Need help with a criminal charge

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Khoshekh

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So last September I travelled without a ticket. The ticket kiosk was broken and there was no staff on the train other than driver. When me and my partner got off the train we were stopped by separate staff members. While explaining, the train driver got off the train to say the kiosk was broke so we couldn't get tickets. The person my partner was talking to let her buy a ticket and then carry on whereas I was given a penalty charge. After me and my partner told her what the driver said, this staff member simply said that they didn't hear, the other staff member also informed them the same thing but still I was given a penalty. I appealed it but was unsuccessful and am now being charged with a criminal offence. The thing is though that in the statement from the staff member, it says I made no attempt to buy a ticket and doesn't say anything about how I couldn't buy a ticket through no fault of my own. I'm worried about taking it to court because of the potential of a criminal record but I think this is ridiculous and I'm being charged based on essentially a lie through omission. What should I do?
 
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Tazi Hupefi

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How would a train driver know a ticket machine isn't working? Was there more than one machine or a ticket office?

You say you were issued with a Penalty Fare, but now are charged with a crime? If you lost the appeal you must pay (or escalate to a further appeal) is my understanding. If you just ignored it after losing your appeal, you're partly to blame for this mess.

How do you know you're being charged with a crime? What letters have you had? Why would a member of staff have written a witness statement, if they issued you with an on the spot penalty?

Can you maybe write out some sort of timeline, along with any information you have, e.g. what the letters said at the various points.
 

Khoshekh

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How would a train driver know a ticket machine isn't working? Was there more than one machine or a ticket office?

You say you were issued with a Penalty Fare, but now are charged with a crime? If you lost the appeal you must pay (or escalate to a further appeal) is my understanding. If you just ignored it after losing your appeal, you're partly to blame for this mess.

How do you know you're being charged with a crime? What letters have you had? Why would a member of staff have written a witness statement, if they issued you with an on the spot penalty?

Can you maybe write out some sort of timeline, along with any information you have, e.g. what the letters said at the various points.
Firstly big thanks for the reply, I've never had to deal with anything like this before, hell I've not long since moved into my own place for the first time I've got no idea what I'm doing lol.

Anyway It's a bit complicated but I'll try..
So the incident was last September, I don't know how the driver knew it was broken, there was only one machine and no office it's just a small platform barely a train station tbh, I say I lost the appeal because of what happened, after I submitted I actually didn't get a response that I'm aware of.. but I can see how I'm that aspect that is my fault. I received a whole stack of papers including a charge sheet, penalty fare notice, witness statement, mc100, and a settlement offer. It also says I received 2 reminders but I didn't receive them, probably due to me moving house...

The big question is, does the fact that I couldn't get a ticket, which was not mentioned in the witness statement and meant my partner got off free, count as a defence if I end up going to court?

Firstly big thanks for the reply, I've never had to deal with anything like this before, hell I've not long since moved into my own place for the first time I've got no idea what I'm doing lol.

Anyway It's a bit complicated but I'll try..
So the incident was last September, I don't know how the driver knew it was broken, there was only one machine and no office it's just a small platform barely a train station tbh, I say I lost the appeal because of what happened, after I submitted I actually didn't get a response that I'm aware of.. but I can see how I'm that aspect that is my fault. I received a whole stack of papers including a charge sheet, penalty fare notice, witness statement, mc100, and a settlement offer. It also says I received 2 reminders but I didn't receive them, probably due to me moving house...

The big question is, does the fact that I couldn't get a ticket, which was not mentioned in the witness statement and meant my partner got off free, count as a defence if I end up going to court?
I should mention too I appealed the penalty on the day last year and have not heard anything until yesterday when I got this prosecution letter
 

Tazi Hupefi

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I would strongly suggest you pay the settlement offer immediately- this will stop everything escalating and take the risk of a costly criminal conviction away.

Do that ASAP, and say nothing / do not complain about it.

Once it's paid, get confirmation that they've cancelled the court action, and then come back to this forum, who can help you write a letter asking the operator to consider a refund of the settlement, but that CANNOT be done until you've paid and got the court action discontinued.

Forget about the rights and wrongs of the situation for now, that can be dealt with later.
 

AlterEgo

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I agree you should pay ASAP, and look to redress the situation later. Which stations were involved and which train company?

A train driver leaving their cab on a Driver Only Operated service to resolve a customer service issue is extremely rare.
 

