Paid penalty fare for an honest mistake still being charged

AsherImran

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Bishops Stortford
Hi I have got a Single Justice Procedure notice initiated by Govia Thameslink Prosecutions

As it happened:
On 12 Feb, 2020 I had traveled to London Liverpool Street from my home town Bishops Stortford and the ticket I had was Bishops Stortford to London Terminals. I then walked to my destination which was around St. Paul’s.

On the way back I had to travel to Upton Park to see a friend so the route I decided to take was City Thameslink to Blackfriars (nextStation) and then switching to district line to Upton Park. And I intended to use my contractless card, however I only realised my mistake when I was on the train already that I had used my train ticket (London Terminals) in a hurry; and for some reason it had worked too. So I got off the train at Blackfriars and explained the whole thing to the gentleman at the barriers asking if there is a way I can use my contactless card as I had to traveller further to Upton Park.

and I was shocked to see 2 other guys approaching and started to take my details. I tried to explain my situation very politely and told them how it was an honest mistake but they didn’t listen a single bit and instead they said i don’t have a valid ticket and that I should pay a penalty fare £20 otherwise I will be prosecuted in court.

And although to me, as unfair as the penalty fare was given the circumstances I provided the gentlemen with, I still decided to pay the penalty fare on the spot in the hope of getting the matter closed and not escalated and paid it using my Debit Card i.e. £20 at the time of the incident i.e. 12 Feb 2020.

I did however appeal the penalty fare and requested it be refunded to me, as I thought it was unfair however my appeal was rejected by the Train company and that was the end of the matter for me. But perhaps I shouldn’t have done that as what happened next was I got a notice of penalty fare multiplied now stating that since I had not paid the penalty fare I now need to pay £20 plus another £20. I was quite certain it was a mistake so I replied to them stating the whole thing however I never got a reply back

Three week ago I got a SJPN to plead guilty or not guilty (to be followed by a trial) along with the fine now of £185 and the proof they sent was a copy of the (unpaid they mentioned) penalty fare issue notice which clearly has Issue Notice crossed out and Receipt ticked And it clearly says:
Amount Received : £20
You must pay: Nill
Also I have my bank statement which clearly shows the transaction of £20

The witness statement is clearly false; they say they informed me the matter will be escalated however what they in fact told me was, the matter was closed as I paid the penalty fare in full.

As a reply to the SJPN I have added the above details choosing “Not Guilty”. I have also written one more time to the train company’s prosecutions manager explaining the whole thing. However it’s been 20 days now and I haven’t heard back.
The hearing date is 5 Aug and I am worried sick what is going to happen now. I can’t afford to have a criminal record. I have been depressed and kicking myself I should’ve paid whatever they asked for again and should've got it done with.

Please see screenshots as well.

Any thoughts and guidance will be highly appreciated.

Apols for long read
 

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MikeWh

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Can you upload a picture of the receipt showing that the penalty was paid? This isn't the first time GTR have erroneously initiated court proceedings after telling the defendant that the matter is closed. I'm going to draw it to the attention of someone at GTR in the hope that it can be sorted.
 

ForTheLoveOf

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GTR have committed, at best, a serious error here. Payment of a Penalty Fare precludes any further action being taken in respect of the incident in question, as it constitutes a form of out of Court settlement. Acting in breach of such a settlement, as has happened here, is an actionable matter.

Furthermore, the fact that you appealled against the Penalty Fare gives you extremely valuable protection - Regulation 11(3) of the Railways (Penalty Fares) Regulations 2018 provides that:
Where a person falling within paragraph (1)(a) has appealed against the penalty fare under regulation 16, proceedings for any of the offences specified in paragraph (4) may only be brought against that person for the same failure to produce a platform ticket or a valid travel ticket if the operator, on whose behalf the penalty fare was charged, notifies the relevant Appeal Panel that the penalty fare is cancelled before—
(a)the relevant Appeal Panel has decided the outcome of the appeal under regulation 16; or
(b)the time period mentioned in paragraph 6 of Schedule 2 expires,
whichever is sooner.
Given that you made an appeal, and that appeal was denied, GTR were legally barred from prosecuting you. Acting in breach of this regulation therefore means that the prosecution should not have been brought, and that you thus have no case to answer.

