Help please! Letter received from Prosecution Unit of Abellio Greater Anglia

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mollyundersea

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I received this letter addressing: ’’ you were questioned by a member of rail staff (at Ilford Station) about the payment of a rail fare on xx date. Before I proceed further with the investigation of this matter, I would like to give you the opportunity of responding with your explanation concerning this incident. Please complete the bottom section of this letter and if you wish to make any comments about the incident, please do so on the reverse of this letter’’.

I am new to this forum but I have noticed that it has helped many people out, so I hope to be advised on how to respond to this letter. I am concerned about two parts: I think I am innocent but to what extent I should address that; the name I provided them in the first place is a casual name that I’ve been using for years and is not the one on my passport, should I update them with this information?

This is the full story: I was going to buy a ticket and was heading towards the ticket machine. Then a guy stopped me, saying that he has a day ticket that was no use to him anymore and asking whether I’d like to have it by paying him a couple of pounds. I have never come across this situation before and so I was very curious whether the ticket was genuine. Therefore, with the guy’s permission, I went to the gate, with a couple of ticket inspectors watching, put the ticket in, and then the gate was opened, and out of instinct I walked inside the gate as well. Then immediately I was stopped by a revenue inspector. She said to me that you are breaking the law and then asked me to put down personal details and refused to say anything further until I gave her my contact details or otherwise she’d call up the police. At that point the guy who tried to sell me his ticket was running away in front of the inspector but she didn’t even try to stop him. So I gave her my contact details, and then she started asking me questions and read out cautions to me. In the end, she said her boss will write me a letter asking further questions, and then they would decide whether to give me a fine or take me to court. So a month later, I received such letter.

When she asked me questions, I stressed that I have been aware that boarding a train without valid ticket is breaking the law, but it wasn’t until the point she stopped me and told me I was breaking the law that I knew ‘valid tickets’ have to be purchased from railway companies. This isn’t said anywhere on the train or station is it? Besides, I didn’t buy the ticket and I didn’t board the train with the ticket. All I did was being curious and trying to find out if the ticket was genuine. This can be proven by the CCTV record. One question I’ve asked myself, is whether I would buy the ticket after I proved it is valid. I truly don’t know the answer. I might buy it as I said I didn’t know that would be breaking the law. But if the inspector had just given me a warning that ‘by doing that you are breaking the law’ then I’d definitely not buy it. Could somebody advise, whether I have indeed broken the law, and whether I should put these two arguments in my response to this letter from the inspectors?

When I was asked to put down personal details, because like I said the inspector didn’t allow me to say anything and I saw her let the guy who tried to sell me the ticket go, I was very frustrated and I just wanted to complete the form so that I could start speaking to her. Hence when I put down the name, out of instinct I put down the name that I’ve been called at work- as I just finished a busy day at work. I’ve been using this casual name for two years and it’s been on the employee systems of all my previous and current employers. But it is not the name on my passport- I am Chinese and my Chinese name is difficult to pronounce and hence the adoption of a casual name. I also have two dates for birthday, one as in Chinese lunar calendar which is an outdated tradition but it is the one on my passport, the other one is in Gregorian calendar and I’ve been using that one since I’m a kid. So when I put down personal details, out of habit I put down the one in Gregorian calendar. Now this letter from the Prosecution Unit is asking me for personal details again including National Insurance number. Should I provide them with my name and birthday as on my passport/national insurance card and explain why they are different from what I provided them at the station?

I look forward to some feedback and I hope to respond to this letter asap as I don’t know if they are going to charge me another offense for not responding to them sooner (though the letter doesn’t give a deadline for replying). So thank you all for reading and responding!
 
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GadgetMan

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Rail tickets are non-transferable and can only be purchased from authorised retailers.

So yes you have broken the law. I think you are best to get yourself a knowledgeable lawyer and follow they're advice or get them to represent you. It is never a good idea to provide inaccurate details although I'm not sure where you stand with this as you seem to be using 2 different Identities.

As I said, you are in a serious bit of bother, and you need to seek professional legal advice. Replying to the letter yourself may lead you into more problems.

