Paid penalty fare for an honest mistake still being charged

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some bloke

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I am thinking whether GTR's PF system has failed to record OP's payment to penalty fare on spot, and caused such chaos.
It isn't clear that @AsherImran replied to the company's demand for money. It would be good to see all the paperwork/correspondence.

At the moment there is the option of asking the company to disclose its evidence. Perhaps there's some mileage there either in letting them see them the problems in their approach, or in finding out how this mess came about if that's of interest.
 

ForTheLoveOf

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The regulations list the legislation in 11(4); these are normal railway offences.
I was referring more to fraud in terms of the information given to the TOC - e.g. false origin station details as alluded to by @furlong. Such false information could naturally give rise to a prosecution for any number of railway offences.

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?
Breach of a contract in which it is promised not to prosecute could give rise to abuse of process concerns. Whether or not such concerns were substantiated and accepted, the TOC would be liable for any and all resultant losses. This would include the imposed fine and costs etc., as well as a general sum in recognition of the damage to reputation, employability etc. from having a "wrongful" criminal conviction.
 

some bloke

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(in side-discussion)
Such false information could naturally give rise to a prosecution for any number of railway offences.
Yes. Arguably, that's one reason why the regulations shouldn't bar prosecution just because of a failure to refund. It could be argued that the drafters of the regulations were sensibly protecting the public interest in prioritising the right to prosecute over the refund (see below).
Breach of a contract in which it is promised not to prosecute could give rise to abuse of process concerns.
Yes, if there is a specific promise. I don't think the regulations provide this, because "if you prosecute you must refund" doesn't necessarily mean "if you don't refund you can't prosecute".

Raising an argument in this area might be a bit of an advanced topic for magistrates who aren't required to be qualified lawyers, and aren't supposed to devote a lot of time to the meaning of the law.

In this instance the abuse might arise from an appeal decision implying the promise. Someone who knew the rules and received an appeal decision would reasonably infer that they couldn't be prosecuted.

So even if the company told the panel in time that they had cancelled the penalty fare, we might expect the court to take a dim view of their continuing to prosecute.

There doesn't seem any particular reason for them to cancel the penalty fare, and perhaps @AsherImran can cover the possibility with something to the effect of "in the normal course of events the appeal decision bars prosecution".
 

Tetchytyke

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Yes, if there is a specific promise. I don't think the regulations provide this, because "if you prosecute you must refund" doesn't necessarily mean "if you don't refund you can't prosecute".
You read both sections in combination. You can't prosecute if a PF has been charged and paid. If you change your mind about charging the PF, you must refund it.

Also remember that a PF serves as a valid ticket to the next station stop. So if a PF has been charged and paid, the passenger has a valid ticket. Ergo, if you don't cancel it and refund it, you can't bring proceedings.

In any case, the OP's prosecution appears to be based on the fact GTR think he didn't pay, when their own paperwork shows that he did. A staggering level of incompetence and yet more evidence that TOCs should not be allowed to bring their own prosecutions. It's really basic stuff. Who's running GTR prosecutions, a toddler?

I would suggest the OP considers bringing this to media attention.
 

najaB

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A staggering level of incompetence and yet more evidence that TOCs should not be allowed to bring their own prosecutions.
Because, of course, the CPS has never had a case fall apart because the evidence didn't support the charges.
 

Tetchytyke

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Because, of course, the CPS has never had a case fall apart because the evidence didn't support the charges.
There's a difference between "evidence not supporting the charges" and issuing proceedings for non-payment of a PF using, as evidence, a PF that *specifically states it was paid*.

It's not complicated, a 5yo could comprehend that it had been paid.
 
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some bloke

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(in side-discussion)

You can't prosecute if a PF has been charged and paid. If you change your mind about charging the PF, you must refund it.
You must refund it in order not to breach the regulations. I think @AsherImran has enough without this discussion, because of the appeal decision. But to answer the point:

The regulations don't spell out that failure to refund bars prosecution. So what's being put forward is an interpretation. And I don't think it is straightforward. This is partly because the drafters could be regarded as sensible to allow a prosecution for a more serious offence (perhaps where new evidence arose) even if the company hadn't refunded. They could have spelt out the other interpretation, but they didn't. Maybe they didn't think of the eventuality, but it's still an interpretation.

a PF serves as a valid ticket to the next station stop. So if a PF has been charged and paid, the passenger has a valid ticket. Ergo, if you don't cancel it and refund it, you can't bring proceedings.
The offence is failing to produce a valid ticket - meaning at the time of challenge.
 

najaB

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There's a difference between "evidence not supporting the charges" and issuing proceedings for non-payment of a PF using, as evidence, a PF that *specifically states it was paid*.

