Fare evasion charge on TfL - inaccurate witness statement used, can I challenge?

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Londontravels

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Hello
I'm new to the forum and hoping for some guidance on a Single Justice Procedure notice I've been issued by TfL for fare evasion. The incident happened in late 2018, but due to correspondence being sent to the wrong address for over a year and COVID-19 I have only just received the documentation now. I am applying for Statutory Declaration and have received the paperwork for this at the same time as the charge documentation.

I was travelling on TfL in zones 1-2. I tapped in at the barriers at my starting point and hadn't realised that I had accidentally used a relative's freedom pass instead of my own (the passholder is the same shape, size and feel and I wasn't looking, just fished into my bag and tapped in automatically). I was carrying their freedom pass because I was their carer and would often carry their pass to present on their behalf as they were not able to do so themselves. I was travelling alone on this occasion but stupidly had not taken the pass out of my bag, hence the mistake was made. I had my own Oyster card with me which had sufficient funds for my intended journey.

I was walking towards the stairs to the platform when a man called out to me to stop and see my pass. He was one of a group of 4-5 men standing along the wall, wearing plain clothes. I did not know who they were so carried on walking. At that point they all started heading towards me, and one of them called to the BTP officer who was standing a short distance away and said 'the police will sort you out'. For reference, I am female and of slim build, and not being aggressive in any way. I was obviously scared by this intimidating language and by a group of men moving towards me and I stopped. One of the men came further and identified himself as a revenue inspector and asked to see my pass. I presented my pass and he said that wasn't the pass used. It was then I realised what I had done and showed him the other pass. I tried to tell him it was a mistake. I was extremely nervous and panicking because of the language and behaviour used earlier, and also because I had made this mistake.
I told him 2-3 times it was a mistake and that it's the first time this has happened, but he kept saying 'tell me the truth', and 'it's OK, just tell me'. I thought he's not going to listen to me and told him it was a relative's pass and they didn't know I had it today. I did not get to explain how I came to have the pass, which I should have insisted on but I was nervous and flustered and didn't want my relative to get in trouble.

He then asked me more questions and I don't remember exactly how I answered, but I was under pressure, scared, nervous given the behaviour and language used earlier, and cannot stand by the answers as presented in the witness statement I have just received. I believe my answers were taken out of context and words put into my mouth. For example, the statement says 'do you agree you should not use this pass to travel?' to which I answered 'yes' - but because it had been pointed out to me, not because it was deliberate! I signed the statement at the time because I felt I had to and if I didn't there would be more trouble, but on reading the witness statement I am shocked at the omissions and inaccuracies, and how my words have been taken out of context. This is the first time I have been able to read the statement calmly and throughly - I could barely concentrate at the time - and the statement does not mention that I explicitly stated this was a mistake, and it was the first time it had happened. Nor does it correctly cover how I was approached by the inspectors and the use of threatening language and body language in his presence, which made me scared throughout our interview and willing to agree almost anything he said to avoid further trouble.

According to the TfL enforcement policy I should have been issued a verification statement to confirm the facts and explain my circumstances. I have not been sent that, instead I have been issued a SJP notice with a charge sheet. I do not know how to proceed from here: I understand TfL have a policy of strict liability, I made a stupid mistake, and am expecting a penalty fine. But if I plead guilty then do I have the opportunity to present the facts? The options are to plead guilty under the SJP which means no formal court hearing; plead guilty in court; plead not guilty. I don't know which one to select to indicate that the information presented is not correct and I need to amend it. In fact, I would like the court to know that the signed witness statement cannot be relied on as it does not reliably capture what happened and the circumstances in which the interview took place.

What I really need is the verification statement so I can present the facts, can I demand this from TfL and say due process has not been followed?

The outcome I want is a penalty (not ideal but I'm expecting one) but no criminal conviction. I have no prior convictions and this is a first-time offence. Should I contact the magistrates number or TfL and explain and ask for further guidance?

Advice gratefully received.
 
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mikeg

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What specific offence is mentioned in the sjp? Do you know when the papers were laid before the court?
 

