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Is there a complaints procedure against NR regarding summons?

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Ian of Bolton

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27 Apr 2016
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Hi there, new to this but this is how the story goes.
Late last year my daughter got the train from Hall i th wood (HID) to Manchester Victoria (MCV). HID is an unmanned station. As she was not approached on the train to purchase a ticket she had to get one at MCV. At the ticket stand she mistakenly said she got on at Bolton (BON) but immediately corrected herself and said HID. Unfortunately the ticket seller picked up on this mistake and took her to one side, warned her that she had breached section 8.5(3)a of the regulation of Railways Act 1889 took her details and filled out a report. During this time my daughter was courteous to the railway employee and on numerous occasions offered to pay for her ticket from HID not BO, all to no avail the staff member just seemed to ignore this offer.
Some weeks later we received a letter of notification to prosecute from Northern Rail and my daughter was asked to write a letter to explain her version of events, which she duly did and posted it within the allotted time.
This morning we received a summons to Bolton Magistrates Court in for "intent to avoid payment" subject to "section 8.5(3)a of the regulation of Railways Act 1889"
Norther Rail have informed us that we have ignored a Fixed Penalty letter sent to her on the 20th Jan this year, but in all honesty we have not received anything of the sort.
We are now being made to pay £104.20 to prevent this from going any further. As my daughter is due to start work at a solicitors next week she is petrified that if this goes to court it could have a detrimental effect on her employment.
All in all the main points of this post is to seek advice on if there is any way to make a complaint (out of court) and argue our case on the following points:-
1.There is no difference in the cost of a single ticket from BON or HID to MCV, yet the statement of facts from Northern Rail states "The station at BON is closer than HID and reflects a cheaper fare"
2. We have not received the fixed penalty notice from NR and if this had been received we would have paid it to stop this from escalating.
3. The NR staff member has not put anything in her statement detailing my daughters immediate retraction of her boarding station (BON) in favour of HID.
Any advice would be very much appreciated in this matter.
 
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scrapy

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Just to clarify when you say your daughter immediately corrected herself, was anything said by the inspector to your daughter such as "Bolton?" Or "did you really get on at Bolton" before she mentioned Hall i th Wood.

It seems strange that Northern would go for a regulation of the railways act prosecution and in my opinion they would probably fail. They could argue that the fare from Hall i th Wood to Bolton was unpaid and not offered initially and pursue the cost of a single ticket for this portion of the journey but i think this would fail.

If they had gone for a bylaws prosecution they could have successfully argued she didn't have a valid ticket for her entire journey and would have probably succeeded. However with the RORA prosecution they now have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that your daughter intended to avoid payment rather than not having a valid ticket. They will look pretty stupid as the fare was the same as your daughter offered.

It may be worthwhile contacting Northern and asking them how much the fare in pounds and pence is that they are claiming your daughter tried to avoid.
 

Haywain

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3 Feb 2013
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If you have the opportunity to pay £104.20 to prevent this from going any further, then this is little different from the amount of the penalty notice that you say was not received. If you pay this, it appears it will not go to court and the matter will be closed.
As for the alleged offence, a ticket from Bolton is not the same as a ticket from Hall i' th' Wood even if the fare is the same, and a theoretical payment will have been avoided. Whilst a prosecution may be unsuccessful, do you want your daughter to go to court to find out?
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Just to add that the fare, if not yet paid, is still due.
 

DaveNewcastle

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To answer the question in your title, the appropriate procedure for complaining about a Summons is surely by presenting a robust defence and challenge in the Court. A counter claim of malicious prosecution could be raised.

But I do not advise this response - in fact I urge you not to pursue that course of action any further on the basis of this incident.

Just by way of background, it might help you to understand the reasoning of the Company to know that thousands of rail passengers every day travel without a ticket and then at their destination they lie about the origin of their journey, naming instead a station closer to the destination than the true origin. Inspections attempt to detect as much of this deceipt as possible, often using random checks and synchronised inspections at each end of the 'short' journey.

The similarity in fares between the two stations may seem on the face of it to make a prosecution sterile, but sadly for your daughter, the contract to be conveyed by rail is for a specified journey, and not for journeys of equivalent values.

I agree with Haywain.
 

timbo58

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17 Dec 2013
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At the point that the member of staff suspected that your daughter had avoided a fare with intent (i.e when she mentioned joining at Bolton) they were duty bound to report the matter for prosecution.

It is entirely the staff's discretion if they chose to add in or exclude extra data into the prosecution report, this would originally be a written transcript of the questions they asked and your daughter then answered and she would have been asked to sign these if she agreed they were a true record of the interview.
This notebook can be requested at the court appearance and should show everything with her signature, it may also show that she also stated a unmanned station when questioned further about her boarding point.

As DN says many hundreds of people will state another station if it gives them a perceived or actual advantage in doing so, the member of staff on querying the joining station and then being told it was a different station, (crucially without TI facilities)
almost certainly then thought that this was an attempt to avoid being charged for the correct journey (and possible prosecution).

I'm also wondering on what grounds there is reason for a complaint?
Unless your daughter was treated improperly or you believe this report for prosecution is malicious in some way that can be proven what grounds are there?
 
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Stigy

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6 Nov 2009
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4,892
I'm assuming your only complaint is that you didn't receive the fixed penalty notice as stated? That being the case, I wouldn't personally bother complaining. It would appear that you are still being given the opportunity to settle the matter so I strongly urge you to accept this asap.
 

maniacmartin

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In the circumstances given, I think a well-defended RoRA prosecution would fail. However I don't think there is anything stopping Northern from changing their mind and prosecuting under the lesser, non-recordable Railway Byelaws, which in my opinion they would stand a much better chance of winning.

Based on this, I would advise just paying up to avoid the stress and put the matter behind you.
 
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