Notice of intention to prosecute

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Rob120

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My teenage daughter received a letter yesterday (8th May) notifying her of an intention to proscecute.

The Details of Offence are "entering a train for the purpose of travelling without a ticket entitling travel"

Brief details:
1. Bought a ticket to travel Cambridge to Hatfield, 26th April from Cambridge Station ticket office.
2. Death on line at Shepreth (26th April) delayed all trains via Stevenage, including her intended train - chaos on Cambridge Station.
3. Was directed by member of platform staff to alternate, later train, which she believed she caught correctly.
4. Train did not stop at Hatfield, an error she realised when arriving in Finsbury Park, where she alighted.
5. Tried to cross to another platform at Finsbury Park in order to return to Hatfield.
6. This required exit through a barrier, which her ticket naturally did not allow.
7. Revenue Protection Inspector responded to her enquiry about what she should do to get back to Hatfield by confiscating her ticket (presumably in evidence) and issuing a permit to travel to Hatfield.
8. No offer of 'payment of excess fare' at Finsbury Park. No questions asked at Hatfield.
9. Nothing further heard until 'Notice of Intention to Prosecute' arrived yesterday, which was dated Friday 4th, giving her 7 days to respond (ie. by tomorrow 10th May (weekend and Bank Holiday delayed delivery of letter).

Fortunately she still has her ticket receipt for the Cambridge to Hatfield journey and for the return journey, though not the ticket iteself (taken off her).

Could anyone offer advice - this seems quite harsh to me. Genuine error in catching wrong train (if not even advised by Cambridge Station staff).

In terms of the offence - surely she did not enter a train without a ticket. More that she got on the wrong one.

Thanks for the advice - need to respond to First Capital Connect before tomorrow!

Cheers
 
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LexyBoy

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Welcome to the forum!

FCC are notoriously harsh in penalising ticket irregularities, as a search of the forum will show.

In most cases, due to the antiquainted and anti-passenger nature of some of the laws surrounding the railway, there is often no defence even in cases where an honest mistake was made. Simply not being able to produce a ticket is an offence under Byelaw 18 (which it appears is what FCC will be using in this case) - there's no need for the TOC to prove any intent to avoid paying the fare. Whilst usually used for an easy prosecution against genuine fare evaders, FCC seem to be increasingly prosecuting wherever they can.

Has your daughter ever had any problems of this nature on the railway before? E.g. a Penalty Fare?

In terms of the offence - surely she did not enter a train without a ticket. More that she got on the wrong one.

I will bow to the experts on this one, but there might be something in this. The exact wording of Byelaw 18 (which it appears is what FCC intend to prosecute under) is:
Railway Byelaw 18(1) said:
In any area not designated as a compulsory ticket area, no person shall enter any train for the purpose of travelling on the railway unless he has with him a valid ticket entitling him to travel.
Obviously the ticket was not valid for the journey made, but it was "a valid ticket entitling him to travel" was it not? So would the correct action have been to charge the full fare for the journey not covered - presumably a Penalty Fare for Cambridge-Finsbury Park?

Overriding is explicitly covered by RoRA 5(3)(b) as far as I can see, so the fact that it's not made clear in the Byelaws suggests that it's not covered. (As I say though, these are just my thoughts so don't get hopes up!)

Thanks for the advice - need to respond to First Capital Connect before tomorrow!

Did FCC specify a date for your reply? I believe you usually have a couple of weeks at least. I'm sure other forum members will assist in drafting a letter - there's quite a lot of legal expertise on here.

For a first offence FCC will very likely accept an out of court payment of a figure in the region of £200, which will avoid a court appearance.
 

jon0844

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She didn't even get the wrong ticket if she'd over travelled due to a mistake, which may well have been down to the chaos caused by a person killed nearby!

It's quite possible that, depending on the train, there was no working onboard CIS system and the driver may or may not have spoken the stopping pattern at Cambridge. If the train started, this might have been made before she boarded, or if it was a through train, possibly not at all. Many drivers don't set up the CIS, for whatever reason (including it being broken), especially if the stopping pattern has been changed for any reason.

If your daughter can argue that no announcements were made, so the first she knew of it not stopping at Hatfield was when it flew through the station, I'd expect FCC to show goodwill and cancel the intention to prosecute (but be aware - FCC may argue that information is always given, even though it isn't, and I'm not sure how you'd argue against that). If that train was late, it's possible to get the wrong train as it was at, or around, the time of the train you wanted to catch. The real cause of the problem was down to the person that killed him/herself - and FCC should take that into account but, by the sounds of it, don't have to.

It does sound very harsh to me. Harsh even for staff to consider an excess, as against just opening the gates and letting her travel back, or give a PF. If they were in any way suspicious of her intentions (that she might just jump on to the tube or out of the station) then accompany her.

