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Are punishments too harsh for first time fare evasion?

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mrmartin

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I always seem to think that punishments are too severe for first time fare evasion (when it reaches court at least).

Often see stories of £10 tickets ending up in fines + costs + compensation reaching £1000 from the court (plus the cost of defense lawyer - who may well be legal aid, but someone has to pay for that eventually).

I'm all for persistent fare evaders being given harsher punishments.

However, it seems a bit out of whack. If I speed on a road causing danger to myself and others I get a small fine and some points on a license.

Even (low value) shoplifting is commonly dealt with a £80 FPN by the police (which I believe also doesn't affect future employment chances on a CRB check).

I would also add that a significant minority of these seem to be caused by inadequate ticketing facilities (long queues/inconvenient ticket machines for example) that while don't excuse fare evasion do explain it - and the industry could do something about that.
 
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DerekC

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However, it seems a bit out of whack. If I speed on a road causing danger to myself and others I get a small fine and some points on a license.
.

Actually you will be offered a speeding awareness course at about the same cost as the fine. Not sure it would work for fare evasion, though.
 

Puffing Devil

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Most first case fare matters are dealt with out of court, or by a penalty fare, or even a warning. Much like the FPN for shoplifting.

Offenders who come to the attention of the authorities on multiple occasions, or who don't play ball with the out of court process, will come to court.

Fines are standard and income related. There will be no legal aid for the vast majority of rail matters. For simple guilty please, there should be no need to engage a lawyer.
 

yorkie

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I agree with the OP; it's not proportional.
Most first case fare matters are dealt with out of court, or by a penalty fare, or even a warning. Much like the FPN for shoplifting.
Fare evasion should not be dealt with by means of a Penalty Fare.

Chiltern say:
A Penalty Fare is a charge that Chiltern Railways is allowed
to make under the Regulations and Rules. It is not a fine, and
anyone who is charged one is not being accused of avoiding,
or attempting to avoid, paying their fare.

‘Fare dodging’ is a completely different matter: it is a criminal
offence and we treat it as such by prosecuting offenders.
 

Haydn1971

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However, it seems a bit out of whack. If I speed on a road causing danger to myself and others I get a small fine and some points on a license.


Well I didn't mean to hit the pedestrian crossing the road, I was only speeding for a little bit, my phone rang, then I had to fiddle with my car stereo, it's the first time I've ever done this, whine whine whine... The reason we have reduced penalties on many crimes is because the prison and court system is too full of people who didn't listen or pay attention last time.

Also, whilst staff are busy dealing with fare evasion they are distracted from the safety critical role they actually should be doing rather than dealing with fare evasion.
 

bnm

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Also, whilst staff are busy dealing with fare evasion they are distracted from the safety critical role they actually should be doing rather than dealing with fare evasion.

Isn't that's why there are dedicated staff for fare evasion? RPIs, RPOs and the like. I'm not sure they have any safety critical roles.
 

cf111

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I've mentioned this before but I think because in England and Wales a prosecution can be brought by a private body with minimal effort and the defendant convicted and sentenced in their absence means there is the impression of a fairly harsh system.

First time cases of fare dodging, should that be something that would come to the attention of the Procurator Fiscal in Scotland would be very unusual to see anywhere near a Sheriff Court and even if it did the accused would be given the chance to answer the complaint and enter a plea (even if that is by being arrested and brought before the court) before proceedings started properly.
 

Puffing Devil

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I've mentioned this before but I think because in England and Wales a prosecution can be brought by a private body with minimal effort and the defendant convicted and sentenced in their absence means there is the impression of a fairly harsh system.

This should only happen if the passenger ignores the pre-prosecution communication from the TOC and/or provides a false address or moves and fails to take care of mail forwarding. I would say this is a minority of passengers.

For those that do run into this issue, there are options to reset the prosecution and deal with the TOC. Many people adopt a head in the sand approach and pay the (large) price.
 

Bletchleyite

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I agree with the OP; it's not proportional.

Fare evasion should not be dealt with by means of a Penalty Fare.

Then the Penalty Fare has no reason to exist and should be abolished, as having an elevated fee to be charged solely in the case of genuine mistakes is in my view somewhere between immoral and poor customer service.

However, I could be tempted to say that I'd actually go the other way and decriminalise the matter, with it being dealt with by a higher, Swiss-style Penalty Fare of around £80-£100 plus the fare due (but with a proper statutory appeals process carried out by a non-commercial, genuinely independent body, and "Penalty Fakes" outlawed entirely). First time offences, say one per calendar year, could simply be charged the fare plus a small admin fee e.g. £10, which would handle mistakes more reasonably without having to work out if they were mistakes or not.
 
