I am truly scared.....

Discussion in 'Disputes & Prosecutions' started by Ian Whitehouse, 15 Aug 2019.

  1. Ian Whitehouse

    Ian Whitehouse Member

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    Dear Forum

    I am sure you have heard these stories a million times but I would like to recant what is happening to me at the moment.

    I travel around the country every single week on the national rail service for business and spend thousands of pounds a year to do this with various private rail companies. The journey in question was a local one with only one stop and would have cost no more than £5.00 return – very much affordable for me and therefore I had no reason to attempt to do this without a ticket. In addition, as this is a regular local journey I make, I am fully aware that there are barriers in place at Shrewsbury and it is accepted practice at the station (facilities are always provided) to pay for a ticket at the end of the journey. I have made this journey many times and seen many people paying for a ticket in this way before going through the barriers.


    On the day in question, I was riding my bicycle to Wellington Station. I arrived at the station (as I always do) 10 minutes early in order to purchase a ticket from the ticket office. When I got to the ticket office, there were two people in front of me – one Gentleman and a woman at the booth. This woman was in a lengthy debate or complaint about her tickets with the ticket seller so I waited in the queue, as I should do.


    It was evident that the woman’s complaint was a complex one as it was not being resolved quickly. I was waiting patiently in the queue (as I imagine CCTV will attest to), in order to purchase my ticket. By this time, there were only 3 minutes until my train arrived and the woman was still trying to have her complaint resolved. I was aware that my train was due at any moment and I considered going to the platform on the other side of the station where there was an automated ticket machine. However, I had my bicycle (which is expensive) and thought that, as I did not want to leave it unattended, it would not be possible for me to carry it up and down 4 flights of stairs, get my ticket, and then carry the bike back up and down four flights of stairs without missing my train. Therefore, I stood by the ticket office just in case I could get to the front of the queue in time.


    Just as I saw my train pulling into Wellington, the lady had finished and the gentleman in front of me was purchasing his ticket which he just did before the train stopped at the station. This left me no time to purchase mine as I would have missed my train. I am also aware that in clauses 4.2 and 4.11 of the penalty fare rules, passengers must be given "sufficent opportunity" to buy a ticket and that regular queues over three minutes (off-peak) and five minutes (peak) breach the definition of what is "sufficient". My waiting time at the ticket office was significantly over this time.


    Once I boarded the train, I was on the lookout for the conductor to pay my fare whilst travelling. Unfortunately, no conductor passed me whilst I was sitting on the train (I could not leave my bike to find the conductor as it was not possible to ensure it did not fall over into the aisle and therefore become a hazard to other passengers).


    Once the train arrived at Shrewsbury, I carried my bike down the steps with my Bank Card in hand ready to purchase my ticket from attendant by the ticket barrier (which a number of other people behind me were also doing). As I was standing there in the process of purchasing my ticket (having initiated the process with the attendant), I was tapped on the shoulder by the ticket inspector and he asked to have a word with me.


    I gladly did so as I did not feel concerned in any way that I had done anything wrong. He asked me to explain why I was purchasing a ticket now and I explained to him the events I have done so above. At that moment, he became a little aggressive with me, stating quite forcefully that he was going to fine me. He asked me why I didn’t purchase one from the conductor and I told him that no conductor passed me whilst I was on the train – he then told me it was my responsibility to find the conductor and at this point I was feeling very upset as I felt I was being accused of being a ‘Fare dodger’ which I have never done, or was intending to do at that point.


    It was evident to me that I was purchasing a ticket at the time he tapped me on the shoulder and therefore there was absolutely no attempt on my behalf to avoid paying the fare. In addition, there were a number of people behind me in the same position as I was and these were not apprehended and allowed to purchase their tickets!


    I am aware that the Regulation of Railways Act 1889 states that there has to be an intent to avoid payment. I imagine that standing with the barrier attendant with my bank card in my hand and starting the payment process before being apprehended by the inspector indicates VERY clearly that there was no intent on my part to avoid payment. In addition, it was not as if I could have leaped over the barriers and ‘done a runner’ as I had my bike with me! To support this, I eventually purchased the ticket I needed to (a return ticket!) and left the station.