It's not complicated, a 5yo could comprehend that it had been paid.
It's exactly the same. It's almost certain that the TOC's copy of the PF was not attached to the file when it reached the prosecutions department. In the same way, the CPS has had cases fall apart because they lost evidence.
 

ForTheLoveOf

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The regulations don't spell out that failure to refund bars prosecution.
This isn't actually what I was suggesting. I was merely pointing out that the fact that the Regulations provide for such a possibility, doesn't mean that it is automatically the right of the TOC to cancel and refund a Penalty Fare. Penalty Fares are inherently a form of binding out of court settlement, which can only be reopened if there is new evidence that comes to light that the passenger lied about. That is what must be implied from the circumstances.

I will leave the side discussion at that, because the OP already has several other winning arguments against this ill-founded prosecution. Ultimately this is just something they can bring up with their solicitor as a potential head of claim against the TOC.
 

SteveM70

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It's almost certain that the TOC's copy of the PF was not attached to the file when it reached the prosecutions department
Well it bloody well should be!

Surely the most basic, fundamental task of a competent prosecutions department is a check of the actual evidence?
 

najaB

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Surely the most basic, fundamental task of a competent prosecutions department is a check of the actual evidence?
It is. But they can only check the evidence that they have, not the evidence that they don't. They also likely had copies of the letters that had been sent chasing up the (already paid) penalty fare. Absent any evidence that the PF was paid, they concluded that it had not been, as per the statement of facts.
 

ForTheLoveOf

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Well it bloody well should be!

Surely the most basic, fundamental task of a competent prosecutions department is a check of the actual evidence?
Indeed, but one imagines that the actual PF itself was considered ancillary evidence that didn't need to be looked at before issuing the SJPN. Instead the basis of the matter being brought to the prosecution department's attention was probably the database record purporting to show the PF as unpaid, together with the RPI's witness statement claiming such.

Of course the flaw in this process is that the witness statements from the RPIs are completely proforma template based, and don't tend to be have any relation to the incident except for a brief description of the time, date and location, and the appearance of the passenger.

In other words a sausage factory production line process is used without any proper oversight or care, which enables things like this to go so utterly wrong. Unfortunately it will be a very difficult task to change these kind of procedures.
 

Tetchytyke

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But they can only check the evidence that they have, not the evidence that they don't.
You can't prosecute for non-payment of a PF if you don't know why the PF was issued, by whom, or where it was issued. So you need to see the PF, to see why it was issued, by whom, where and when. And someone with the reading age of a 6 year old can see this PF was paid there and then.

No excuses for this one at all.

I would also want to know why the RPI is writing out a witness statement that they know, or should reasonably know, to be false. Lying on a witness statement is an interesting attitude to take. It screams perjury to my untrained eye.
 

SteveM70

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You can't prosecute for non-payment of a PF if you don't know why the PF was issued, by whom, or where it was issued. So you need to see the PF, to see why it was issued, by whom, where and when. And someone with the reading age of a 6 year old can see this PF was paid there and then.

No excuses for this one at all.

I would also want to know why the RPI is writing out a witness statement that they know, or should reasonably know, to be false. Lying on a witness statement is an interesting attitude to take. It screams perjury to my untrained eye.
Exactly
 

ForTheLoveOf

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You can't prosecute for non-payment of a PF if you don't know why the PF was issued, by whom, or where it was issued. So you need to see the PF, to see why it was issued, by whom, where and when. And someone with the reading age of a 6 year old can see this PF was paid there and then.

No excuses for this one at all.

I would also want to know why the RPI is writing out a witness statement that they know, or should reasonably know, to be false. Lying on a witness statement is an interesting attitude to take. It screams perjury to my untrained eye.
Unfortunately we all know that perjury convictions are exceedingly difficult to come by, because a significant amount of leeway is made for "honest mistakes". The RPI might say they were overloaded with work and mixed up different cases, or that they were simply following standard practice (whether endorsed by the company or de facto).