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Greenback

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Most TOC's rely on publicising those cases which end up in court with a conviction and a fine in order to deter others from trying to evade fares. I'm not sure how successful this strategy is, and I doubt there;s any accurate way to quantify it, but I do think that in many cases there is such a file of evidence, or an admission, of multiple offences, that this must have an impact on the penalties imposed by a court.

I do think that there is some merit in decriminalisation.
 

Agent_c

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I always seem to think that punishments are too severe for first time fare evasion (when it reaches court at least).

Often see stories of £10 tickets ending up in fines + costs + compensation reaching £1000 from the court (plus the cost of defense lawyer - who may well be legal aid, but someone has to pay for that eventually).

I'm all for persistent fare evaders being given harsher punishments.

However, it seems a bit out of whack. If I speed on a road causing danger to myself and others I get a small fine and some points on a license.

Even (low value) shoplifting is commonly dealt with a £80 FPN by the police (which I believe also doesn't affect future employment chances on a CRB check).
considering that first time offenders tend to get UFNs, and £80 penalty fares, and settlements around £100-200, I don't think its that far out of whack at all.
 

Antman

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Well I didn't mean to hit the pedestrian crossing the road, I was only speeding for a little bit, my phone rang, then I had to fiddle with my car stereo, it's the first time I've ever done this, whine whine whine... The reason we have reduced penalties on many crimes is because the prison and court system is too full of people who didn't listen or pay attention last time.

Also, whilst staff are busy dealing with fare evasion they are distracted from the safety critical role they actually should be doing rather than dealing with fare evasion.

That's hardly a reasonable comparison to somebody who might have simply got on the wrong train by mistake and I can't see why safety critical roles would be neglected because of fare evasion.

I think the OP made a good comparison about most shoplifting incidents being dealt with by an £80 fixed penalty at most.
 

CheesyChips

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I'd say a huge part of the problem is being able to work out who is being dishonest and who has fallen foul of a system they don't understand or those who have just made a simple honest mistake, like all humans do.

I certainly have no intention of bringing up the age old debate of how complex railways can be for the unfamiliar user but we can all agree that some people will run into problems because they misunderstood something, and for doing so are more likely to be subject to punitive measures on the railway than in other non-railway scenarios.
 

LowLevel

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How many first time offenders are really unlucky enough to be caught on their actual first offence. For proper fare evaders (I'm not referring to arcane disputes over validity of tickets held here, I'm talking about people hiding in bogs, being belligerent or walking out of stations knowing they haven't paid) then the book should be thrown at them. The look on the faces of these clowns when an actual real police officer turns up to take them away is often a picture as they think 'it's not serious'.

I've always questioned the UPFN thing as well. Why is it incumbent on the railway to assist waifs and strays who decide they still have to be somewhere but can't afford transport when for the most part they have legs, then having to take a chance on them bothering to pay or go to the expense to pursue them if they don't. They can't do it on a bus so why are rail companies expected to accommodate them. The police often don't help - I've known local forces dump people at stations knowing full well they have no money without bothering to give them a warrant.

The number of witness statements I've had to submit versus the number of UPFNs I've issued suggests non payment in the 21 days is rife and the system is open to abuse. You get people getting on trains brazenly saying 'I've got no money so you'll have to give me one of them forms'. My preferred option would be to dump them off the train and make them walk and so it often used to be, with control granting stops in remote places to make it inconvenient. Instead it seems to be 'I've dumped myself on your premises so it's your problem to deal with'.

An alternative could be the government, if they want to make the railway the transport of last resort, taking the revenue risk on all UPFNs issued and the responsibility for dealing with **** takers.
 

cuccir

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A nationally consistent fixed or proportional-to-fare-evaded penalty for first offence fare evasion would seem to make sense. Two tarrifs could even be introduced for RPIs to use at discretion - a lower one for what appears to be an error, a higher one for what appears to be deliberate.

TOCs ought to be able to retain the right to prosecute first offences where there is evidence of aggravating circumstances or sustained attempts at deception (eg misuse of season tickets, 'doughnutting', etc).
 

Greenback

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I'd say a huge part of the problem is being able to work out who is being dishonest and who has fallen foul of a system they don't understand or those who have just made a simple honest mistake, like all humans do.

I agree with you here.

I certainly have no intention of bringing up the age old debate of how complex railways can be for the unfamiliar user but we can all agree that some people will run into problems because they misunderstood something, and for doing so are more likely to be subject to punitive measures on the railway than in other non-railway scenarios.