I would contact a criminal defence solicitor to arrange for the prosecution to be stopped. I would ask them to pursue GTR to obtain back both their costs, and a reasonable sum of compensation for you given the breach of the above Regulations as well as the GDPR that will have taken place.

@tspaul26 may be able to assist here.
 

tspaul26

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Messages
452
Hi I have got a Single Justice Procedure notice initiated by Govia Thameslink Prosecutions

As it happened:
On 12 Feb, 2020 I had traveled to London Liverpool Street from my home town Bishops Stortford and the ticket I had was Bishops Stortford to London Terminals. I then walked to my destination which was around St. Paul’s.

On the way back I had to travel to Upton Park to see a friend so the route I decided to take was City Thameslink to Blackfriars (nextStation) and then switching to district line to Upton Park. And I intended to use my contractless card, however I only realised my mistake when I was on the train already that I had used my train ticket (London Terminals) in a hurry; and for some reason it had worked too. So I got off the train at Blackfriars and explained the whole thing to the gentleman at the barriers asking if there is a way I can use my contactless card as I had to traveller further to Upton Park.

and I was shocked to see 2 other guys approaching and started to take my details. I tried to explain my situation very politely and told them how it was an honest mistake but they didn’t listen a single bit and instead they said i don’t have a valid ticket and that I should pay a penalty fare £20 otherwise I will be prosecuted in court.

And although to me, as unfair as the penalty fare was given the circumstances I provided the gentlemen with, I still decided to pay the penalty fare on the spot in the hope of getting the matter closed and not escalated and paid it using my Debit Card i.e. £20 at the time of the incident i.e. 12 Feb 2020.

I did however appeal the penalty fare and requested it be refunded to me, as I thought it was unfair however my appeal was rejected by the Train company and that was the end of the matter for me. But perhaps I shouldn’t have done that as what happened next was I got a notice of penalty fare multiplied now stating that since I had not paid the penalty fare I now need to pay £20 plus another £20. I was quite certain it was a mistake so I replied to them stating the whole thing however I never got a reply back

Three week ago I got a SJPN to plead guilty or not guilty (to be followed by a trial) along with the fine now of £185 and the proof they sent was a copy of the (unpaid they mentioned) penalty fare issue notice which clearly has Issue Notice crossed out and Receipt ticked And it clearly says:
Amount Received : £20
You must pay: Nill
Also I have my bank statement which clearly shows the transaction of £20

The witness statement is clearly false; they say they informed me the matter will be escalated however what they in fact told me was, the matter was closed as I paid the penalty fare in full.

As a reply to the SJPN I have added the above details choosing “Not Guilty”. I have also written one more time to the train company’s prosecutions manager explaining the whole thing. However it’s been 20 days now and I haven’t heard back.
The hearing date is 5 Aug and I am worried sick what is going to happen now. I can’t afford to have a criminal record. I have been depressed and kicking myself I should’ve paid whatever they asked for again and should've got it done with.

Please see screenshots as well.

Any thoughts and guidance will be highly appreciated.

Apols for long read
It will be very useful if you would kindly upload copies of the penalty fare receipt and the appeal paperwork so that we can check the dates.

Please do redact any personal information as you have done for the screenshots thus far.
 

tspaul26

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9 Jun 2016
Messages
452
And any other documents you have received in relation to the case. I am particularly interested in whether a witness statement has been served on you.
 

AsherImran

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Joined
31 Jul 2020
Messages
9
Location
Bishops Stortford
Thank you @MikeWh @ForTheLoveOf @tspaul26 for your replies. I feel so much relief by just reading your replies so thanks for that.