I wonder if FCC is on some drive to just prosecute everyone these days (that is except those who admit to fare evasion and get to pay a nice easy £20 PF). What's annoying is that there are so many nice RPIs that work for FCC, and at another time on another day, she would have had no problems at all.

Perhaps FCC should issue a timetable of its staff movements around the network, and operating at gatelines... :)
 

MikeWh

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Welcome to the forum Rob120,

This sounds like an almighty over-reaction on the part of FCC and certainly a case of the right hand not knowing what the left was doing. However, it's best to deal calmly with the letter in hand first before that gets more serious. My understanding is that this letter is asking for your daughter's version of events. I would send back a response along the lines that you have listed above. Send copies of any supporting evidence (receipts etc). I hope that that will be enough to elicit a no further action proposed letter.

You can then consider a strongly worded complaint letter to FCC Customer Relations about the additional stress of believing that a criminal record might have resulted from unclear instructions given by rail staff in the middle of severe disruption.
 

Ferret

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I too imagine this is a request for the daughter's version of events. Be sure to give a truthful account of exactly what happened. The emphasis should be on that member of staff directing her to the train she caught. I would hope this would be enough to make FCC's prosecution team see sense on this and state that no further action is to be taken, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

I have to say the actions taken by the RPI sound a little odd as well - if you suspect somebody of over-riding on a ticket to Hatfield, why would you then issue a zerofare ticket to go from Finsbury Park-Hatfield? He must have believed that Hatfield was the young lady's destination so why the hell go to the trouble of an interview and MG11 having reached that point in proceedings?!
 
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aformeruser

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Be sure to give a truthful account of exactly what happened. The emphasis should be on that member of staff directing her to the train she caught.

I think that's a key point. Notably exactly what question did she ask the platform staff before boarding. Asking "Which train for London" assuming it stops at Hatfield is not the same as asking "Which train for Hatfield" or even did she follow a crowd of people and assume the train would stop at Hatfield? If she said Hatfield to the staff and they directed here to a train not calling at Hatfield without telling her to change then you've got a much better case.

Also were there any announcements on board the train or working displays indicating where the train would call?
 

Rob120

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Thank you all so much for such level-headed and honest responses. I will encourage her to follow this advice and detail all the days proceedings in response to the letter.

LexyBoy - she has not had any previous Penalty Fares or any other misdemeanours. The letter itself is dated 4th May, and requires a response 'within 7 days of the date of this letter'. Given the Bank Holiday, it was only delivered on the 8th, not giving her much time to respond. However, she does have a very clear memory of the events (as indeed I do because I had to scrape her of the ceiling when she arrived home from the trip because she was so cross with the whole incident at the time).

I can only hope that an honest version of events from her side should indiate that there was no 'intent' to avoid the fare.

A quick look at First Capital Connect's T&Cs and the details of Penalty Fares brings up the paragraph:

"What happens if I travel beyond my normal destination?"
Answer: "It is your responsibility to buy any additional train tickets required to make your original ticket valid for your entire journey before travelling; otherwise you may have to pay a Penalty Fare."

Given that she would have been unlikely to know this at the time, I just wonder at the attitude of station staff, when being approached by a lost and confused passenger, not to offer advice (such as that noted in the T&Cs) and offer a mechanism to recover the lost passenger fare rather than the later heavy-handed prosecution threat.

Human nature.... who can fathom it.

Thank you again.
 

jon0844

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It seems that while PFs are handed out to some people inappropriately, FCC is now deciding not to issue a PF even in the scenarios detailed on its website (which a passenger might feasibly check before travel).

They are instead going for an absolute offence (byelaw) which requires no proof or evidence gathering on their part and can net them a nice tidy fee for an out of court settlement. £200 is better than £20 after all.

It's disappointing that they're doing this, and it all seems to have been increasing in frequency (going by the many threads on here, which all relate to FCC) and I wonder if FCC has been expanding it's dedicated fraud investigation team. I had an experience myself, which was with someone promoted to this team, and if FCC is training up more staff to do prosecutions, perhaps some are getting rather carried away - either off their own back, or under guidance from management.
 

Rob120

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A small update with some further details from my daughter.....

She did ask Rail staff: "Which train should I catch to get to Hatfield?". She's quite specific about this as she's not a regular train traveller, and this was her first journey to Hatfield.

The train had no announcements that she heard, and what she describes as the 'electronic banner thing' wasn't working. I guess this was in some way related to the disruption to the services caused by the death on the line.

At Finsbury Park she was asked if she had the means to pay for her journey today (and bear in mind she did have a valid ticket for Cambridge to Hatfield), but was not offered the option to pay an excess or Penalty Fare. She says they did write down her answers, so they must know she had a ticket to Hatfield and money to pay any excess.