    Overall, I believe that I was singled out unnecessarily when there were many others behind who had also done the same and were queuing to pay for the ticket at the end of the journey. The inspector himself was overly aggressive and I felt I was being treated as criminal and I was very tempted to put in a formal complaint against him as his manner was very provoking. I believe that I had made all efforts to pay for a ticket (as I should have done) and do not believe a summons is required in this instance.


    This is essentially what I put in my appeal letter and this is what they said in return:
    ' The rail company reports that you had failed to pay the correct fare (correct, because of the reasons above) and had boarded a train with the intention of travelling without having previously paid the correct amount. This may be summoned for hearing before a Magistrate's Court.

    'When asked to show a valid ticket, it is alleged that you failed to do so (again, correct as stated earlier) and (here is the killer) I failed to pay the appropriate fare due in accordance with the rules in force'

    They are now going to summons me and I am frightened I will get a criminal record. I paid the ticket before I left the station and was informed that my fine would be around £20.00. Now I am terrified!

    Apologies for the length of this post but any thoughts would very appreciated!
     
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  3. nuts & bolts

    nuts & bolts Member

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    Hi and welcome to the forum.

    So we can assist you
    further did you receive any paperwork apart from the ticket purchased from the inspector?

    And did the inspector caution you?
     
  4. sheff1

    sheff1 Established Member

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    You say "I eventually purchased the ticket I needed to (a return ticket!) and left the station".

    Did you also pay a Penalty Fare issued by the Inspector (which should be £20 for a journey from Wellington to Shrewsbury) ?
     
  5. Luke Regan

    Luke Regan Member

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    Pretty standard from TIL this. I’m pretty sure they don’t even read the first letter they get sent by the ‘offender’ and just wait another one to follow after they have sent the standard template back to the first letter.
     
  6. Islineclear3_1

    Islineclear3_1 Established Member

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    Welcome to the forum. The experts will be along here soon but...

    You boarded a train without a ticket. That is black and white fact. Your intentions at that point do not count

    The fact that you paid and bought a ticket at your destination will reduce the charge against you - i.e. you did not attempt to defraud the railway and avoid paying the fare which is more serious

    Wait for the letter to arrive. This can take a few weeks

    The main thing now is not to worry. You will not go to prison

    Do make a note of things now whilst you remember so that you can cite your version of events when the letter arrives.
     
  7. furlong

    furlong Established Member

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    Well you need to make sure they were on notice at the earliest opportunity to preserve all evidence in their possession that might help your defence should they prosecute you, include any CCTV, logs of ticket office ticket machine activity etc. which should correspond with your explanation. (If the original inspector was aware you might use queuing time as part of a legal argument, then they should as a matter of course be preserving all information they have that might reasonably be expected to corroborate your story, but it doesn't harm to remind them.) Try to be sure you are not exaggerating the time you waited, as if these records show otherwise that could undermine your argument and honesty - and people do often seem to claim they have waited longer than they really did. Whenever queueing times exceed the guidelines by more than a small amount, the train companies should be giving passengers instructions proactively about what to do (both to not miss the train and to pay) and not penalising passengers for their own failures (e.g. the clerk should be reporting centrally the fact a long queue built up - I think some TOCs have processes in place for this - due to an exceptionally slow transaction with no additional staff available). If they don't drop the matter, you might need to consult a good solicitor to see if they think it is worth presenting legal arguments as to why the company should not be allowed to take the case forward (or else why there should be no case to answer).
     
  8. Fawkes Cat

    Fawkes Cat Member

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    There are two charges that the railway could try to make against you. One, as you've identified, is under the Regulation of the Railways Act (RORA), which is that you travelled without a ticket and with intent not to buy a ticket. It seems to me (but I am not a lawyer, nor a magistrate) that you are in a reasonable position to argue that this doesn't apply. As people have suggested above, try to do what you can to document and retain evidence of exactly what happened on the day.