Londontravels

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What specific offence is mentioned in the sjp? Do you know when the papers were laid before the court?
The specific offence cited is that I entered a compulsory ticket area without having a valid ticket contrary to byelaw 17(1) of the TfL Railway Byelaws Made under para 26 of schedule 11 to the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and confirmed under section 67 of the Transport Act 1962.

And I think the papers were presented to court on 25/01/19, that's the case date on the statutory declaration papers. Is that the date you mean?
 

Haywain

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To cut to the point, you really don't have a defence. You used a Freedom Pass that wasn't yours and the fact that you say it was a mistake (I don't disbelieve you) doesn't alter that. Unfortunately, TfL do not seem to be noted for settling out of court, perhaps due to the levels of this sort of thing that they see, so you are likely to end up with a fine. What you have to ask yourself is whether you did what the charge says you did:
The specific offence cited is that I entered a compulsory ticket area without having a valid ticket
It will be difficult to deny this so that rules out a not guilty plea. You can try writing to the TfL prosecutions team - you have nothing to lose - but you do need to have low expectations of success.
 

Londontravels

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To cut to the point, you really don't have a defence. You used a Freedom Pass that wasn't yours and the fact that you say it was a mistake (I don't disbelieve you) doesn't alter that. Unfortunately, TfL do not seem to be noted for settling out of court, perhaps due to the levels of this sort of thing that they see, so you are likely to end up with a fine. What you have to ask yourself is whether you did what the charge says you did:

It will be difficult to deny this so that rules out a not guilty plea. You can try writing to the TfL prosecutions team - you have nothing to lose - but you do need to have low expectations of success.
Thanks for being direct. I am expecting a fine but really want to avoid a criminal conviction as I have worked in professional services before and may do so again. Also, I have a clear record, this is a first time and I assume based on a skewed and incomplete presentation of the facts.

Could I not request a verification statement as set out in the TfL enforcement policy? It's stated that I 'will' be sent one, not that I 'might', so it sounds like it's part of the process and should happen.
 

Haywain

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Thanks for being direct. I am expecting a fine but really want to avoid a criminal conviction as I have worked in professional services before and may do so again. Also, I have a clear record, this is a first time and I assume based on a skewed and incomplete presentation of the facts.
A byelaw conviction is a criminal conviction but there is not a criminal record as the conviction is immediately 'spent' (edited to correct) not recordable and it is spent after one year. However, in dealing with employers being up front about such things is the best policy - too much information is always better than too little, and in the big scheme of things this is a fairly trivial offence.

Could I not request a verification statement as set out in the TfL enforcement policy? It's stated that I 'will' be sent one, not that I 'might', so it sounds like it's part of the process and should happen.
Not my area of knowledge. You can probably request it but it won't alter the facts of the case. You did what you did, were questioned, almost certainly under caution, and admitted what you had done. The only potential question about 'due process' is whether the case was originally laid before a court within 6 months of the offence taking place. No good news here, I'm afraid.
 
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Watershed

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Also, I have a clear record, this is a first time
You may want to raise these things as mitigating factors when it comes to sentencing. But it doesn't make you innocent of the offence.

and I assume based on a skewed and incomplete presentation of the facts.
To be honest, given what they've charged you with, they needn't have done an interview at all. They've charged you with entering a Compulsory Ticket Area without a valid ticket/pass. You didn't have a valid ticket/pass, and presumably there were ticket machines giving you an opportunity to buy a ticket if you needed one. So you are guilty. It's that simple.

There is nothing to be gained by contesting the witness statement. It doesn't make you any more or less guilty. You'll only incur more in wasted costs and time if you want to go to a full hearing.
 

221129

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Could I not request a verification statement as set out in the TfL enforcement policy? It's stated that I 'will' be sent one, not that I 'might', so it sounds like it's part of the process and should happen.
You can request it, but it is unlikely to alter the outcome.
 

Londontravels

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You can request it, but it is unlikely to alter the outcome.
Thanks all, the direct advice is much appreciated.

Can I request an out-of-court settlement from TfL? Presumably I need to contact the prosecutions team instead of plead 'guilty and not go to court' to do this? I accept a penalty for what I did, I would like the opportunity to avoid the charge which, according to a solicitor's website, could stop me from travelling to the US or Australia?!
 