Here, though, I should say that I've made a fair few mistakes in my time and I've never been penalised for them myself. I did choose to buy a new ticket once when I mistakenly and stupidly threw mine away, and this cost me £70+ but it as my error and it was the right thing to do.

I've gotten on the wrong train, I've been accidentally over carried and I've always found that on train staff have been excellent overall in handling things with sympathy and understanding.

I don't think barrier staff and RPI's are as good at dealing with situations where mistakes might have been made, but such is the nature of their role, i suppose.

While I can't really disagree that there is more likelihood of punitive measures on the railway than in some other areas of life, I still think that the chances are pretty low overall, based on my own experiences.
 

Antman

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How many first time offenders are really unlucky enough to be caught on their actual first offence. For proper fare evaders (I'm not referring to arcane disputes over validity of tickets held here, I'm talking about people hiding in bogs, being belligerent or walking out of stations knowing they haven't paid) then the book should be thrown at them. The look on the faces of these clowns when an actual real police officer turns up to take them away is often a picture as they think 'it's not serious'.

I've always questioned the UPFN thing as well. Why is it incumbent on the railway to assist waifs and strays who decide they still have to be somewhere but can't afford transport when for the most part they have legs, then having to take a chance on them bothering to pay or go to the expense to pursue them if they don't. They can't do it on a bus so why are rail companies expected to accommodate them. The police often don't help - I've known local forces dump people at stations knowing full well they have no money without bothering to give them a warrant.

The number of witness statements I've had to submit versus the number of UPFNs I've issued suggests non payment in the 21 days is rife and the system is open to abuse. You get people getting on trains brazenly saying 'I've got no money so you'll have to give me one of them forms'. My preferred option would be to dump them off the train and make them walk and so it often used to be, with control granting stops in remote places to make it inconvenient. Instead it seems to be 'I've dumped myself on your premises so it's your problem to deal with'.

An alternative could be the government, if they want to make the railway the transport of last resort, taking the revenue risk on all UPFNs issued and the responsibility for dealing with **** takers.

I don't disagree with you but proper fare evaders are unlikely to ever get caught as they'll probably give any RPI a load of abuse or give a false name and address.

I thought the police were supposed to provide travel warrants to get somebody they've arrested safely home?

Yes it would be better to prevent freeloaders getting onto a train in the first place but easier said than done I guess.
 

mrmartin

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A lot is said here about playing ball with the TOC to avoid punishment. That would be 100% fair enough if this was the police or CPS, involved in the criminal justice process. However, it's a private company (PS: I'm all for private companies - this is not a rant about privatisation). Private, for profit companies, should not be allowed to be in this situation where they can easily bring CRIMINAL convictions against people.

Can you imagine if credit card companies or banks could bring criminal charges against you defaulted on a loan? For profit companies would use this to their complete advantage in any offers they gave.

I think this also hits young people and students the hardest. TOCs take ages to process these claims and assume people will be at the same address months later.

Young people move often. I had a friend who was hit with a £1,200 from the court and nearly sent to prison because he skipped a £29 fare - he was totally skint and was heading home to his parents, moved house 2 months later, didn't get any letters. He was picked up by the police for contempt of court and spent the night in the cells a year later when the police ran a check on him for other unrelated reasons.

This in my eyes is ludicrous. We should not be ruining peoples life chances over some private companies perceived loss of revenue.
 

furlong

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Fare evasion should not be dealt with by means of a Penalty Fare.

anyone who is charged one is not being accused of avoiding,
or attempting to avoid, paying their fare.

Misleading. Anyone charged one is being treated as having acted dishonestly.

From the SRA 2002 guidelines:
A penalty fares scheme reverses the normal ‘burden of proof ’ which would apply if a person was prosecuted for not paying their fare.
...
For this reason, we [SRA, 2002] see our main role as making sure that the interests of honest passengers are protected

That main role has been inherited by the DfT and I find it disappointing that it has failed to update the rules to take into account various changes in the operating environment since 2002.

From one of the Parliamentary debates for the original bill:

The innocent are protected by the Bill, but it is only fair that the dishonest traveller should be caught. However, even when he is caught he is not a criminal

One of the social benefits of this Bill is that it will take most ticketless travel outside the scope of the criminal law and will free the hard-pressed magistrates' courts to deal with other serious business.

If, however, a passenger on a train is not in possession of a ticket, he is not to be treated as a criminal under this Bill. He is simply asked to pay a penalty fare, which is a civil penalty and not a criminal one. If there are good reasons why he has not been able to obtain a ticket before travelling, not even this civil penalty will be due. Only if there is evidence of an intent to avoid payment may the passenger be liable to prosecution.
 