OK, she's drafting a letter tonight and copying all the ticket receipts and evidence that her final intended destination was Hatfield.

I'll report back at some point in the future with the outcome.

Again, thank you for your responses!
 

ainsworth74

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OK, she's drafting a letter tonight and copying all the ticket receipts and evidence that her final intended destination was Hatfield.

If I might be so bold there are several members he who would be well suited to reading such a letter and giving some advice on it. You could consider sending a private message to either DaveNewcastle or yorkie asking them if they would be willing to read a draft. Both are very experienced in ticketing matters and situations such as this and I believe that you would do well to consult with one of them before sending a further response to FCC.
 

jon0844

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Definitely get the letter checked over. As you may see if you look around this site, it can be very easy to say something that incriminates you even if it's not what you meant or intended.
 

Ferret

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A small update with some further details from my daughter.....

She did ask Rail staff: "Which train should I catch to get to Hatfield?". She's quite specific about this as she's not a regular train traveller, and this was her first journey to Hatfield.

The train had no announcements that she heard, and what she describes as the 'electronic banner thing' wasn't working. I guess this was in some way related to the disruption to the services caused by the death on the line.

At Finsbury Park she was asked if she had the means to pay for her journey today (and bear in mind she did have a valid ticket for Cambridge to Hatfield), but was not offered the option to pay an excess or Penalty Fare. She says they did write down her answers, so they must know she had a ticket to Hatfield and money to pay any excess.

OK, she's drafting a letter tonight and copying all the ticket receipts and evidence that her final intended destination was Hatfield.

I'll report back at some point in the future with the outcome.

Again, thank you for your responses!

Can she remember what she was asked under caution when she was interviewed, and what answers she gave?
 

cuccir

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You could consider sending a private message to either DaveNewcastle or yorkie asking them if they would be willing to read a draft. Both are very experienced in ticketing matters and situations such as this and I believe that you would do well to consult with one of them before sending a further response to FCC.

Agree with this, though for all we know one or both of these folk might not be about if there is a rush. Furthermore, I think you need to make 5 posts to be able to send a private message (unless this has been changed?) You currently have 3 so one response here would equal 4. Unfortunately it doesn't count double posts, but you could make a 5th somewhere in the general discussion forum
 

island

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This seems like absolute lunacy by FCC. While there's next to no chance of a conviction on the information given, it is still important (a) to reply and (b) to get your reply proofread to ensure it doesn't make further trouble. Once the threat of prosecution has receded, the customer service and common sense questions can be raised forcefully.
 

34D

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How old is the teenage daughter please? If she is 13/14 then (in my view) a response ought to mention that.
 

Fare-Cop

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Whilst not enshrined in any legislation, there is a long accepted practice within the passenger rail industry that allows for a traveller, who has genuinely been overcarried by one stop beyond their intended destination, to travel back on the first available service to the station that they had paid to, provided that they do so without leaving the railway at the point to which they were overcarried.

Your post suggests that this is what happened, albeit because your daughter boarded the wrong train in the confusion at Cambridge, whether advised to or not.

I don't recall the exact circumstances of the incident on 26th April this year, but I have worked in this industry since the late 1970s and given the initial general confusion at Cambridge that would have been experienced in such circumstances, and the ensuing adverse publicity for the rail industry in respect of what sadly has happened along this line recently, I personally think FCC would be silly in the extreme to attempt to prosecute in this case.

If they really are so daft as to continue, this is a case that in my honest opinion they cannot possibly win.

I also believe that in this instance your daughter should not accept any 'out of court settlement offer' that FCC might make. There are no grounds to penalise your daughter if all the facts are precisely as reported in your original post.

If your teenage daughter is 18 or over, she should respond to the letter herself, if not you can write and it's always a good idea if she is over 16, to get her to sign it with you.
 
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MichaelAMW

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Whilst not enshrined in any legislation, there is a long accepted practice within the passenger rail industry that allows for a traveller, who has genuinely been overcarried by one stop beyond their intended destination, to travel back on the first available service to the station that they had paid to, provided that they do so without leaving the railway at the point to which they were overcarried.

Your post suggests that this is what happened, albeit because your daughter boarded the wrong train in the confusion at Cambridge, whether advised to or not.

In fact, there was specific instruction in the BR Ticket Examiners Handbook to treat such situations exactly as you have described. Little touches of humanity like that have been lost, unfortunately.
 