Isn't it funny how such a fatal error, wasting significant amounts of everyone's time and causing the defendant a lot of stress (and potentially financial loss) almost always goes unpunished. But lo and behold the passenger dares to pay a penny less than they should, or even make an honest mistake themselves, and it's off to Court...
 

DJ_K666

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Even with My own untrained eye I can see this shows it as paid. If you also have a bank statement showing it at that time and on that date as well.

I hope this gets thrown out. Perhaps the OP ought to speak to a solicitor and either get it overturned or attend court with the PF notice showing it as having been paid and basically show them up in front of the court. I know which I would prefer. Also call the RPI as a witness for good measure and maybe ask him why he committed perjury. Definitely go for damages and costs.
 

some bloke

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I ended up writing a letter to them
Thank you for this and the uploads - so after the demand, you wrote to the company as well as the appeal service. It may be helpful if you upload photos/text of the letters you wrote, as well as the other material (with identifying details removed as you have done).

As the company is in a weak position, what are your priorities - for example to end the criminal case quickly, seek compensation and/or take action which might mean they behave better in future? As you say you've been worried (unsurprisingly), does that mean you would prefer to get the case dropped soon rather than force the company to admit its failings in court?
 

Wolfie

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Even with My own untrained eye I can see this shows it as paid. If you also have a bank statement showing it at that time and on that date as well.

I hope this gets thrown out. Perhaps the OP ought to speak to a solicitor and either get it overturned or attend court with the PF notice showing it as having been paid and basically show them up in front of the court. I know which I would prefer. Also call the RPI as a witness for good measure and maybe ask him why he committed perjury. Definitely go for damages and costs.
Yup, making sure that the media are made aware in advance and perhaps invite your MP to attend the hearing. A vile, incompetent, money grabbing company that deserves to be utterly shafted and humiliated. Hopefully some heads will roll...
 

some bloke

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If you want to get the case dropped tomorrow, it may be relatively straightforward - though you might need persistence.

Just the image of the receipt, with "Prosecutions Case" and saying the amount has been paid, is persuasive. Add in the appeal decision which normally bars prosecution, and it's hard to see why they could reasonably delay beyond the end of Monday in dropping the case.

With another company, I wanted to find the prosecution department phone number.
I called GA Customer Services and after an initial response that the prosecution department aren't operating, was given this number:
They also put me through to the prosecution department.

A determined/worried person might use Twitter, keep phoning managers in the company, and so on.

This case is so crazy that London Travelwatch may take an interest - you could phone or email them:


It's possible that even if you wanted to you wouldn't be able to keep the case going all the way to court, because they may drop it when they read your letters/get past their embarrassment/read this thread.
 

swt_passenger

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This might be a bit of a sidetrack, (so apologies), but presumably some clerical person must copy the details from the PF form into a database?

My question is, looking at the PF form in post #6, why does the bottom left section “You must pay the outstanding amount by (date)......” even have a date entered?

Surely whenever a PF is paid at the time that line must be left blank, or maybe marked NA, by the revenue staff?
 
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some bloke

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They might drop the case and confirm by email while you're on the phone, depending on how easily they can find the records.

On how to get the phone number, I think I said to GA Customer Services something like,
"Would it be possible for you to ask the prosecutions department to call the person back? It's just a simple fact about the case that they need to know".
If I remember right, it was then that he put me through without me asking (I'd been persistent, but friendly).

If you get in touch with them, you can give a deadline; eg in an email: "As this appears to be a simple matter of checking the records, please let me know the case has been dropped by 2pm today".

You could also email the appeals service.

....................

"I am being prosecuted by GTR for failing to produce a valid ticket (Notice/Prosecution number xxxxx) despite having already received a penalty fare appeal decison (Appeal number xxxxx). As you will be aware, such a prosecution is normally barred by the Penalty Fare Regulations 2018.

[Not necessary but may add atmosphere:] I attach an image of the penalty fare receipt.

Please confirm:
a) whether you informed GTR there had been an appeal decision
and
b) whether GTR informed you before the decision that the penalty fare had been cancelled.

I would be grateful if you could contact GTR today to ensure they are aware of the position."


....................


When you send emails, you could say you are copying them to GTR/the Appeals Service/London Travelwatch.

These are suggestions if you want to get it over with quickly, as you said you were worried.

kicking myself I should’ve paid whatever they asked for again and should've got it done with.
It's completely their fault. There was no good reason to pay again, and I think it's very understandable that we would have an instinct not to.
 