185

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A train driver leaving their cab on a Driver Only Operated service to resolve a customer service issue is extremely rare.
Looking at the OP's profile, it lists their location as Seaham - If indeed it was Seaham, that is Northern Trains territory, no Driver Only Operation, and perhaps likely to have been the guard - the passenger could have mistaken them. At most operators, Revenue Protection Inspectors are required to check the status of a ticket machine or booking office before proceeding with a travel irregularity report, Fail To Purchase process or issuing a Penalty Fare - though wouldn't be surprised if Northern don't consider this basic first step.

Seaham is a basic station with two platforms, two shelters, fail to purchase signs at the entrance, and one ticket machine in the shelter on the Newcastle-bound platform.
 
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furlong

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Firstly - and this is crucial - how exactly did you "appeal" ? Did you follow the official appeals process as described on the Penalty Fare notice you would have been given? What paperwork do you have to show your appeal was submitted and rejected? Chase that up. Make sure they are aware that there were no working facilities you could have used - that information might not have registered with the right person. (I disagree with some of the earlier posters - don't pay a settlement in haste. Try to work out the precise situation you are in first. There are some restrictions on prosecutions once an appeal has been decided. Additionally the offence they normally would use in court has an exception "if there were no facilities in working order for the issue or validation of any ticket at the time when, and the station where, he began his journey". I would have expected the paperwork you mention to have addressed this aspect already if they were aware of it - for example via a statement that a log shows the machine issued tickets shortly before and after the time you were there putting the onus back on you to explain in what way it was broken.)
 
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Khoshekh

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I agree you should pay ASAP, and look to redress the situation later. Which stations were involved and which train company?

A train driver leaving their cab on a Driver Only Operated service to resolve a customer service issue is extremely rare.
It may not have been the driver but I assumed it was since it was only a small 2 carriage train and in the whole half hour journey I didn't see any staff

Firstly - and this is crucial - how exactly did you "appeal" ? Did you follow the official appeals process as described on the Penalty Fare notice you would have been given? What paperwork do you have to show your appeal was rejected? (I disagree with some of the earlier posters - don't pay a settlement in haste. Try to work out the precise situation you are in first. There are some restrictions on prosecutions once an appeal has been decided.)
This was last September so I'm not sure on the details but I was given a paper penalty notice at the time and on it it had a link to their website where I could appeal. I don't remember receiving anything back whether it be email or physical. There was then the two reminder letters I was supposedly sent that I didn't receive.
 

ukkid

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It may not have been the driver but I assumed it was since it was only a small 2 carriage train and in the whole half hour journey I didn't see any staff


This was last September so I'm not sure on the details but I was given a paper penalty notice at the time and on it it had a link to their website where I could appeal. I don't remember receiving anything back whether it be email or physical. There was then the two reminder letters I was supposedly sent that I didn't receive.
Did you actually appeal online. If so check your emails and maybe chase them up to find out what they did/ask them to send you copies of any previous letters.

As Furlong said it's important to know exactly what had happened to any appeal as they maybe barred from prosecuting you.
 

reb0118

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Was there an opportunity to pay at your destination station? If so, upon arrival at your destination, did you head to that location or did you head straight to the exit before being stopped?

NB for the avoidance of doubt I'm not accusing you of anything but that your actions upon your arriving at your destination can also be taken into account. In general you must take the first opportunity to pay - be that prior to commencing, en route, or upon arrival.
 

Watershed

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NB for the avoidance of doubt I'm not accusing you of anything but that your actions upon your arriving at your destination can also be taken into account. In general you must take the first opportunity to pay - be that prior to commencing, en route, or upon arrival.
OP has not clarified what the offence is that they're charged with, but failure to take an opportunity to pay at the destination is not something for which a Penalty Fare can be issued, or for which one can be convicted of a Byelaw 18 offence. It is only an offence under RoRA.

If OP has proof that they submitted the Penalty Fare appeal (perhaps they may have an email confirmation), that would be very useful. It may help to bring a secondary defence (aside from the defence of the ticket machine being unavailable).

This would be that prosecution is barred unless the Penalty Fare was cancelled before a decision on the appeal had been made (or the 21 days allowed for the decision had expired).

Undoubtedly paying the settlement is the quickest and easiest way of resolving the matter. However OP must consider whether that is the path they wish to proceed along, given that prosecution may be impermissible in this case, and that there may be a viable defence.
 