DaveNewcastle

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. . .You could consider sending a private message to either DaveNewcastle or yorkie asking them if they would be willing to read a draft. . .
Agree with this, though for all we know one or both of these folk might not be about if there is a rush.
Both yorkie and myself will be alerted to PM's and if required, one or other can respond promptly.
I will be pleased to assist in checking Rob120's letter and if the views already expressed in this thread are adopted then its likely that there will be little time lost in making any amendments.

cuccir's note about reaching 5 posts will be relevant.
 

jon0844

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Wagn, and then FCC, has guidelines for users at Hatfield who cannot use the concrete steps (currently the only way to get to the northbound platforms). While clearly aimed at wheelchair users, and not those with heavy bags, I've heard and seen staff suggest people on their own, with a buggy, travel south to Potters Bar and travel back to avoid the steps, or go on to WGC and come back to Hatfield when coming back. Likewise to people who might struggle to use the steps.

It's hardly fair to charge them more, considering the extra time involved. But I'd imagine that if anyone was advised to do this now, they'd quickly find themselves in big trouble as soon as they met an RPI that saw it as a nice easy prosecution. What's more, how would the person prove they were told they could do this?

I wonder when the next FCC meet the directors forum is? Might be worth bringing up a few scenarios to see what the bosses think should happen.
 

michael769

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What's more, how would the person prove they were told they could do this?

They don't have to. They put the prosecution to strict proof on the point, meaning the prosecution would have to produce proof that the passenger was not told to do this.
 

AlterEgo

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They don't have to. They put the prosecution to strict proof on the point, meaning the prosecution would have to produce proof that the passenger was not told to do this.

No they would not.

The onus is on the passenger to provide proof of their ticket or authority to travel.
 

Fare-Cop

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In fact, there was specific instruction in the BR Ticket Examiners Handbook to treat such situations exactly as you have described. Little touches of humanity like that have been lost, unfortunately.

Exactly, having been involved since long before the demise of that publication, I and my colleagues still use that premise when training inspectors however, many do not and rely far too much on the 'letter of the law' attitude.

Whilst this position has something to commend it in dealing with a belligerent individual where there is clear evidence of an offence, this case appears to be nothing of the sort and that must have been blindingly obvious, even to the most hard-hearted staff member.
 

Fare-Cop

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I don't doubt that this is true in a civil case. But are you sure it is also true in a criminal prosecution?

In some cases, yes.

Byelaw 18.2 (2005) is a strict liability matter.

Byelaw 18 (2) A person shall hand over his ticket for inspection and verification of validity when asked to do so by an authorised person.

The case for breach of Byelaw is a summary charge, heard by Magistrates in a criminal Court list.

Where people do get confused is that conviction of this offence is not a recordable matter. There is a record of conviction by the Court, but it will not result in a damaging entry on PNC and isn't going to show on a CRB check
 

benk1342

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In some cases, yes.

I'll take your word for it as this is your area of expertise, but it strikes me as odd. I am not a lawyer in this country, but in the US the prosecution must prove every fact in the case beyond a reasonable doubt, no matter what. The offence's being strict liability just means the prosecution does not have to prove intent.
 

Fare-Cop

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I'll take your word for it as this is your area of expertise, but it strikes me as odd. I am not a lawyer in this country, but in the US the prosecution must prove every fact in the case beyond a reasonable doubt, no matter what. The offence's being strict liability just means the prosecution does not have to prove intent.

Please don't get the wrong idea, I certainly don't say that it is justified in every case, and I certainly don't believe it applies in respect of the original post in this thread if all the details are exactly as described

Taking your example, 'must prove every fact', there is only one fact to prove given the wording of the Byelaw.

Mr X must show a ticket to validate his journey
Mr X did not comply

A Magistrate might hear mitigation and sentence accordingly, but the 'fact' as charged is pretty clear.
 
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island

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I'll take your word for it as this is your area of expertise, but it strikes me as odd. I am not a lawyer in this country, but in the US the prosecution must prove every fact in the case beyond a reasonable doubt, no matter what. The offence's being strict liability just means the prosecution does not have to prove intent.

Indeed. The prosecution must prove that the person did not hand over a ticket when asked to do so. That is all.
 

benk1342

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Indeed. The prosecution must prove that the person did not hand over a ticket when asked to do so. That is all.

Yes, but, if the defendant raises a defence of "an individual authorised by the railway gave me permission to travel on this train with this ticket", doesn't the burden then fall to the prosecution to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that this did not happen?
 

island

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Yes, but, if the defendant raises a defence of "an individual authorised by the railway gave me permission to travel on this train with this ticket", doesn't the burden then fall to the prosecution to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that this did not happen?

I'm going to bounce that one to someone such as DaveNewcastle, because any answer I'll give has a 50% chance of being wrong.
 

michael769

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No they would not.

The onus is on the passenger to provide proof of their ticket or authority to travel.

I can only assume you do not understand the implications of Strict Proof under the criminal law of England and Wales.
 
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