@tspaul26 please see attached the screenshot copy of the receipt I had on phone. Hope it is readable, apologies I am away for the weekend otherwise would’ve uploaded a better quality picture and the other documents as well.

as for the witness statement as I recall, the SJPN had a section where I needed to state why I disagree the witness statement. I am not sure if I still have it and if I haven’t sent it along with the form. But I will check when I get back home tomorrow and will reply then. Thanks all for your time and help.
D4C0BF2B-E08E-4D59-9C9C-9A03648B2361.jpeg
 

tspaul26

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9 Jun 2016
Messages
452
I'm speechless.
I suppose it is possible that GTR notified the Appeal Panel that the penalty fare was cancelled before the appeal decision was issued and has conveniently forgotten to refund the amount paid. That is why I would like to check the dates and see the full papers included with the originating notice to be doubly sure, but on its face this looks like quite a muck-up indeed.
 

some bloke

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Messages
1,056
I'm very sorry about this nasty shock. It sounds like the company has made a whole series of errors and failures to respond.

As @ForTheLoveOf says, they are legally barred from prosecuting after the penalty fare appeal is decided (unless there's the unusual situation which @tspaul26 describes). So unless there's a very unusual circumstance (which wouldn't look good for the company anyway), the court simply can't convict you if you explain and show the appeal decision. The company should drop the case long before that.

The hearing date is 5 Aug and I am worried sick what is going to happen now.
Basically, it seems nothing yet. It sounds like the SJPN mentions 5 August, but the SJP is only for guilty pleas. Your not-guilty plea means a new hearing date has to be set anyway for a full court hearing. So nothing will be decided on 5 August:

"You’ll get a letter telling you when to go to court."


I replied to them stating the whole thing however I never got a reply back
I have also written one more time to the train company’s prosecutions manager explaining the whole thing. However it’s been 20 days now and I haven’t heard back
That sounds appalling. Overall, it seems you have legitimate grounds for compensation.

Payment of a Penalty Fare precludes any further action being taken in respect of the incident in question, as it constitutes a form of out of Court settlement.
Regulation 11(2) does say the penalty fare can be refunded if the company prosecutes. But @AsherImran doesn't need that argument anyway.

I would contact a criminal defence solicitor to arrange for the prosecution to be stopped.
Hopefully that won't be necessary if you can get the basic message through to the prosecutions department that they are not allowed to prosecute.

If you sent letters then email, and vice versa; see if you can phone them; email the court pointing out that the prosecution is barred; and when you contact the company, mention that you've emailed the court.

I suppose it is possible that GTR notified the Appeal Panel that the penalty fare was cancelled before the appeal decision was issued and has conveniently forgotten to refund the amount paid. That is why I would like to check the dates and see the full papers included with the originating notice to be doubly sure, but on its face this looks like quite a muck-up indeed.
If they didn't refund the money within 10 days, a further failure is that they've breached Regulation 11(2).

And the scenario would also mean the Appeal Panel failed in issuing a decision even though they'd been informed there was no decision to make.
 

furlong

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I suppose it is possible that GTR notified the Appeal Panel that the penalty fare was cancelled before the appeal decision was issued and has conveniently forgotten to refund the amount paid.
Put the statement of facts attached to an earlier post alongside this latest attachment (and note the heading above the PF - it's not the passenger's original copy).
 
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tspaul26

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Put the statement of facts attached to an earlier post alongside this latest attachment (and note the heading above the PF - it's not the passenger's original copy).
Oh, I quite agree.

That being said, it is possible that we may have a valid commencement of proceedings accompanied by an objectively false statement of facts.

To my mind, this is the type of case which should not be dropped, but instead taken to court so that the prosecutor can be made to explain himself. Section 19 also springs to mind.
 

ForTheLoveOf

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Regulation 11(2) does say the penalty fare can be refunded if the company prosecutes. But @AsherImran doesn't need that argument anyway.
It merely provides that the Penalty Fare must be refunded if a prosecution nevertheless follows. That doesn't mean that any such prosecution isn't in breach of the out-of-court settlement that a paid-up PF constitutes.
 

ForTheLoveOf

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Oh, I quite agree.

That being said, it is possible that we may have a valid commencement of proceedings accompanied by an objectively false statement of facts.

To my mind, this is the type of case which should not be dropped, but instead taken to court so that the prosecutor can be made to explain himself. Section 19 also springs to mind.
For OP's benefit, I gather you are referring to an application under section 19 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985, for costs to be awarded as a result of an "unnecessary or improper act or omission".