    The other potential charge is under byelaw 18 of the railway byelaws:
    This is much like the RORA offence, but doesn't involve intent. As you did travel on a train without a ticket (buying it later) I think a prosecution under the byelaw might succeed.

    That's the bad news. But now a couple of pieces of - well, if not good news, less bad news:
    - the wording you have quoted (referencing intent) suggest that the railway's agents are looking for a RORA prosecution. (Edited to add - that's rubbish on my part. Please see the next couple of posts.) If they insist on going down that road, I think you have a defence.
    - but if they go for a byelaw prosecution and win, then a byelaw conviction is not that big a blot on your reputation. The consensus here is that for Rehabilitation of Offenders Act purposes, a byelaw conviction is immediately 'spent' (so you are under no obligation to reveal it to anyone who asks) and that in general it won't appear on a DBS check. I'd also argue that one byelaw offence says very little that is discreditable about you: it doesn't show dishonesty, and only a very minor lack of judgement. As long as it is not part of a pattern of offences or misjudgement, it just shows that you are human, and you don't get it exactly right every time.
     
    Last edited: 16 Aug 2019
  9. some bloke

    some bloke Member

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    RORA is intent to avoid payment, and refers to travelling or attempt to travel. The byelaw is about intent to travel, which is what @Ian Whitehouse cites from the company's letter.

    https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Vict/52-53/57/section/5

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/railway-byelaws

    I think companies' paraphrasing of the byelaw could be clearer.
     
  10. Fawkes Cat

    Fawkes Cat Member

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    Ah. So it is.

    So please ignore my argument about them being dead-set on a RORA prosecution. But I think that the rest of my argument stands.

    Yup.
     
  11. some bloke

    some bloke Member

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    I believe the consensus is now that byelaw convictions are spent after 12 months (6 months for people under 18).
    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/new-guidance-on-the-rehabilitation-of-offenders-act-1974

    It's correct that they wouldn't normally appear on a DBS check, as the offences aren't technically "recordable" on the Police National Computer (except where for example the conviction is at the same time as for a "recordable" offence). For some checks at least, the police may provide material additional to what is on the PNC, but a byelaw conviction may not be considered relevant even if the police force are aware of it.

    Agreed. And I hope it doesn't come to that anyway.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 26 Aug 2019
  12. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    Can I clarify exactly where things are in the process.

    A few weeks after the incident you usually get a letter saying they are considering prosecution but asking for your version of events so they can make a decision.
    Our normal advice at this point is to write a concise letter of apology, stating what you have learned etc and offer to pay the train company's costs in dealing with the matter.
    In most cases this appears to result in the offer of an administrative settlement which keeps the matter out of court, although in some cases the train company does choose to prosecute.

    You said you sent an appeal letter. Was this a response to a letter asking for your version of events? Or was it a separate unsolicited letter you sent to them.
    Has the letter you've now got the initial letter asking for your version of events?

    It's not completely clear exactly where your case is in the normal order of events. Perhaps you could post copies of the correspondence sent and received with personal details redacted which will help us to assist you better.
     
  13. some bloke

    some bloke Member

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    They can stop the process at any point up to the case beginning in court. Before that, being persistent even if they say they are definitely going to court can sometimes work. If all else fails, you can turn up early at the court building, ask staff where the prosecutor is and hopefully put your case in person so they drop it.

    That would apply if @Ian Whitehouse decided he was guilty.

    I'm not clear that penalty fare rules would necessarily apply in a byelaw case - the byelaw exception in 18 (3) refers to no opportunity [Later correction: no facilities in working order]. Also the penalty fare regulations themselves don't seem to mention a number of minutes, and if the reference is to the old Penalty Fares Policy, that concerns regular queueing times and companies' general obligations. It ceased to apply in 2018 when the new regulations came in - see 7.9:
    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2018/366/memorandum/contents

    I suggest you quote the station operator Passengers' Charter instead - first paragraph of page 8 (the pdf reader may call it page 6):
    https://www.westmidlandsrailway.co....KFAntkGJM2Qs/wmt-passengers-charter-dec17.pdf
     
    Last edited: 16 Aug 2019
  14. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    I don't disagree with what you're saying but it depends on how the OP wishes to proceed:

    - Do they want to make the matter go away by means of an administrative settlement, for what is usually a relatively small sum, usually around £100*
    - Have they got the appetite to fight it all the way which if they lost could involve a conviction

    Only the OP can decide this.

