Man with no train ticket told to pay 150 times the fare [Bristol Post]

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Just picked up this story from yesterday:

https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/man-no-train-ticket-told-5008091

Robert Raynor handed hefty penalty for not paying £2.90 to travel


A Southmead man who failed to pay a £2.90 train ticket has been handed a penalty 150 times greater.

The case of Robert Raynor was heard at Bristol Magistrates' Court on February 8.

The 49-year-old was not present at the prosecution brought by First Great Western.

It was proved in his absence that, on June 30 last year, he travelled on the railway without paying a £2.90 fare with the intention to avoid payment.

The offence is contrary to the Regulation of Railways Act 1889.

Magistrates fined him £220 and ordered him to pay £2.90 compensation.

They also handed him a £34 victim surcharge and told him to pay £180 prosecution costs.

It brought the total penalty to £436.90 - 150 times more expensive than the train ticket - which is to be paid by March 8.

A spokesman for First Great Western said: "Fare evasion costs the rail industry about £240 million a year."

I assume the costs levied are correct in accordance with this as the defendant did not attend?

Just one question - how would the £2.90 go up to £220?
 
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yorkie

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2.90 is a fare, whereas a court can impose a fine for a criminal offence. The two are not comparable.

The train company does not collect the fine.
 

Tazi Hupefi

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That's actually quite a fair sentence for somebody not turning up to court and a case progressing in their absence and being found guilty.

Maximum Penalty is £1000, so £220 is reasonable for a trial finding of "Guilty", for a first offence. There would have been a 33% reduction for an early guilty plea, but clearly nobody turned up to enter a plea, so was found guilty in their absence, following a trial. Generally a court will determine the fine as a percentage of the defendants weekly earnings (occasionally including amounts over 100%). If no earnings are declared, (I suspect the defendant, if they even exist has ignored their paperwork which includes a means/income form completely), an assumptive amount of £440 is used as a default/standard weekly income in England and Wales, where the defendant does not provide evidence to the contrary, which is where the £220 originates from, (50% of the assumed wages).

Costs of £180 are fairly low as far as private prosecutions go.

Victim surcharge is mandatory and supports victim services, and is not retained by the prosecution, nor is the fine.

However, I would place a very large sum on that person either not existing, or if they do exist, re-appearing in 7-8 months time once the enforcement agents track them down, swearing a statutory declaration claiming they didn't get paperwork etc, and the whole thing starts again.

The TOC walks away with*:

£180.00 Prosecutions Costs
£2.90 Compensation (rail fare avoided by the looks of it). This element is always paid first.
======
£182.90

The government walk away with*:

£220.00

Victims services walk away with*:

£34.00

*assuming anyone pays at all.


If you look at the Magistrate Guidelines, this is a Category 3 Offence (Band A) which is squarely right on the starting point, as described above, 50% of weekly income.

For anyone interested:

Category 1Higher culpability and greater harm
Category 2Higher culpability and lesser harm or lower culpability and greater harm
Category 3Lower culpability and lesser harm


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Llanigraham

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By not attending Court and presumably not completing the Court's Income Declaration, the Court will make a presumption of the accused earnings, and will base the fine on that presumed figure.
 

Tallguy

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If you are a high earner it is to your advantage not to declare your income for this type of fine so that the court will use the average UK weekly income as the base line.
 

tornado

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So for high earners it would work in their favour not to turn up, as even without the 33% discount, they'll still pay less?
 

Tazi Hupefi

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So for high earners it would work in their favour not to turn up, as even without the 33% discount, they'll still pay less?
The court can theoretically compel you to attend court and fill in the means form to find out. However, in practice, if there's nothing especially unusual about your case, they will just make a default assumption, which for most people in court, is probably a penalty, but as you say, for a small number of high earners, as long as they go unnoticed and the case isn't something crazy, it is in their interest not to complete the means form.