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AsherImran

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I wrote the original post at 3am as I couldn't sleep thinking about this and I was supposed to leave in the afternoon for some time off with my wife and kids (kids were so excited as it was our first weekend away since the whole COV19 craziness started). And while driving to our destination, my wife was checking the replies on this thread on her phone and kept reading it loud to me; that is how much worried we were.

They might drop the case and confirm by email while you're on the phone, depending on how easily they can find the records.
And today when we got back; after reading the whole thread again and this; we feel so much better now. I owe my gratitude and thanks to all of you. Thanks for taking time for your replies and comments.

As the company is in a weak position, what are your priorities - for example to end the criminal case quickly, seek compensation and/or take action which might mean they behave better in future? As you say you've been worried (unsurprisingly), does that mean you would prefer to get the case dropped soon rather than force the company to admit its failings in court?
My top priority (only priority before posting this thread) is to get the case dropped as quickly as possible as I am an IT contractor and sometimes I need to get an SC clearance as well before I am given a contract; so having just a chance of getting a criminal conviction makes me nervous. Also if it goes to trial (which I was sure it will before posting the thread), any days off is loss of income for me. Especially when I just got some work back again now the situation with Cov19 is a bit better, as there wasn't much Gov's financial help available for contractors like me.

And although during the last six months my health has been on the downhill as well, and my doctor's opinion is that my condition is aggravated with stress. And although a lot more factors like getting out of work, and then working from home on time critical and real time systems are the reasons, this case has definitely not helped my situation.

So I will be really happy if I could get this dropped quickly; however if bringing it to twitter/media's attention and/or travelwatch helps me and anyone else facing the similar in the future. I will most certainly be up for it and can do it today.

@some bloke Thanks for your replies and advice, I will try to get their phone number tomorrow and will write to the appeals service as well using your template.

Thank you for this and the uploads - so after the demand, you wrote to the company as well as the appeal service. It may be helpful if you upload photos/text of the letters you wrote, as well as the other material (with identifying details removed as you have done).
My letters had mostly the same text as the one in my original post here. Please see below along with some additional material including witness statement and PF in a bit better resolution.

PF-Receipt.JPGWitnessStarement.JPGNotice-8th-July.JPGCertOfServiceGovia.JPGLetterToProsecutionsDepartment.JPGBankTransaction.JPG
 

some bloke

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Thank you. The communications can be brief. Emails can have an eye-catching subject line, such as "For immediate attention of Mx Xxxx/Prosecutions Department Manager" or "Prosecution seems based on error: Please respond by 3/8/20".

................


The text could be for example,


"Prosecution seems based on error: Penalty Fare Notice xxxx

Please confirm that this prosecution has been dropped, by 2pm on Monday 3 August 2020.

The prosecution seems based on error.

1. Penalty Fare Appeal number xxxx in this case was decided on the xx.xx.2020. I attach the appeal decision. Normally this means the prosecution is barred under the Penalty Fare Regulations.

2. The attached image of the Penalty Fare receipt, which you sent me on xx.xx.2020, shows that it was paid at the time. All references to it being unpaid are incorrect.

My previous correspondence on xx.xx.2020 and xx.xx.2020 has not been answered.

As you will imagine, the situation has caused me and my family considerable stress. Please end this case immediately.

I can be reached on 07XXX XXXXX."

...................


The appeal service might reply faster if you leave out request (b) about cancellation of the PF. Otherwise they might spend time looking for correspondence. The possibility is covered by the word "normally".

Was your letter of 9 July to the GTR Prosecutions Department?


[Edit: Monday is 3 August]
 
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some bloke

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I've called GTR Customer Services. After a bit of discussion the man said that if you call them with the information and the department has delayed answering by a few weeks customer services will send an email through. You may find the best options to choose are 2 for Thameslink, later 0 and then 8. If you'll be available on the phone on Monday, maybe call today and ask CS to request that the department call you.
 

AsherImran

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I've called GTR Customer Services. After a bit of discussion the man said that if you call them with the information and the department has delayed answering by a few weeks customer services will send an email through. You may find the best options to choose are 2 for Thameslink, later 0 and then 8. If you'll be available on the phone on Monday, maybe call today and ask CS to request that the department call you.
Great. Many Thanks for this, I will call them now.
 

some bloke

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You can then write to CS and the department if you have the email address confirming what you discussed with CS on the phone.
 

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