WesternLancer

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Thanks for being direct. I am expecting a fine but really want to avoid a criminal conviction as I have worked in professional services before and may do so again. Also, I have a clear record, this is a first time and I assume based on a skewed and incomplete presentation of the facts.

Could I not request a verification statement as set out in the TfL enforcement policy? It's stated that I 'will' be sent one, not that I 'might', so it sounds like it's part of the process and should happen.
Notwithstanding the other advice posted, perhaps this is a case where you may wish to seek advice from a solicitor, if the costs of doing that are worthwhile to you? (do you get any free legal access via a trade union or some such - even for non work legal help, or via an insurance policy perhaps?)
I can of course easily see how you made the error that you made.
 

Egg Centric

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Thanks all, the direct advice is much appreciated.

Can I request an out-of-court settlement from TfL? Presumably I need to contact the prosecutions team instead of plead 'guilty and not go to court' to do this? I accept a penalty for what I did, I would like the opportunity to avoid the charge which, according to a solicitor's website, could stop me from travelling to the US or Australia?!

It "could", but it won't. Don't worry :)
 

greatkingrat

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When you say you used your relatives freedom pass instead of your own, what sort of pass do you have?
 

Londontravels

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You can ask, but TfL are known to often not settle.
It's my best bet, I'm willing to give it a go.

What is the best way to contact the TfL prosecution team? I can't see an email address on the website or in the documentation I have been sent.

Thanks for all the comments so far.

Notwithstanding the other advice posted, perhaps this is a case where you may wish to seek advice from a solicitor, if the costs of doing that are worthwhile to you? (do you get any free legal access via a trade union or some such - even for non work legal help, or via an insurance policy perhaps?)
I can of course easily see how you made the error that you made.
Thanks, I'm contacting the CAB and reaching out to solicitor friends for informal advice. Paid legal advice is not very cost-effective for the penalty TfL are asking for at present.
 

SussexMan

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What are the advantages v disadvantages of the Statutory Declaration? What do you hope to achieve by making one?

  • To be found Not Guilty
  • To negotiate an out of court settlement?
  • To get a lower fine imposed?

Also possible are:
  • To make the offence no longer spent (I think it is spent now but won't be for a year if it goes back to court and you are found guilty) meaning you would have to declare it if asked by an employer (if the employer ha a legal right to ask about spent convictions situation would be different)

Do be careful about some solicitor's website - this one is an example. There is so much incorrect on that page and is just scaremongering! A byelaw conviction is not going to have any impact on going to the States etc.
 

pedr

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Someone up-thread said that by-law convictions are automatically spent but I do not think that is true. Section 5 of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act sets the 'rehabilitation period' for a conviction punished by a fine at 12 months, and the fact that the conviction will not be (or at least should not be) recorded by the police is not the same as the conviction being spent. But if the date of the conviction was January 2019, surely it is now spent and the provisions of the RoOA apply. There are circumstances in which it would be inaccurate or incorrect to state that you haven't been convicted of anything (applying for certain jobs, or if asked by/in foreign countries for instance) but anyone allowed to ask such questions is unlikely to be at all concerned about a railway bylaw conviction.

There's information on spent convictions here: https://hub.unlock.org.uk/things-know-conviction-spent (though this page is aimed at people who have been convicted of more serious crimes than entering a compulsory ticket area without a valid ticket).
 

WesternLancer

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It's my best bet, I'm willing to give it a go.

What is the best way to contact the TfL prosecution team? I can't see an email address on the website or in the documentation I have been sent.

Thanks for all the comments so far.