The Crown Prosecution Service has a guide, written in relative laymans' terms, to s.19 costs applications. Now, I'm not by any means suggesting that OP should be seeking to make such an application themselves - indeed there are fewer that GTR could be held liable for, if OP doesn't have this all done by a solicitor.

It's just some background information so that OP can have some idea of what sort of costs they might be able to recover from GTR, given the entirely unfounded nature of this prosecution.
 
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some bloke

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It merely provides that the Penalty Fare must be refunded if a prosecution nevertheless follows. That doesn't mean that any such prosecution isn't in breach of the out-of-court settlement that a paid-up PF constitutes.
I'm not clear how it would be a breach of an out-of-court settlement if the settlement included no implied or explicit commitment that there will be no criminal prosecution. Acceptance by the company of a penalty fare isn't accompanied by that commitment.

The argument would face the objection that the regulations do envisage prosecution after the payment. So it isn't straightforward, and @AsherImran doesn't need it in the normal course of events if there was an appeal decision.
 

AsherImran

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Apologies for the late reply. And I can’t thank you all enough for your valuable comments and replies.

I appealed using their online form. Please see below the decision:

1ED2FFE3-A8DB-4D65-AECF-CF24E6B5EA89.jpeg99952207-1500-4D43-A6B3-E5C8074B2428.jpeg
And as I had already paid the penalty fare, I took it as “matter closed” for me.

But then when I got a letter the next month to pay penalty fare and additional admin cost. I wrote an email to their appeals service again to which I got the following reply:
315F0484-605B-4E8B-A6EC-E4187DE1EFC0.jpeg
 

some bloke

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when I got a letter the next month to pay penalty fare and additional admin cost. I wrote an email to their appeals service again
Do you mean you got a letter from the train company or their agent asking for the money, but didn't reply to them? The letter from the appeals service is just saying their involvement is over, not that they accept you paid.
 
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AsherImran

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Do you mean you got a letter from the train company asking for the money, but didn't reply to them? The letter from the appeals service is just saying their involvement is over, not that they accept you paid.
Hi @some bloke

Yes of course after getting this reply, I called first the number they gave on the letter on how to pay the penalty; it was a paid number and perhaps it was COVID-19 peak time as well and I was put on hold for ages first Before getting disconnected so then I ended up writing a letter to them explaining the whole matter, but that was only followed by the SJPN Earlier this month; on receiving which I wrote a letter to their prosecution manager as well on 9 July.
 

ForTheLoveOf

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I'm not clear how it would be a breach of an out-of-court settlement if the settlement included no implied or explicit commitment that there will be no criminal prosecution. Acceptance by the company of a penalty fare isn't accompanied by that commitment.

The argument would face the objection that the regulations do envisage prosecution after the payment. So it isn't straightforward, and @AsherImran doesn't need it in the normal course of events if there was an appeal decision.
It's not the first argument you'd rely on, sure, but TOCs have discretion over whether they issue a Penalty Fare or handle the situation in another way. By deciding to issue a Penalty Fare, if that is paid (or successfully appealed), that is the end of the matter.

This is like the argument that train times aren't binding because it doesn't explicitly say so in the NRCoT. It is to be implied from context that payment of a Penalty Fare constitutes a binding out of Court settlement. The only circumstances in which such a settlement can be reopened is if there is some form of undisclosed fraud. The Regulations simply clarify that the Penalty Fare must be repaid if the matter is reopened for such a reason, otherwise the TOC could argue that they don't need to do so.

The particular relevance of this argument to OP is that bringing a prosecution in spite of the out-of-court settlement that was reached constitutes a breach of contract. It thus provides an easier avenue for claiming costs and damages, without having to meet the high evidential bar to prove a malicious or other ill-conceived prosecution. In a sense it makes it a strict liability matter for the the incident to be prosecuted - regardless of intentions, if the TOC prosecutes despite the settlement, they are liable.
 
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some bloke

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It's not the first argument you'd rely on, sure, but TOCs have discretion over whether they issue a Penalty Fare or handle the situation in another way. By deciding to issue a Penalty Fare, if that is paid (or successfully appealed), that is the end of the matter.