    * we don't know whether this is an option for the OP as we don't know how far down the process this case is (see my earlier post)
     
  15. some bloke

    some bloke Member

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    An alternative to deciding whether to fight or ask for a settlement is to provide further information and/or argument (perhaps without saying "I'm innocent" or "I apologise"). That could result in the case being dropped or a settlement offer.

    Hopefully some of the advice in this thread could help make a concise statement concentrating on the key aspects.

    The OP said he is going to get a summons; the option to ask for a settlement will still be there. Some people have success by phoning a prosecutions department, perhaps because they come across as truthful.

    I agree that uploading the existing correspondence with identifying details removed may help people on here to give advice.

    Also, @Ian Whitehouse, if you upload a draft of what you'd like to send them next, people can comment on it.

    I said above that the byelaw exception in 18(3) is where there was no opportunity to buy a ticket. In fact it is where there are no facilities in working order.

    It's the Conditions of Travel which refer to opportunity (6.1), and no means to buy (6.1.1, which relates to no open ticket office and no working machine).

    I'm not completely sure the first sentence of 6.1 is clear enough for its intended purpose.
    https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/National Rail Conditions of Travel.pdf
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 26 Aug 2019
  16. 30907

    30907 Established Member

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    Quick query: is there no TVM on the down platform? ISTR Wellington-Shrewsbury has come up on here before.
     
  17. Llanigraham

    Llanigraham On Moderation

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    According to NRE there is a ticket machine on platform 1, at the foot of the stairs.
    https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations/wln/details.html
    I note that the OP states he could not use this because he had his (expensive) bike with him. Would it not have been reasonably possible for him to lock the bike to the bike stands near the ticket office and then used the ticket machine on the other platform?
     
  18. Ian Whitehouse

    Ian Whitehouse Member

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    Yes i information pertaining to travelling without a ticket and that was all. I think he cautioned me - I had to sign a form under a threat of arrest which I did because I just wanted to get out of there!

    Hi there - good question but I didn't have a lock for my bike at that time as my stepson had used it for his. I knew my bike would be locked behind a gate at my destination (a friends).

    Hi there! Thanks for your question - he never offered for me to pay the fine there and then. He said my fine would be about £20.00 but I would be receiving a letter through the post with the details.

    Hi there - thanks for your response! To be honest, all I want to do now is to pay any fine and avoid court. It is clear that I got on a train without a ticket, even though circumstances were against at that moment, and I had full intention buying a ticket at the station due to me in the process of doing so when I got tapped! However, it was an offence by the letter of the law I know and would like to know how to just pay the fine and stop it here. Thanks again.

    Hi There - thanks for responding! Yes, I had the initial letter and my initial post at the top is essentially the letter (appeal) I sent back. I received a second letter yesterday (attached) which prompted my post (panicked when I saw Court). I am a nurse and if this goes to court, this may impact on my ability to continue registration - the NMC don't like it when their members have convictions for fraud!

    Thanks for your advice! Will look into it!
     

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  19. Islineclear3_1

    Islineclear3_1 Established Member

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    Just pay up now and sort the appeal later. Chalk it down to experience

    I know nurses don't get paid very much so best to just pay whilst it is a small(ish) amount as the charges can soon escalate
     
  20. Ian Whitehouse

    Ian Whitehouse Member

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    To everyone who has responded so quickly, thank you! It is really appreciated! I have just phoned them and asked if I can ask for an administration fee/fine - they said I can but they cannot guarantee that it will be accepted. A bit nervous to do so as wondered if it would jeopardise any potential court proceedings in the future.
     