Antman

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A lot is said here about playing ball with the TOC to avoid punishment. That would be 100% fair enough if this was the police or CPS, involved in the criminal justice process. However, it's a private company (PS: I'm all for private companies - this is not a rant about privatisation). Private, for profit companies, should not be allowed to be in this situation where they can easily bring CRIMINAL convictions against people.

Can you imagine if credit card companies or banks could bring criminal charges against you defaulted on a loan? For profit companies would use this to their complete advantage in any offers they gave.

I think this also hits young people and students the hardest. TOCs take ages to process these claims and assume people will be at the same address months later.

Young people move often. I had a friend who was hit with a £1,200 from the court and nearly sent to prison because he skipped a £29 fare - he was totally skint and was heading home to his parents, moved house 2 months later, didn't get any letters. He was picked up by the police for contempt of court and spent the night in the cells a year later when the police ran a check on him for other unrelated reasons.

This in my eyes is ludicrous. We should not be ruining peoples life chances over some private companies perceived loss of revenue.

This sums it up perfectly, an independent ombudsman is needed to arbitrate and any prosecutions should be processed by the police and CPS.
 

The Ham

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A lot is said here about playing ball with the TOC to avoid punishment. That would be 100% fair enough if this was the police or CPS, involved in the criminal justice process. However, it's a private company (PS: I'm all for private companies - this is not a rant about privatisation). Private, for profit companies, should not be allowed to be in this situation where they can easily bring CRIMINAL convictions against people.

Can you imagine if credit card companies or banks could bring criminal charges against you defaulted on a loan? For profit companies would use this to their complete advantage in any offers they gave.

I think this also hits young people and students the hardest. TOCs take ages to process these claims and assume people will be at the same address months later.

Young people move often. I had a friend who was hit with a £1,200 from the court and nearly sent to prison because he skipped a £29 fare - he was totally skint and was heading home to his parents, moved house 2 months later, didn't get any letters. He was picked up by the police for contempt of court and spent the night in the cells a year later when the police ran a check on him for other unrelated reasons.

This in my eyes is ludicrous. We should not be ruining peoples life chances over private companies perceived loss of revenue.

Yes there are examples, like this where things don't go well, however I would suggest that such cases are fairly rare.

To counteract such a situation the recipient should have paperwork which, like the seven day producer for some minor motoring offences, which allows them to pay the fare plus an admin charge (£20 or double the fare in question, whichever is greater) within a period of time.

If payment isn't received then it gets escalated and any individual is liable for informing the TOC of any change of address during the process. If the paperwork is lost a postcode and name search will bring up the results.
 

yorkie

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considering that first time offenders tend to get UFNs
No. An unpaid fare notice is simply a bill to pay a fare that has not been paid. It has nothing to do with punishments for fare evasion.
and £80 penalty fares
Penalty Fares are nothing to do with the question either.
and settlements around £100-200, I don't think its that far out of whack at all.
An out of court settlement is to avoid a punishment!

There's clearly a big misunderstanding here!
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Private, for profit companies, should not be allowed to be in this situation where they can easily bring CRIMINAL convictions against people....
Absolutely, of that there can be no reasonable doubt.
 

LowLevel

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It works both ways though - the private company as a rail franchise operator is effectively a function on behalf of the Department for Transport and accordingly doesn't profit directly from court fines awarded anyway. They can only claim costs and compensation which is usually limited to the fare due plus a bit.

If you want the private company to act like a proper private company remove all 'benefit of the doubt' type systems and return to immediately dumping people who can't or won't pay their fare wherever they happen to land. Their personal welfare isn't the problem of a for profit company. Their choice to dump themselves on the property of said private company shouldn't lead to anymore aggravation than which place to boot them off it. If it happens to be winter in the middle of Cumbria then boo hoo.

Instead you have the combination of the two where the railway is expected to operate almost as a social service and ensure people's welfare before it's own profit.

For what it's worth by the way what I'm saying is mostly to make a point. I quite regularly help people who are destitute and ask for help with transport when they're up front and honest.
 

ainsworth74

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My personal feeling is that most of the punishments for fare evasion are reasonable. Judges do have discretion in the amounts of fines they can issue so whilst the maximum might be £1,000 seeing that sort of fine is rare and I can't think of one occasion that I've heard about where a first time offender has been issued with such a fine.

