim, at least in the case of a fare evasion prosecution, that the continued failure to pay the fare actually due, combined with the failure to respond to correspondence (albeit that you deny receiving any such correspondence), is satisfactory proof of fare evasion.

If the charge is the byelaw 18 offence only, then the failure to pay the fare is irrelevant; since the byelaw 18(3) defence is not related to payment of the fare due.
 
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Stigy

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bb21 said:
The appeals process runs parallel to the Penalty Fare system, so you should have paid the Penalty Fare within the given time scale, which would be refunded in the event of a successful appeal.
If you chose not to pay the Penalty Fare on the spot and appeal the notice, the 21-days is frozen until such time as the appeals body says yay or nae or so I believe?

A few days later I send off a letter with a copy of the penalty fare explaining the situation. I've heard nothing back until yesterday when I received a court summons. Within this court summons is a witness statement by the ticket inspector stating that I didn't have a ticket because I had 'no means of payment' when in fact it was him that had no means of payment
I am concerned by this, as most are I believe. The statement included with the summons is very specific, almost as if a Penalty Fare Notice was never issued in the first place? Allow me to explain. The witness statement for the benefit of an ignored PFN is usually a tad more generic than that, and doesn't usually go in to facts such as means to pay etc, as they usually would prosecute under Railway Byelaws for such an offence, cancelling the Penalty Fare, and as such, means to pay is irrelevant.

jkdd77 said:
It would have been better if you had made an attempt to pay the fare *actually* due after the fact, by sending it directly to the TOC. As it is, the TOC will presumably claim, at least in the case of a fare evasion prosecution, that the continued failure to pay the fare actually due, combined with the failure to respond to correspondence (albeit that you deny receiving any such correspondence), is satisfactory proof of fare evasion.
It would have at least showed that the OP was willing to pay the fare, but wouldn't have necessarily prevented the notice being cancelled and the matter being progressed to court. Ignoring the actual legality as we are lead to believe in this case, one cannot simply pay retrospectively, as the offence has already been committed when they failed t pay the fare before boarding the train. If this was allowed in law, it would make a mockery of the railway byelaws (and other legislation), and the system in general.
 
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najaB

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If you chose not to pay the Penalty Fare on the spot and appeal the notice, the 21-days is frozen until such time as the appeals body says yay or nae or so I believe?
On the IPFAS website they say:
Please be aware that making an appeal does not mean that payment of any amount outstanding is suspended. Debt recovery action is separate from any appeal and administration fees may be incurred if full payment is not made within the time specified.
 

Stigy

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Interesting. I'm sure it's different with IRCAS. Could be wrong of course, it just seems bazaar that you can appeal on one hand, yet they may not find in favour of the appealee (not a word, i know!), take several weeks to get back to them, and then as admin fees etc to the notice.
 

jkdd77

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If you chose not to pay the Penalty Fare on the spot and appeal the notice, the 21-days is frozen until such time as the appeals body says yay or nae or so I believe?


I am concerned by this, as most are I believe. The statement included with the summons is very specific, almost as if a Penalty Fare Notice was never issued in the first place? Allow me to explain. The witness statement for the benefit of an ignored PFN is usually a tad more generic than that, and doesn't usually go in to facts such as means to pay etc, as they usually would prosecute under Railway Byelaws for such an offence, cancelling the Penalty Fare, and as such, means to pay is irrelevant.


It would have at least showed that the OP was willing to pay the fare, but wouldn't have necessarily prevented the notice being cancelled and the matter being progressed to court. Ignoring the actual legality as we are lead to believe in this case, one cannot simply pay retrospectively, as the offence has already been committed when they failed t pay the fare before boarding the train. If this was allowed in law, it would make a mockery of the railway byelaws (and other legislation), and the system in general.

It may be true in general that retrospective payment is not sufficient.

However, in this specific case, the OP was given express permission to 'buy on board', and seemingly could not have purchased at his origin station in any event, so cannot possibly be said to have committed an offence, whether fare evasion or byelaw 18 (the (18(3) defence applies), by failing to buy beforehand.

Given the above, the fare is then due at the first opportunity, but, if a passenger actively attempts to pay the correct fare at the time of travel, but payment is refused and a higher fare incorrectly demanded, then his actions in attempting to pay on board the train are evidence of an active intention to pay the fare, at least at that point.

Where a person is unable to pay the correct fare at the time of travel through no fault of their own (e.g. because payment is offered but unjustifiably refused), then there is no option but to pay later, and so the failure to pay at the time of travel is not evidence of fare evasion.

It's not the first time Southeastern have issued a blatantly invalid PF; however, the question the court will consider, if it gets that far, is whether the OP's failure to make payment of the correct (lower) fare after the fact is evidence of an intention to avoid paying that fare. The prosecutor will doubtless claim that he has failed to enter into further correspondence about the matter and cast doubt on his claims to have appealed, and not to have received letters other than the court summons.