Out of interest, did you not use a birth date using Jan-Dec format (as I would expect the member of staff would require)? If you did then how the heck do you end up with 2 different gregorian birth dates?
 

bb21

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I also have two dates for birthday, one as in Chinese lunar calendar which is an outdated tradition but it is the one on my passport, the other one is in Gregorian calendar and I’ve been using that one since I’m a kid. So when I put down personal details, out of habit I put down the one in Gregorian calendar.

I am curious about this. Lunar calendar dates will not be put down in your passport. I have never heard of a case where anything other than the Gregorian date is recorded in your passport. Where was your passport issued?
 

amcluesent

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Folks have settled out of court for £200 to £300 if this is a 1st offence on the railways. From what you say, it's hard to think of a plausible defence.
 

island

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Looks like you've broken Railway Bye-Law 21 (receiving a partly-used ticket with the intent of using it, and attempting to use a ticket which you received improperly). The latter is a strict liability offence, meaning it is irrelevant whether you intended to break the law or not. As you were observed by a ticket inspector the full time you have given them an open and shut case.

I have no idea what Abellio's policy on the following is, as they are newcomers, but many train companies in this situation will accept an offer of settlement from a first-time offender to cover their administration costs in the situation, and the offer of a sum such as £100 might well be sufficient for them not to take matters further.

There are several other people on this forum who have experience with these situations and may be able to guide you further. It is likely someone will be able to read over any letters you send Abellio Greater Anglia to make sure you don't make things worse.

The OP did not actually purchase (or agree to purchase) the ticket. I don't see how your conclusion follows?
Purchasing a ticket would violate Bye-Law 21 (1); 21 (2) bans receiving a partly-used ticket with intent to use it and (3) prohibits using a ticket improperly transferred.
 

mollyundersea

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Thanks for your reply. My birthday in Chinese lunar calendar is in April but in Gregorian calendar it is in June. It is quite common for Chinese......

Besides does this letter from prosecution unit means they are going to prosecute me definitely? Can I still offer to settle out of court?

Could you also suggest some professional legal service provider? would the Citizen Advice Bureau be able to help me?
 

island

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Thanks for your reply. My birthday in Chinese lunar calendar is in April but in Gregorian calendar it is in June. It is quite common for Chinese......
The name/address thing is not very likely to be an issue. This usually only comes up if you give details that prevent them from contacting you or that relate to someone else entirely.
Besides does this letter from prosecution unit means they are going to prosecute me definitely? Can I still offer to settle out of court?
No. Only a court summons would indicate that. You can certainly offer to settle out of court.
Could you also suggest some professional legal service provider? would the Citizen Advice Bureau be able to help me?
This is a cost/benefit issue. A solicitor with sufficient experience would likely charge into the thousands of pounds, which may well be money you don't have. And at the risk of trumpet-blowing, I think the advice you will get on this forum will be substantially better than the Citizens Advice Bureau.
 

GadgetMan

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The OP did not actually purchase (or agree to purchase) the ticket. I don't see how your conclusion follows?



Then a guy stopped me, saying that he has a day ticket that was no use to him anymore and asking whether I’d like to have it by paying him a couple of pounds. I have never come across this situation before and so I was very curious whether the ticket was genuine. Therefore, with the guy’s permission, I went to the gate, with a couple of ticket inspectors watching, put the ticket in, and then the gate was opened, and out of instinct I walked inside the gate as well.


Now he claims no money exchanged hands which may well be true. But would the person who offered to sell it to him really allow him to walk through barriers and possibly onto a train with the ticket without getting his money?

There a few points that don't seem to add up. Having dual names and birth dates being a couple of others for starters.
 

LCC106

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As I understand it, no money exchanged hands between the gentleman and mollyundersea. However, am I right in thinking that the ticket can be classed as transferred even if no money has changed hands?

I suspect that there is no defence in this case although you could reply stating that you don't believe an offence to have taken place as you did not purchase the previously used ticket. The question is whether you would have tried to present that on the train or purchased a new one from the guard and I suspect it may have been the former rather than the latter.

Yes, I'm aware that many Chinese people use a casual name, I've seen this when employing staff elsewhere. I wasn't aware of any difference in dates of birth. Again, not sure that this would be accepted by the Prosecution Unit. This could be an expensive lesson learned. I would advocate honesty all the way.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Sorry - took me so long to type this there have been so many responses in the meantime! I largely agree with all that's been pointed out.
 

mollyundersea

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Now he claims no money exchanged hands which may well be true. But would the person who offered to sell it to him really allow him to walk through barriers and possibly onto a train with the ticket without getting his money?