Thanks, I'm contacting the CAB and reaching out to solicitor friends for informal advice. Paid legal advice is not very cost-effective for the penalty TfL are asking for at present.
Thanks - I can see on balance why you would take that view ref legal advice.
Apols, I can't advise ref prosecutions team contact (maybe ask TfL customer services if they can give you contact details? sorry - you have probably tried that) - my instinct would always / also be to put your argument to them in writing on paper and post that, probably with signed for postage so you can be confident that it has got to them. I'd hope the documentation has at least a postal address.
 

island

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Someone up-thread said that by-law convictions are automatically spent but I do not think that is true. Section 5 of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act sets the 'rehabilitation period' for a conviction punished by a fine at 12 months, and the fact that the conviction will not be (or at least should not be) recorded by the police is not the same as the conviction being spent. But if the date of the conviction was January 2019, surely it is now spent and the provisions of the RoOA apply. There are circumstances in which it would be inaccurate or incorrect to state that you haven't been convicted of anything (applying for certain jobs, or if asked by/in foreign countries for instance) but anyone allowed to ask such questions is unlikely to be at all concerned about a railway bylaw conviction.

There's information on spent convictions here: https://hub.unlock.org.uk/things-know-conviction-spent (though this page is aimed at people who have been convicted of more serious crimes than entering a compulsory ticket area without a valid ticket).
This is correct.

However, if the OP has made or is making a statutory declaration, this ”resets everything to square 1” and deletes the conviction; if convicted again, another 1 year period would begin.

To the more general point, any alleged failure by TfL to follow its own internal procedure, or alleged ”threatening body language” by its agents, does not negate the criminal offence committed by the OP. You must realise that they see misuse of Freedom Passes very frequently, and they’ve heard all of the excuses. The fact that they have charged you with the lesser offence of being in a compulsory ticket area without a valid ticket means they believe you that it was a mistake on this occasion. Had they believed you were intentionally trying to avoid paying the fare, you would have been charged with a more serious offence such as attempting to travel on a train without paying the fare and with intent to avoid payment thereof.

As such, I am not minded to think that filing a statutory declaration is necessarily sensible here; you are guilty of the offence charged, which is a strict liability offence. Strict liability means that they just need to prove you didn’t have a valid ticket; there is no requirement to prove any intent. TfL rarely settle out of court. And the conviction is now spent.

But if I plead guilty then do I have the opportunity to present the facts?
No. That is called an “equivocal plea” which isn’t allowed. Pleading guilty means you accept you are guilty.
The options are to plead guilty under the SJP which means no formal court hearing; plead guilty in court; plead not guilty. I don't know which one to select to indicate that the information presented is not correct and I need to amend it.
That would be “not guilty“, but I do not recommend this.
In fact, I would like the court to know that the signed witness statement cannot be relied on as it does not reliably capture what happened and the circumstances in which the interview took place.
As you chose to sign and agree to the statement at the time of travel, the court can rely upon it. They give much more weight to timely evidence; someone coming back two and a half years down the line and saying ”well actually…” will be unlikely to be given much weight.
 

Londontravels

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This is correct.

However, if the OP has made or is making a statutory declaration, this ”resets everything to square 1” and deletes the conviction; if convicted again, another 1 year period would begin.

To the more general point, any alleged failure by TfL to follow its own internal procedure, or alleged ”threatening body language” by its agents, does not negate the criminal offence committed by the OP. You must realise that they see misuse of Freedom Passes very frequently, and they’ve heard all of the excuses. The fact that they have charged you with the lesser offence of being in a compulsory ticket area without a valid ticket means they believe you that it was a mistake on this occasion. Had they believed you were intentionally trying to avoid paying the fare, you would have been charged with a more serious offence such as attempting to travel on a train without paying the fare and with intent to avoid payment thereof.

As such, I am not minded to think that filing a statutory declaration is necessarily sensible here; you are guilty of the offence charged, which is a strict liability offence. Strict liability means that they just need to prove you didn’t have a valid ticket; there is no requirement to prove any intent. TfL rarely settle out of court. And the conviction is now spent.


No. That is called an “equivocal plea” which isn’t allowed. Pleading guilty means you accept you are guilty.

That would be “not guilty“, but I do not recommend this.