In short, therefore, there is a real risk that a prosecution for fare evasion might succeed, even if the OP can show that he was unable to pay the correct fare at the time of travel.
 
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bb21

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The two bodies have different policies IIRC. (See govt's last consultation on changes, 'stop the clock' section.)

Must admit that I am not aware of this difference. It makes a mockery of the system and is one of the most ridiculous things I have heard. A little consistency wouldn't have hurt.
 

najaB

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Travelling without the means to pay a fare is evidence of travelling with the intent to avoid payment - an offence under S.5 of the Regulation of Railway Act.
I thought that is what they were going for, but had expected them to reference the language used in the statue.
 

Stigy

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It may be true in general that retrospective payment is not sufficient.

However, in this specific case, the OP was given express permission to 'buy on board', and seemingly could not have purchased at his origin station in any event, so cannot possibly be said to have committed an offence, whether fare evasion or byelaw 18 (the (18(3) defence applies), by failing to buy beforehand.

Given the above, the fare is then due at the first opportunity, but, if a passenger actively attempts to pay the correct fare at the time of travel, but payment is refused and a higher fare incorrectly demanded, then his actions in attempting to pay on board the train are evidence of an active intention to pay the fare, at least at that point.

Where a person is unable to pay the correct fare at the time of travel through no fault of their own (e.g. because payment is offered but unjustifiably refused), then there is no option but to pay later, and so the failure to pay at the time of travel is not evidence of fare evasion.

It's not the first time Southeastern have issued a blatantly invalid PF; however, the question the court will consider, if it gets that far, is whether the OP's failure to make payment of the correct (lower) fare after the fact is evidence of an intention to avoid paying that fare. The prosecutor will doubtless claim that he has failed to enter into further correspondence about the matter and cast doubt on his claims to have appealed, and not to have received letters other than the court summons.

In short, therefore, there is a real risk that a prosecution for fare evasion might succeed, even if the OP can show that he was unable to pay the correct fare at the time of travel.

I know. Hence why I said "ignoring the legality in this case...."

When the fare is paid is not set out in law, just that a person is allowed to board the train without a ticket if there's nowhere to purchase one from at their origin station etc. The Conditions of Carriage are more specific, but this can't form the basis of a prosecution in the same was the Byelaws can. One could be prosecuted under the Regulation of Railways Act 1889 if intent to avoid payment can be reasonably proved, so just sitting down on the train and waiting to be approached by staff, or not purchasing a ticket when changing to a connecting train is a risky business nonetheless.
 
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danhats

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Forgive my repetitiveness, but what is the *exact* wording of the charge?

Does it say "Contrary to byelaw 18(1) or 18(2)" or "Contrary to S.5 (3) (a) or (b) of the Regulation of Railways Act 1889", or both?

It says...

Contrary to bylaw 18 of the Railway Bylaws 2005

I'm kinda more annoyed at the fact that they're are basically insinuating that I am an opportunist who tried to get a free ride. I can actually prove that is not the case, being self employed, I have to keep all of my receipts and can show the journeys I have taken through Southeastern over the past couple of years. To then decide to try and not pay for one day is ridiculous.

I'm wondering if my best option is to try and settle out of court and then maybe make a complaint?
 
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jkdd77

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Ah good, if you've been charged under byelaw 18 (only), then all you have to do to get an acquittal is to demonstrate at least one of:
byelaw 18 said:
(3) No person shall be in breach of Byelaw 18(1) or 18(2) if:
(i) there were no facilities in working order for the issue or validation of any ticket at the time when, and the station where, he began his journey; or
(ii) there was a notice at the station where he began his journey permitting journeys to be started without a valid ticket; or
(iii) an authorised person gave him permission to travel without a valid ticket.

It sounds like at least two defences apply here.

What evidence do you have, or do you think you could easily obtain, that:
a) the TVMs were non-functional;
b) posters were up giving permission to commence your journey without previously buying a ticket; and
c) you were given permission by station staff to commence your journey without a ticket?

Have you any photos of posters, or names of individual staff members giving permission? If not, you still have a valid defence based on the facts as stated by you, but it makes it more difficult to prove.

You would presumably want to summon the station staff from your origin station to give evidence in court as to the giving of relevant permission by posters and by word-of-mouth, and to ask the court to require the TOC to release records of the (non)-functionality of the TVMs at the time of travel.

If what you say is correct, you are not guilty of the specific offence of which you have been charged, and, IMO, ought not to plead guilty to an offence which you did not commit for the sake of expediency.

However, I do not claim that England's judicial system is perfect; if you cannot obtain corroborating evidence, or simply wish to avoid the time, stress and hassle of representing yourself in court, then you may wish to seek an out-of-settlement in which you pay the TOC to withdraw the prosecution.
 

DaveNewcastle

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It says...