This is like the argument that train times aren't binding because it doesn't explicitly say so in the NRCoT. It is to be implied from the context that payment of a Penalty Fare constitutes a binding out of Court settlement. The only circumstances in which such a settlement can be reopened is if there is some form of fraud.
I'm afraid I don't think the argument is useful or necessary to @AsherImran. The regulations envisage prosecution after payment. A train company can argue that the regulations wouldn't include that part if penalty fares entailed a binding commitment not to prosecute.
 

najaB

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It is to be implied from the context that payment of a Penalty Fare constitutes a binding out of Court settlement.
I don't think anything needs to be inferred. The Penalty Fares legislation says as much:
Penalty fares and criminal offences
11.—(1) A person who has been charged a penalty fare under regulation 5(1) is not liable to pay where proceedings for any of the offences specified in paragraph (4) are also brought against that person in relation to the same failure to produce a platform ticket or a valid travel ticket which gave rise to that penalty fare.

(2) If a person to whom paragraph (1) applies has paid the penalty fare, or part of it, the operator on whose behalf the penalty fare was charged must refund that person the amount paid within the period of 10 working days, beginning with the day on which proceedings are brought.
They can't charge a penalty fare and also file charges for the same incident.
 

tspaul26

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I'm afraid I don't think the argument is useful or necessary to @AsherImran. The regulations envisage prosecution after payment. A train company can argue that the regulations wouldn't include that part if penalty fares entailed a binding commitment not to prosecute.
An argument could potentially be founded on NRCOT n.9.2.

Regardless of that, the appeal decision dated 26 February, 2020, seems fairly definitive on the broader point and is the relevant cut-off as far as GTR is concerned.
 
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ForTheLoveOf

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I'm afraid I don't think the argument is useful or necessary to @AsherImran. The regulations envisage prosecution after payment. A train company can argue that the regulations wouldn't include that part if penalty fares entailed a binding commitment not to prosecute.
They envisage the possibility for cases of fraud and the like. If TOCs could decide to prosecute even after payment of a Penalty Fare, simply on a whim, that would make them a complete waste of time.

NRCoT 9.2 sets out pretty clearly that the TOCs agree only to go down the path of one of the sanctions available to them.

Edit: snap
 

some bloke

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They envisage the possibility for cases of fraud and the like.
The regulations list the legislation in 11(4); these are normal railway offences.

As I said above, they would be breaching Regulation 11(2) by not refunding, if they chose to prosecute.

If they fail to refund, would a breach of contract under condition 9.2 necessarily mean they are barred from prosecuting, or just liable for the refund?

Hopefully @AsherImran won't need the argument.

the appeal decision dated 26 February, 2020, seems fairly definitive on the broader point and is the relevant cut-off as far as GTR is concerned.
Yes. The demand for money was after the appeal decision. Apart from anything else, it might be unlikely that they told the appeal panel the penalty fare had been cancelled, and then demanded the money.
 

furlong

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(For the side-discussion, not the OP: You can also pull in general abuse of process arguments - pretty much the only circumstances when a PF could be revoked in favour of a prosecution are those when the company discovers new information it didn't have at the time the PF was issued which would have led to it not issuing that precise PF notice. An example might be a discovery that the passenger lied about their station origin. Imagine that such a passenger appeals that the notice was invalid because the origin on it was wrong, because they lied, and the company has no way to disprove this. Their appeal would have to be upheld under the rules, so instead the company has a provision to allow it to withdraw the notice before the appeal is decided and prosecute instead, and this would almost certainly not then be considered an abuse of process I'd have thought.)
 

hkstudent

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I did however appeal the penalty fare and requested it be refunded to me, as I thought it was unfair however my appeal was rejected by the Train company and that was the end of the matter for me. But perhaps I shouldn’t have done that as what happened next was I got a notice of penalty fare multiplied now stating that since I had not paid the penalty fare I now need to pay £20 plus another £20. I was quite certain it was a mistake so I replied to them stating the whole thing however I never got a reply back
I am thinking whether GTR's PF system has failed to record OP's payment to penalty fare on spot, and caused such chaos.
 

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