As you chose to sign and agree to the statement at the time of travel, the court can rely upon it. They give much more weight to timely evidence; someone coming back two and a half years down the line and saying ”well actually…” will be unlikely to be given much weight.
Thank you all for the comments, all helpful.
The reason I am inclined to apply for Statutory Declaration is that, in my absence (not knowing about the charge, paperwork etc), the case was heard, I was found guilty in absentia and apparently ordered to pay a sum I didn't pay of about £200, which was then handed over to bailiffs for collection and escalated to around £700. I had no knowledge of this until TfL finally sent paperwork to the correct address in early 2020, and then I contacted them to explain the situation. I'd be keen to avoid a £700 charge especially when I didn't know about any of the proceedings leading up to it.

And yes, I thought as much re the guilty plea i.e., I won't be able to present the facts except in the mitigating circumstances box. Which is frustrating.
 

WesternLancer

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Thank you all for the comments, all helpful.
The reason I am inclined to apply for Statutory Declaration is that, in my absence (not knowing about the charge, paperwork etc), the case was heard, I was found guilty in absentia and apparently ordered to pay a sum I didn't pay of about £200, which was then handed over to bailiffs for collection and escalated to around £700. I had no knowledge of this until TfL finally sent paperwork to the correct address in early 2020, and then I contacted them to explain the situation. I'd be keen to avoid a £700 charge especially when I didn't know about any of the proceedings leading up to it.

And yes, I thought as much re the guilty plea i.e., I won't be able to present the facts except in the mitigating circumstances box. Which is frustrating.
I don't know if these things are recorded in ways that can negatively effect you in future, but if there was a way of avoiding looking like you simply ignored requests for payments, and your case had to be referred to bailiffs etc (as a result of some error earlier on), I too would want to 'set the record straight' using a process like that - unless the consequences of doing that would serve to make things worse overall - and I can't see why they would but others with better knowledge than me might indicate if that was the case.
 

30907

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Thank you all for the comments, all helpful.
The reason I am inclined to apply for Statutory Declaration is that, in my absence (not knowing about the charge, paperwork etc), the case was heard, I was found guilty in absentia and apparently ordered to pay a sum I didn't pay of about £200, which was then handed over to bailiffs for collection and escalated to around £700. I had no knowledge of this until TfL finally sent paperwork to the correct address in early 2020, and then I contacted them to explain the situation. I'd be keen to avoid a £700 charge especially when I didn't know about any of the proceedings leading up to it.
That seems a good reason.
And yes, I thought as much re the guilty plea i.e., I won't be able to present the facts except in the mitigating circumstances box. Which is frustrating.
You had a good reason for having the FP in your bag, which you didn't explain well at the time. That, as far as I can see, is the only fact that is relevant to what you did, and you have an opportunity to explain it carefully in writing.
 

Darandio

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The incident happened in late 2018, but due to correspondence being sent to the wrong address for over a year and COVID-19 I have only just received the documentation now.

I had no knowledge of this until TfL finally sent paperwork to the correct address in early 2020, and then I contacted them to explain the situation.

These two statements don't match. You either just received the documentation or you received it in early 2020 and contacted them.
 

Haywain

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I was under the impression that a statutory declaration had to be made within a short period (14 days?) of becoming aware of the case. It appears that over a year has elapsed since then so this could man that the SD would not be valid.
 

skyhigh

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These two statements don't match. You either just received the documentation or you received it in early 2020 and contacted them.
If they've known since 2020, they are out of time for a statutory declaration.

I was under the impression that a statutory declaration had to be made within a short period (14 days?) of becoming aware of the case. It appears that over a year has elapsed since then so this could man that the SD would not be valid.
See here:

The time limit for delivering this declaration to the court office for the magistrates’ court where the trial took place is 21 days from the date you found out about the case.

 

Londontravels

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These two statements don't match. You either just received the documentation or you received it in early 2020 and contacted them.
Sorry, my error. I received paperwork from the London Collection and Compliance Centre in March 2020 regarding an unpaid penalty, which led to me calling them and finding out about the case to which the penalty related. It wasn't paperwork from TfL. I only received that paperwork over this weekend with the SD application. Thanks for pointing this out, I was about to fill in the SD application incorrectly!