Contrary to bylaw 18 of the Railway Bylaws 2005

I'm kinda more annoyed at the fact that they're are basically insinuating that I am an opportunist who tried to get a free ride. I can actually prove that is not the case, being self employed, I have to keep all of my receipts and can show the journeys I have taken through Southeastern over the past couple of years. To then decide to try and not pay for one day is ridiculous.
I'm not clear that there is anything in what you have posted do far which leads to your conclusion that you are "an opportunist who tried to get a frwee ride." The Byelaw 18 offence is simply the comparitively minor fact that you were unable to produce a ticket on demand. With no insinuation of any intention, opportunism or any fault on any of the hundreds of other journeys you have taken.

If they wanted to pursue the line of reasinng which used the fact stated that you had no means to pay for your travel, then thet would have been a more serious allegation, would imply that you were intending to take "a free ride" and would, if convicted, result in a criminal record.

I'm wondering if my best option is to try and settle out of court and then maybe make a complaint?
A settlement is preferable to a conviction, that's a certainty, but in light of the circumstances, I'm of the opinion that there may be grounds to have the conviction, even for the Byelaw 18 offence, set aside. But that would involve you in a constructive discussion with the investigating officer which you may or may not be confident in doing yourself.
 

Master29

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So back in January, I had to get the train to meet a client. When I got to the station, they were unable to take card payments as their systems were down so I was told by staff and the numerous posters they had up to pay on the train. Within one stop, a train inspector came through the carriage, with my card in hand, i explained the situation at the station and asked to buy a ticket. He said that he was unable to issue one and would have to give me a fine which I could appeal and get reduced to the price of the journey.

A few days later I send off a letter with a copy of the penalty fare explaining the situation. I've heard nothing back until yesterday when I received a court summons. Within this court summons is a witness statement by the ticket inspector stating that I didn't have a ticket because I had 'no means of payment' when in fact it was him that had no means of payment, I was holding my debit card when he approached me. Also, he's included a copy of the penalty fare notice which curiously states a different penalty fare to the one I was given on the day (I still have it). He says in his statement that my intention was to try and get away with it. I've been wanting to pay for my bloody journey since day one!

Anyway, I'm now wondering what my options are. Obviously, I don't want to plead guilty as I have every intention of paying for my journey but had no correspondence from the TOC since my letter. At the same time though, if I plead not guilty then I could incur more costs from the court :/

Any advice would be gratefully appreciated.

If what you have said is true then surely this would be known to any RP officer. It could be proven if their card facilities were down.
 

najaB

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If what you have said is true then surely this would be known to any RP officer.
It should be, but depends on the message getting out in time and the RPI actually seeing the message.
It could be proven if their card facilities were down.
This is true though, one would expect that there would be some record of it. In which case any prosecution would be certain to fail provided that evidence was presented.
 

bignosemac

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The OP was unable to purchase a ticket from the station and was directed by rail staff to buy on board. They then attempted to buy on board but this opportunity was not afforded them, instead they were written up for a Penalty Fare.

No opportunity to pay before boarding, so firstly why the Penalty Fare? Secondly, with no opportunity to pay they surely have an absolute defence against the byelaw prosecution.

What have I misunderstood?
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
This is true though, one would expect that there would be some record of it. In which case any prosecution would be certain to fail provided that evidence was presented.

Prosecution's job to prove they were working. Not defence's job to prove they weren't.
 
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danhats

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Ah good, if you've been charged under byelaw 18 (only), then all you have to do to get an acquittal is to demonstrate at least one of:


It sounds like at least two defences apply here.

What evidence do you have, or do you think you could easily obtain, that:
a) the TVMs were non-functional;
b) posters were up giving permission to commence your journey without previously buying a ticket; and
c) you were given permission by station staff to commence your journey without a ticket?

Have you any photos of posters, or names of individual staff members giving permission? If not, you still have a valid defence based on the facts as stated by you, but it makes it more difficult to prove.

You would presumably want to summon the station staff from your origin station to give evidence in court as to the giving of relevant permission by posters and by word-of-mouth, and to ask the court to require the TOC to release records of the (non)-functionality of the TVMs at the time of travel.

If what you say is correct, you are not guilty of the specific offence of which you have been charged, and, IMO, ought not to plead guilty to an offence which you did not commit for the sake of expediency.

However, I do not claim that England's judicial system is perfect; if you cannot obtain corroborating evidence, or simply wish to avoid the time, stress and hassle of representing yourself in court, then you may wish to seek an out-of-settlement in which you pay the TOC to withdraw the prosecution.

Sadly I don't so it is literally my word against theirs. In hindsight, I probably should have taken some photos of the signs regarding card payments but then at the same time, I was taking what the staff told me as gospel and didn't really think that Southeastern would then try to screw me over.

Like you say, as there were problems, they should really have a record of it.
 

danhats

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I returned my not guilty plea to the court today so we'll see what they say.

I currently have Transport Focus looking into it and they have been in touch with Southeastern who are reviewing it so will be interesting to see what they come back with.
 
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