Yes I am telling the truth here and that guy did allow me to do that. As I said, this can be proven by CCTV recording so there is no need for me to lie.

However, I do recognise from what you and other guys have mentioned, even without money exchange I could be still offending the laws.

There a few points that don't seem to add up. Having dual names and birth dates being a couple of others for starters.

Like I said I have been saying the truth and having dual name and birth dates are indeed common for many chinese. Besides, this didnt stop me from receiving the letter as people whoever lived or worked with me knows that I am called by that casual name.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Now he claims no money exchanged hands which may well be true. But would the person who offered to sell it to him really allow him to walk through barriers and possibly onto a train with the ticket without getting his money?

Yes I am telling the truth here and that guy did allow me to do that. As I said, this can be proven by CCTV recording so there is no need for me to lie.

However, I do recognise from what you and other guys have just mentioned, even without money exchange I could be still offending the laws. I was plain curious and ignorant at that point.
 

hairyhandedfool

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As I understand it, no money exchanged hands between the gentleman and mollyundersea. However, am I right in thinking that the ticket can be classed as transferred even if no money has changed hands?....

I don't know how the law sees it (IANAL) and I understand intent doesn't need to be proved in this case, but the Op does say she passed through the barrier and that would be intent to use the ticket if it is not actually using it or attempting to use it.
 

mollyundersea

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Purchasing a ticket would violate Bye-Law 21 (1); 21 (2) bans receiving a partly-used ticket with intent to use it and (3) prohibits using a ticket improperly transferred.

Point taken. It's good to know about this. Am I right to say that everybody here agrees that I have offended the law?

Then should I plea guilty when responding to this letter? and should I offer to settle out of court as well? I'm not sure about these because this letter doesn't indicate they are going to prosecute me is that right?

Is it worthy all mentioning in the response that I wasn't aware that tickets couldnt be transferred and that I didnt execute purchasing of the ticket? I'm not sure if this could make any difference.
 

bignosemac

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It would appear, from the OP's first post, that everything is there for the TOC to be successful with a 'strict liability' byelaw prosecution.

All that remains is for suitable contrition to head off a court appearance.

Advice for that will no doubt be forthcoming from others on this forum with greater legal knowledge than mine.
 

bb21

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I doubt the dual name issue will be a serious matter as long as you can provide some evidence from, say, your employer certifying that fact. There is no intent to deceive here.

I am aware that people have differing birthdays, however my point is that I find it very odd that you have your lunar calendar birthday recorded in your passport as this has never been the policy of the Chinese government. I have never heard of a case where someone's lunar birthday was recorded in the passport unless it was supplied on purpose.

I think intent to avoid paying the correct fare might be easier to prove than some of us might think. Why would someone walk through a ticket gate with a fraudulent ticket? (Whether it has been paid for is immaterial.)

Depending on whether you're looking at seeking settlement in the future, I suggest you wait a while before replying to the company until you have seen at least the contribution from one of our Fares Advisors (which will be the title they have in place of Member or Established Member for other people). Law firms specialising in railway legislation are few and far between and usually charge a sum well into four figures. If you land yourself with a criminal record then you might as well wave goodbye to your chances of settlement in this country.
 

34D

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The only ways I can think of dealing with this matter to not leave you out of pocket or with a criminal record all involve bending the truth.

What I will say though is that if you do respond, then give as little information as you can.

Out of interest was the alleged offence on/before 4th Feb 2012? Don't post the exact date here. Just say whether 4th or before or 5th and after.
 

ralphchadkirk

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You are possibly right. But if relevant it is worth exploring further.

It would be an interesting line of defence actually. It all depends on exactly how franchises change and company law, which I know nothing about so I can't comment on that at all.
 

GadgetMan

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I doubt a change of franchise will make much difference, as the new company takes over all liabilities of the outgoing one. But then I'm no expert on law, so stand to be corrected.
 

transmanche

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I am Chinese and my Chinese name is difficult to pronounce and hence the adoption of a casual name.
Use of an informal name is fairly common with people who have names that may be difficult for others to pronounce - not just Chinese people. So I wouldn't think that should be an issue.