Tazi Hupefi

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I think some of you live in a fairytale world sometimes.

The facts presented to a bench of lay magistrates will be:

1) No ticket prior to travel. TOC will say there was a machine.
2) Chap gave his name and address for a Penalty Fare
3) Chap states he made an appeal but does absolutely nothing to chase it up / enquire as to outcome for some months
4) As soon as a court process is started, suddenly wants to engage

I can assure you that regardless of right or wrong, a conviction is almost certain. It may be able to be reviewed on appeal, but not without much hassle and possibly cost. Any legal argument that a TOC can't or shouldn't do XYZ because of a regulation/guidance/rule etc simply isn't going to be entertained by a lay bench, and it would almost certainly require appeal to the Crown Court.

It is extremely irresponsible for anybody to suggest taking this to a criminal trial, regardless of guilt. Pleading "Not Guilty", and then being found guilty after a summary trial, will result in at least £1200-£2000 in monetary penalties (fines/trial costs/surcharges).

The best way forward is to pay the settlement, wait for things to die down, action withdrawn, and then (try to) form a case on a civil or consumer rights basis to recover the settlement.

This would potentially be quite different had the chap actively pursued the lines of appeal and made an effort to resolve the matter.
 

Watershed

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I think some of you live in a fairytale world sometimes.

The facts presented to a bench of lay magistrates will be:

1) No ticket prior to travel. TOC will say there was a machine.
2) Chap gave his name and address for a Penalty Fare
3) Chap states he made an appeal but does absolutely nothing to chase it up / enquire as to outcome for some months
4) As soon as a court process is started, suddenly wants to engage

I can assure you that regardless of right or wrong, a conviction is almost certain. It may be able to be reviewed on appeal, but not without much hassle and possibly cost. Any legal argument that a TOC can't or shouldn't do XYZ because of a regulation/guidance/rule etc simply isn't going to be entertained by a lay bench, and it would almost certainly require appeal to the Crown Court.

It is extremely irresponsible for anybody to suggest taking this to a criminal trial, regardless of guilt. Pleading "Not Guilty", and then being found guilty after a summary trial, will result in at least £1200-£2000 in monetary penalties (fines/trial costs/surcharges).

The best way forward is to pay the settlement, wait for things to die down, action withdrawn, and then (try to) form a case on a civil or consumer rights basis to recover the settlement.

This would potentially be quite different had the chap actively pursued the lines of appeal and made an effort to resolve the matter.
That's quite possibly the outcome that would initially result if OP did not have legal representation, or at the least take legal advice.

But it strikes me as wrong to suggest that pleading guilty to an offence which OP did not commit, according to what they said, is the only course of action worth pursuing.

The fact that OP did not take up the Penalty Fare appeal further is not in any way something that can be used against them, as if it means that they accepted the (presumed) rejection of their appeal.

OP should also not be under any impressions that it will be easy or indeed likely for them to get back the settlement, if they choose to pay it.
 

Tazi Hupefi

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That's quite possibly the outcome that would initially result if OP did not have legal representation, or at the least take legal advice.

But it strikes me as wrong to suggest that pleading guilty to an offence which OP did not commit, according to what they said, is the only course of action worth pursuing.

The fact that OP did not take up the Penalty Fare appeal further is not in any way something that can be used against them, as if it means that they accepted the (presumed) rejection of their appeal.

OP should also not be under any impressions that it will be easy or indeed likely for them to get back the settlement, if they choose to pay it.
The cost of legal representation would exceed the cost of the settlement! Nobody is being told to plead guilty, because it doesn't need to get to court anyway.

They need to pay the settlement that they have been offered which stops the criminal aspect. They can then look to recover the settlement as part of a complaint procedure or civil litigation if necessary.

And, sorry, but the OP not doing anything about the appeal or making any proactive steps to chase it up - it absolutely can be used against him, and certainly gives a very poor impression to the court, it strikes at his credibility.
 

Doctor Fegg

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How would a train driver know a ticket machine isn't working?
There's plenty of stations where a flashing "out of order" light on a ticket machine is visible from the cab.

There are also information systems which inform anyone (presumably including train drivers) of out of order machines. For example, https://www.journeycheck.com/greatwesternrailway/ tells me that Marlow's TVM is out of order right now.

I think some of you live in a fairytale world sometimes.
Indeed.
 
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