This also means I will be applying for an extension to the Statutory Declaration because I applied for it in March 2020 last year but have only received the application and accompanying paperwork from TfL now.
 

island

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Okay, resetting the amount due downwards is a good reason to file SD – but as others mention above, I fear you may be out of time. Depends whether they interpret your awareness of the matter having started in March 2020 or not.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.
 

skyhigh

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Sorry, my error. I received paperwork from the London Collection and Compliance Centre in March 2020 regarding an unpaid penalty, which led to me calling them and finding out about the case to which the penalty related. It wasn't paperwork from TfL. I only received that paperwork over this weekend with the SD application. Thanks for pointing this out, I was about to fill in the SD application incorrectly!

This also means I will be applying for an extension to the Statutory Declaration because I applied for it in March 2020 last year but have only received the application and accompanying paperwork from TfL now.
So just to be clear, the timeline was:
Late 2018 - incident occured
March 2020 - you found out about the case and applied for a Statutory Declaration (how did you do this?)
May 2021 - you got some paperwork (a single justice procedure notice?)

Did you make the declaration and send it to the court in March 2020, and they've just sent you information relating to the new trial? In which case, you wouldn't need an extension for a Statutory Declaration as effectively the conviction and any penalty will have been wiped when the declaration was made, until the case can be heard again. If you didn't actually make the declaration last year (but instead told TfL you'd like to make one), I fear you might now be out of time.
 

WesternLancer

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So just to be clear, the timeline was:
Late 2018 - incident occured
March 2020 - you found out about the case and applied for a Statutory Declaration (how did you do this?)
May 2021 - you got some paperwork (a single justice procedure notice?)

Did you make the declaration and send it to the court in March 2020, and they've just sent you information relating to the new trial? In which case, you wouldn't need an extension for a Statutory Declaration as effectively the conviction and any penalty will have been wiped when the declaration was made, until the case can be heard again. If you didn't actually make the declaration last year (but instead told TfL you'd like to make one), I fear you might now be out of time.
Just a thought (and no doubt OP will clarify timeline so this may not be relevant) - if there was a long delay by either TfL or Court in actioning a request for such a Declaration in some way and then this then served to prevent the OP making an SD within the time frame, and they suffered a financial loss as a result, would there be grounds for an Ombudsman complaint over maladministration by the public body concerned? I mean on the basis of their inability to administer requests for an SD in a timely manner. Completely apart from any penalty for the offence which I assume would remain liable.
 

Londontravels

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So just to be clear, the timeline was:
Late 2018 - incident occured
March 2020 - you found out about the case and applied for a Statutory Declaration (how did you do this?)
May 2021 - you got some paperwork (a single justice procedure notice?)

Did you make the declaration and send it to the court in March 2020, and they've just sent you information relating to the new trial? In which case, you wouldn't need an extension for a Statutory Declaration as effectively the conviction and any penalty will have been wiped when the declaration was made, until the case can be heard again. If you didn't actually make the declaration last year (but instead told TfL you'd like to make one), I fear you might now be out of time.
Yes, with the following details:
March 2020 - found out about the case when the London Collection and Compliance Centre sent me a notice (to the right address for the first time) telling me I hadn't paid a fine. When I called them to find out what it related to, they told me about the case by TfL. I then called TfL and explained the situation, and they initiated the process for a SD application. I received a couple of letters in the post notifying me of dates for hearings for the SD, but they were postponed every time - sometimes without telling me, so I actually had no idea what was going on from about December onwards when the hearing was postponed for the third time due to COVID-19. It was all silence, and now out of the blue I received the application paperwork in the post.

Just a thought (and no doubt OP will clarify timeline so this may not be relevant) - if there was a long delay by either TfL or Court in actioning a request for such a Declaration in some way and then this then served to prevent the OP making an SD within the time frame, and they suffered a financial loss as a result, would there be grounds for an Ombudsman complaint over maladministration by the public body concerned? I mean on the basis of their inability to administer requests for an SD in a timely manner. Completely apart from any penalty for the offence which I assume would remain liable.
I hope it doesn't come to that, I'm assuming the courts have got a deluge of these due to COVID-19 so I should be one of many. If the SD is not accepted for that reason I would be furious and would follow up because it's been completely out of my control.
 
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