(E.g. I've come across many Irish people who have an Irish name in their passport, but use an English equivalent in day-to-day life.)
 

DaveNewcastle

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@mollyundersea.
I am willing to offer you some advice, but I'm not completely clear about several details, some of which might make an crucial difference to how the Railway Company treats your incident. So, for this reason, I don't think you should reply to the letter you have received yet. You may make your situation worse!
I certainly do not think you should reply simply saying you are Guilty.

First, I'd like to know how much time we have to prepare the best response. Does the letter from Abellio tell you how long they have given you for your reply?
Does that letter say any more about what you did or about what Railway Offence they believe you might have committed? (That might be in words or in letters and numbers).

I might want to send you a Private Message (PM) if there's anything confidential to discuss, if so, this will appear at the top right of this forum's pages.
 

mollyundersea

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@mollyundersea.
First, I'd like to know how much time we have to prepare the best response. Does the letter from Abellio tell you how long they have given you for your reply?

Does that letter say any more about what you did or about what Railway Offence they believe you might have committed? (That might be in words or in letters and numbers).

Thank you DaveNewcastle. I left the letter at work and will check the details tomorrow. I recall it does not mention by what time I need to give them a response and does not mention what offence they think I might have committed. To be honest this is also something that worries me. I will check again as first of thing tomorrow and let you know the exact message it gives.
 

34D

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the date when the incident happened was in mid of January this year. Does that make difference to the case?

This is good. This creates another possible line of defence. Davenewcastle is a very experienced person to guide you, and you will be in good hands with him
 

mralexn

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So when i am done with my travel card i normally give it to someone i see queuing up to buy one.

I guess this is breaking the law and if they caught me doing this (good will gesture) i could be taken to court?
 

MikeWh

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So when i am done with my travel card i normally give it to someone i see queuing up to buy one.

I guess this is breaking the law and if they caught me doing this (good will gesture) i could be taken to court?

Yes it is and yes they could. You are depriving the railway of additional income.
 

mollyundersea

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@mollyundersea.
First, I'd like to know how much time we have to prepare the best response. Does the letter from Abellio tell you how long they have given you for your reply?
Does that letter say any more about what you did or about what Railway Offence they believe you might have committed? (That might be in words or in letters and numbers).

Hi I read through the letter again, it does not mention when I need to respond by, nor any phrase indicate what offense they believe I might have committed. There is a reference number, but I thought that is the reference number for this specific case?
Now I start to wonder what the intent of this letter is. It is basically asking me to confirm whether I am the person reported, provide my personal details, and if I am the person then give explanation of the incident.

This is good. This creates another possible line of defence. Davenewcastle is a very experienced person to guide you, and you will be in good hands with him
Besides, the letter also mentioned that Greater Anglia Prosecution Unit also prosecute for and on behalf of London Eastern Railway Ltd. Considering I was at Ilford station I wonder if it is London Eastern Railway Ltd who I might have offended, in which case would the fact that I travelled before Greater Anglia started their operation in UK make any difference?

Also could you advise whether this kind of case could be settled over the phone? I was suggested by a friend to call up the prosecution unit and explain as calls could appeal for more empathy. I am not sure about this.
 

michael769

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Then should I plea guilty when responding to this letter? and should I offer to settle out of court as well? I'm not sure about these because this letter doesn't indicate they are going to prosecute me is that right?

You do not need to present a plea of guilty or not guilty until the matter comes to court. At this stage you are not being prosecuted.

You should bear in mind that anything you write down will likely turn up as evidence if they do decide to launch a prosecution at a later date, and so it may be wise to get someone to proof read what you write before you send it off - to ensure that you do not inadvertently make matters worse for yourself.

Some of the more experienced members (such as DaveNewcastle) should be able to help you with this once a suitable course of action has been identified - and I'd suggest that you work with them to find the best way through this.

I would advise against calling them at this point - at least until the most suitable course of action is identified - as if you found yourself arguing with the person on on the other end, it is easy to say the wrong thing, and again that may be recorded and come back to haunt you in any future court case.
 
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