Facing criminal record for unpaid fine

Discussion in 'Disputes & Prosecutions' started by Tom Dines, 14 Jun 2019.

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  1. Tom Dines

    Tom Dines New Member

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    hi guys I’m desperate for any help you may be able to give me. In January I was running late for a train I took regularly, usually I bought a ticket in advance but because of running late I didn’t have time. I boarded the train and when I spoke to the ticket man to purchase a ticket his card payment machine froze and since I had no cash on me I was unable to purchase a ticket, he assured me however that I would be able to purchase the ticket at the station I exited the train on. On arriving at this station and walking to the ticket office I was stopped by southern rail employees and asked for my ticket, I explained the whole situation to them and they were unwilling to accept my story and issued me with a train fine. A week or so later I received a letter from southeastern which as far as I can remember included the details on how to make an appeal but none on how to make a payment (the address provided said do not send any payments to this address) I had then assumed that another letter would be sent with the details of how to pay.

    This letter never came and I ended up forgetting about the issue (somewhat careless on my part perhaps) however I have now been issued with a letter from the magistrates court telling me I must plead guilty or not guilty to the offence of rail fare evasion within 21 days and am looking at a possible criminal record if the courts decide against me. I am absolutely devastated I work with mental health clients for my job and am currently scheduled to begin a Masters to take my career to the next level but I’m terrified that because of this incident I will no longer be able to do so while having a criminal record. What are my options here? I really see no other way than potentially reaching out to southeastern and begging to pay the fine as well as any fees they may have incurred through starting legal proceedings against me. Is there any chance that southeastern may be willing to work with me to make this right without legal action or am I basically doomed? At the time I didn’t know it was an offence to board a train without a ticket and thought that it was okay to do so as long as you paid for the journey whilst on the train, I have clearly learned otherwise from this experience and I’m just truly desperate to resolve this without having any criminal consequences, any input you guys have would be majorly appreciated right now, thank you for reading.
     
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  3. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    What exactly does the letter say? It will have a section something like "It's alleged that on Jan 4 you boarded a train with intent to travel without a ticket..." or similar. The reason I ask is because there's no such crime as 'fare evasion', and the legislation being used makes a huge difference to your best course of action.
    Do you have anything to support this if the matter were to end up in court?
    A bit of standard pedantry - you were either issued a Penalty Fare, or an Unpaid Fare Notice rather than a fine. This should have included instructions on how to pay
    How sure are you that neither the original PF/UFN nor the subsequent letter include payment instructions? It seems very unusual that neither included a link to the website or the phone number to make payment.
    This depends on the legislation used to prosecute you. Have a look here to see the difference: RailUK Fares & Ticketing Guide - Section 8 - Legal
    Basically you have three options:
    1. Try to reach a settlement with Southeastern
    2. Plead guilty
    3. Defend the charges in court
    Yes, there is a realistic chance of achieving a settlement with the TOC. If you plead guilty then, depending on the legislation used you may or may not receive a criminal record. If you attempt to defend the charges in court then again, depending on the charges brought and the evidence you can present, there is a low (but non-zero chance) that you may be able to successfully defend the case.
     
  4. Tom Dines

    Tom Dines New Member

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    Thanks for taking the time to reply to my post you provided a lot of information, I was able to get in touch with southeastern this morning, they agreed to settle and I paid the fine and fees without having to go to court. I was definitely panicking but I’m glad it’s resolved now and I’ve learned a lesson here for sure.
     
  5. some bloke

    some bloke Member

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    Would you like to upload the letter, with any identifying details appropriately removed? It might help people here to advise.

    Might it be possible to find the original paperwork and the first letter? If not, perhaps it would be worth writing to the company explaining that you were expecting another letter and that's why you didn't pay, and asking for details of the earlier paperwork.

    If/when you do get those details, you could upload them as well.

    It might be unlikely, but perhaps there was another letter that got lost in the post.

    Could you say more about why they didn't take payment of the amount they requested, at the destination?
     
  6. Fawkes Cat

    Fawkes Cat Member

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    This is jumping ahead a bit, but it may be worth checking on what the career consequences of a conviction will be.

    In my experience, very few employers and universities see a single conviction for a railway travel offence as a reason to sack you or throw you off a course. The main thing that interests them is whether you are trustworthy. One conviction will look - at least - like an error of judgement on your part: more than one conviction, or one conviction and an attempt to cover it up, will look like a pattern of untrustworthy behaviour and is likely to be treated a great deal more seriously.

    Even though you do not yet have a conviction, it might be worth talking to someone knowledgeable who you can trust ( so your union, and just possibly your manager or HR department) to see what implications a conviction would have. The university you are applying to (and just possibly their student union, although you don't seem to be a student at the moment) may also be able to advise as to how your course may be affected.

    Doing this won't make the threat of prosecution go away - but it may help you size how much of a problem a conviction will be.
     
  7. some bloke

    some bloke Member

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    If you still have quite a few of the 21 days left, that leaves you some time to prepare and inquire. You could perhaps call the company and ask for the prosecution department's phone number. You could politely and considerately

    a) say you haven't got the earlier paperwork,
    b) say you thought you were going to get another request telling you how to pay,
    c) ask whether this was a penalty fare,
    d) check whether there was another letter that you didn't receive, and
    e) ask if you could write to explain.

    Unlock is a charity providing information on convictions. They have a helpline and encourage people to read on the website first to see if it answers questions they have. If you scroll down the home page to "Frequently Asked Questions" on the right, or further down to the list of information sections, that may be useful.
    http://hub.unlock.org.uk/

    Nacro may also be useful:
    https://www.nacro.org.uk/resettlement-advice-service/support-for-individuals/
     
  8. ainsworth74

    ainsworth74 Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The matter has now been resolved (there was a post waiting approval that you all didn't see when you posted) so this thread is now locked.
     
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