The one thing I would absolutely change is the criminal aspect of it. I do not think it is proportional, certainly for first time offenders, to face conviction of a criminal offence that will leave them with a criminal record. Therefore I would like to see the de-criminalisation of fare evasion.
 

al78

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Put like that is does sound a bit OTT. A possible four figure fine for failing to pay a rail fare which might be an honest mistake? The driver who crashed into me last year when I was cycling to work and I very nearly died in the hospital only got a few hundred pounds fine and three penalty points, and he pleaded guilty to careless driving from the start (he suffered more emotionally from what I heard). It is almost as if bits of paper and metal are more important than human lives :roll:.
 

ivanhoe

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My personal feeling is that most of the punishments for fare evasion are reasonable. Judges do have discretion in the amounts of fines they can issue so whilst the maximum might be £1,000 seeing that sort of fine is rare and I can't think of one occasion that I've heard about where a first time offender has been issued with such a fine.

The one thing I would absolutely change is the criminal aspect of it. I do not think it is proportional, certainly for first time offenders, to face conviction of a criminal offence that will leave them with a criminal record. Therefore I would like to see the de-criminalisation of fare evasion.

Totally agree with the de-criminalisation of fare evasion. The industry as a whole should be investing in ways of cutting down on fare evasion. Simple facts are that many get free rides because the starting station is in not manned at certain periods and their destination station probably has its gates open. I would hazard a guess as to say that the volume of fare evasion is much greater than they state. Investment in more staff, greater use of technology and perhaps the use of machines at unmanned stations that allow you a permit to travel for say a couple of quid which would be offset against the fare that they purchase on board. I have no issues with penalty fares per see as long as people have had reasonable chances to purchase tickets beforehand or on trains were necessary.
 

DaveNewcastle

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. . . However, it's a private company (PS: I'm all for private companies - this is not a rant about privatisation). Private, for profit companies, should not be allowed to be in this situation where they can easily bring CRIMINAL convictions against people.

. . . .

This in my eyes is ludicrous. We should not be ruining peoples life chances over some private companies perceived loss of revenue.
Really?

That raises an interesting prospect.
You would deny justice to incorporated, for-profit, companies. That would create vast opportunities for frauds, counterfeiting, theft, and widespread loss of rights and amenity to businesses and their employees and contractors. It would undermine the creative industries at a stroke, including commercial broadcasting, software, architecture, and design. Trade Mark misrepresentation would render brand names obsolete. Ports and airports would be more dangerous than they are, the retail market, on-line and on the high street would be seriously undermined by petty and organised thefts and scams. Some remedies for dangerous working practices would become unavailable, some working conditions for staff and visitors would be unmaintainable. Operating costs of services to education, health and welfare would rise significantly.

The list of actions taken by private Companies, either through the Courts or avoided by aversion to being prosecuted as Criminal matters is very, very long, and my examples above are all from actual Criminal Prosecutions by for-profit companies. And you would propose the country's economy could continue happily without them!
Private, for profit companies, should not be allowed to be in this situation where they can easily bring CRIMINAL convictions against people.
Absolutely, of that there can be no reasonable doubt.
I hope I have provided some grounds for 'reasonable doubt'.
 

7031

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I genuinely think if more stations were staffed and barriers were used more frequently this would be far more effective at getting people to pay for tickets.

The fact is, even if you have very frequent checks onboard, many people simply will 'chance it', because people have a tendency to convince themselves that they themselves won't get caught.

I live just outside the Oyster zones and I've noticed it's very common for people to use the excuse "oh I thought $station was in zone 6!" or similar. In all honesty, I don't believe for a second that all of them genuinely think it is, yet at the same time I think if Oyster (or ITSO when it's all working with potentially some PAYG system) was available they'd be more inclined to use it and actually pay, even if the fares were the same, just because they wouldn't have to buy a ticket (and honestly Oyster and similar systems give some level of "disconnect" - it's easy to forget one's actually spending cash when touching in / out).

With that said, I definitely think decriminalisation would be a good idea for straight fare evasion, perhaps with an option for railways to prosecute persistent offenders.

Surely railways would be quite happy if they were offered the opportunity to charge say, a straight £100 fine for fare evasion if the money went straight to them, rather than to the courts?
 

Puffing Devil

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With that said, I definitely think decriminalisation would be a good idea for straight fare evasion, perhaps with an option for railways to prosecute persistent offenders.

Surely this is what we have at the moment? Administrative, out of court settlements for first time offenders? Repeat offenders, or those who don't cooperate end up in court. It's not rocket science.

It could certainly be enhanced and formalised, maybe with a central recording function, akin to speeding penalties. Get caught x times in y years and you'll find yourself in court.
 
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