Similar to speeding. Say caught by a camera doing 110mph on a dual carriageway. Odds are that I'm going to be banned for a while and fined heavily, (top tier fine). However, if I fail to nominate the driver of the car on the inevitable form in the post, the police can't prove who was speeding, so the speeding offence can't proceed. However, for failing to nominate the driver responsible, I'm going to get 6 points and a fine (albeit smaller than a top tier speeding fine, hopefully using the average salary instead of the real high earner one) instead, which for some, is preferable to the ban.
 

Tallguy

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The court can theoretically compel you to attend court and fill in the means form to find out. However, in practice, if there's nothing especially unusual about your case, they will just make a default assumption, which for most people in court, is probably a penalty, but as you say, for a small number of high earners, as long as they go unnoticed and the case isn't something crazy, it is in their interest not to complete the means form.

Similar to speeding. Say caught by a camera doing 110mph on a dual carriageway. Odds are that I'm going to be banned for a while and fined heavily, (top tier fine). However, if I fail to nominate the driver of the car on the inevitable form in the post, the police can't prove who was speeding, so the speeding offence can't proceed. However, for failing to nominate the driver responsible, I'm going to get 6 points and a fine (albeit smaller than a top tier speeding fine, hopefully using the average salary instead of the real high earner one) instead, which for some, is preferable to the ban.
At the risk of going off topic, 6 points and the relevant conviction code for failing to nominate the driver will lead to an eye watering increase in insurance premiums for the following 5 years. Insurers see that kind of conviction in a very dim light. However, if you were going to lose your job etc due to a 2 month ban then it is a possible way to keep your licence, subject to previous convictions, need to disclose prosecution to employers etc.
 

CyrusWuff

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The court can theoretically compel you to attend court and fill in the means form to find out. However, in practice, if there's nothing especially unusual about your case, they will just make a default assumption, which for most people in court, is probably a penalty, but as you say, for a small number of high earners, as long as they go unnoticed and the case isn't something crazy, it is in their interest not to complete the means form.
That default figure is assumed to be £440 a week if no means form is received, though the Court is entitled to adjust that if there is any evidence to suggest significantly higher or lower income applies. For example, I doubt a Premier League footballer would get away with a fine being based on the £440 a week figure if they failed to submit the relevant form.

As well as the default value, there's also a minimum value of £120 a week, which is used where the offender's only source of income is state benefits, or they are in employment or self-employed and their income after deduction of tax and National Insurance is £120 a week or less.
 

stuu

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I'm astonished the court can't just ask HMRC for earnings once someone is found guilty, seems a huge loophole for higher earners
 

Tazi Hupefi

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I'm astonished the court can't just ask HMRC for earnings once someone is found guilty, seems a huge loophole for higher earners
I think you will find that the vast majority of people being prosecuted in the Magistrates court, even for traffic offences, would find the default £440 figure significantly higher than their actual weekly income. Yes it means some high earners can theoretically reduce their fine, but they are still convicted, and this would be such a small group in the scheme of things that robust enforcement is probably more trouble than it's worth. Best to do the occasional spot check every now and again.

You could argue that the demographics suggest that low paid or people on benefits are disproportionately finding themselves being prosecuted, but that's another topic!
 

Hadders

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Isn't there a maximum earnings figure as well, otherwise you get the situation of a millionaire getting fined a ridiculously silly sum of money for a trivial offence.
 

Dai Corner

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Isn't there a maximum earnings figure as well, otherwise you get the situation of a millionaire getting fined a ridiculously silly sum of money for a trivial offence.
The maximum penalty for this offence is £1000 according to a previous poster. Other offences will have other maxima.
 

Tazi Hupefi

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The maximum penalty for this offence is £1000 according to a previous poster. Other offences will have other maxima.
Can't even fine the full £1000 if there was an early guilty plea, as there's a 33.3% discount too.

£666, probably rounded down to £650. Victim surcharge would be 10% of that though, instead of the usual £34 minimum.
 
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