  21. Islineclear3_1

    Islineclear3_1 Established Member

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    Penant: I know others will tell you but you won't be paying a fine - only a court can impose a fine. You will be paying the fare due plus administration fees
     
  22. Ian Whitehouse

    Ian Whitehouse Member

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    More than happy to now - just want it done but they haven't even mentioned the possibility of paying up or how much it would be as yet! This whole process seems very intimidating and you feel like a criminal.
     
  23. Islineclear3_1

    Islineclear3_1 Established Member

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    I know, I was there once... They do it on purpose to scare you
     
  24. Ian Whitehouse

    Ian Whitehouse Member

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    Noted, thanks - already paid the fare on the day (couldn't have got through the barriers otherwise with a bike lol!) so will happily pay the admin fee if it will just go away and jot it down as a life lesson.
     
  25. some bloke

    some bloke Member

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    They're mentioning the possibility of prosecution for intent to avoid a fare, which is the dishonesty offence under RoRA. It isn't fraud, but you especially want to avoid that one. As you have 14 days, you may be well advised to take time to consider the response carefully, taking the advice in this thread into account.

    Even if you are willing to settle, there may be other things you can bring to bear. Is there anything more you can say about the time you got to the station? Is there any record on your phone about your location? You may be technically guilty of the byelaw offence, but even so what seems to have happened is that you acted in accordance with the Passengers' Charter, which they breached, at least in spirit.

    The RCN provides some free legal advice:

    https://www.rcn.org.uk/get-help/legal-help/free-legal-advice

    @Ian Whitehouse, are you aware of this - including the section "Assessing the seriousness..."? It may be reassuring to some extent.

    https://www.nmc.org.uk/ftp-library/...llegations/criminal-convictions-and-cautions/

    You would need to tell the NMC and your employer if you are "charged", which I would take as including a summons in a private prosecution - see 23.2:

    https://www.nmc.org.uk/standards/code/read-the-code-online/
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 26 Aug 2019
  26. Fawkes Cat

    Fawkes Cat Member

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    You may also want to look at what the Nursing and Midwifery Council (your regulator) have to say at https://www.nmc.org.uk/ftp-library/...llegations/criminal-convictions-and-cautions/. The whole page is worth reading, but in particular
    The website isn't letting me beyond this page (I think a server error, or it may only be accessible by registered people) but nmy recollection is that a railway ticketing offence isn't a specified offence.
     
  27. some bloke

    some bloke Member

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  28. trainophile

    trainophile Established Member

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    Given the OP's story, it will be a total travesty of justice if this is dragged out to the point of a court case. It's wrong on so many counts, starting with the long delay at the departure station ticket office, right through to being singled out when in the process of buying a ticket at destination.

    It's threads like this that put people right off rail travel. Perhaps that's the idea :frown: .
     
  29. Ian Whitehouse

    Ian Whitehouse Member

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    Thanks for the support!

    Thanks all for responding - feeling a bit better about it all now!
     
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  30. 6Gman

    6Gman Established Member

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    It will not be a conviction for fraud!

    We had a nurse on here not long ago and I think somebody posted NMC guidance on the subject which made it clear that a single offence of this nature was very unlikely to affect your registration. (EDIT. And, indeed, somebody has posted it on this thread too :s - will teach me to read the whole thread before commenting ...)
     
  31. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    If you are keen to pursue an administrative settlement I would write a letter back to them apologising, saying that you now know that it is wrong to board a train without a ticket, and that you are keen to settle the matter and are prepared to pay the rail company's administrative costs in dealing with the matter. Don't give them a sob story or waffle on with stuff that's irrelevant. If you post it on here someone will proof read it for you.

    Hopefully the rail company will offer you an administrative settlement, if this is what you want. As I said earlier you could probably fight it and have a reasonable chance of success but it's a high risk strategy if you want to avoid a conviction. There is no guarantee that the rail company will agree to settle but there's a decent chance.

    I know you have already phoned them but you do need to write to them as well - keep a copy of the letter you send them along with proof of postage.
     

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