Prosecution for giving incorrect origin station

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M74041

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Hi there,

I know there are lots of these friends, but I can't find one quite like my situation and wondered if anyone could help or had been in a similar situation..

I have just had a letter from Southeastern advising that they have provisional authorisation to prosecute me for fare evasion with details as follows:

I travelled from Rochester to Brixton and didn't buy a ticket. There is one machine at Rochester and was a massive queue that would have taken a good 20 minutes to get down meaning I'd miss 2 or 3 trains and be very late for work. Plus I was genuinely under the impression that you didn't have to wait for more than a 'reasonable' amount of time and could legally buy a ticket on the train. There is nearly always a conductor on that train, but on this day - sods law - there wasn't or I would have bought a ticket then.

Halfway through my journey I got a call from my boyfriend to tell me his sister had died. I was also very jetlagged (I got back from a longhaul flight the day before) and when I got off the train I wasn't really concentrating and told the inspector I came from Herne Hill (boyfriend lives there, usually I travel from there and it was just force of habit coupled with exhaustion and being more concerned about the conversation I just had). Anyway, he started writing in his notebook and said something about he thought I had come from Orpington and was going to charge me £100 to check CCTV at Orpington. I said I travel from Herne Hill coz of my boyfriend. Then I remembered in fact I had not actually travelled from Herne Hill that day and corrected myself apologising and explaining I was very jetlagged and my mind was elsewhere. I wasn't 'found out' - I told him where I'd come from immediately when I realised I'd said the wrong place. I can see it sounds daft, but surely people do make genuine mistakes like that? Plus I really do never travel from Rochester usually - it was just because I'd come back from travelling and was staying with my mum whilst finding a new place in London. I normally travel everywhere on my oyster card and don't have to worry about tickets!

Anyway, I realise I'll have to just pay up for a hefty fine (even though I did my best to explain myself) but what concerns me is if I'll be able to settle out of court or not? Do they generally allow this? I have a job where I'd risk being barred for a 'dishonesty offence' and it seems incredibly harsh under the circumstances. I would understand if I had actually tried to get away with paying the cheaper fare, but in fact I corrected myself before any of that and he had already started writing in his notebook before even cautioning me. When he read back what was written I said I didn't think it was a fair detail of what had happened and I didn't want to sign it but the inspector said (quote) 'if you don't sign it you'll get a criminal record and everything will get a whole lot worse for you'. So I ended up panicking and signing it anyway despite objecting to what was written - surely that isn't fair? The police were actually pretty understanding and said that they doubted anything would come of it, but the inspector was a bully, had me in tears, laughed in my face when I told him I'd had bad news and was exhausted from jetlag and said things like 'you're a liar', 'I see people like you everyday' and that my day was 'about to get a whole lot worse' which I think is especially cruel considering the news I'd just had.

I've never had any trouble with police or railways before and always pay my fare (sometimes on the train, but generally I buy the tickets at the machine). Given that I'm not a 'serial offender' and did my best to put the situation right, do you think they will allow an out of court settlement? Has anyone done that before?
 
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LexyBoy

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Welcome to the forum. Could you let us know the exact wording of the offence that Southeastern have written to you about?

In general TOCs will accept an out of court settlement for a first offence, and there are people on here who will be able to assist with proof-reading your letter offering such a settlement. I would not advise even attempting to explain your situation - you have admitted guilt for at least one offence* - but rather try and avoid it going to court.

However true your description of the circumstances around the indident may be, Southeastern's prosecutions department won't care one way or the other - and there will most likely be posts here picking your story apart in the same way Southeastern would.

Yes, the laws surrounding the railways are very harsh and can lead to prosecution for honest mistakes - especially when you made several mistakes including one which looks very much like deliberately trying to avoid the fare.

* Byelaw 18(1) and 18(2) make it an offence to board a train without a ticket, and to fail to present a ticket to an inspector respectively. No excuses are allowed - TOCs passenger charters state a "minimum waiting time" for purchasing a ticket, but this is just fluff which has no legal clout.
 
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Clip

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As lexyboy has said try and avoid it going to court. The one thing that I picked up on immediately was your assumption that it would have taken the queue at the ticket machine 20 mins to go down? How would you know what type of tickets people would be purchasing? The most popular tickets sold at TVMS down there are on the first screen for ease and speed of selling such tickets - mainly travelcards and local destinations.
Also when did you actually travel? Why wasnt the booking office open? was it a sunday?
 

M74041

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Oh well. I already sent the letter so I guess that's that then. I do think it is a pity more time is spent putting people like me through court rather than Brixton's actual criminals, but that's another story.

I've offered to settle out of court so hopefully they'll take that. If the police made you sign a caution that you didn't agree with through threats they'd get in serious trouble. Shame that revenue protection are allowed to behave in such a draconian and disproportionate manner.

Thanks anyway.
 

CNash

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Anyway, I realise I'll have to just pay up for a hefty fine (even though I did my best to explain myself) but what concerns me is if I'll be able to settle out of court or not? Do they generally allow this? I have a job where I'd risk being barred for a 'dishonesty offence' and it seems incredibly harsh under the circumstances.

This is my problem with the state of the system as it is today - that due to a misunderstanding on the railways, someone's job could be on the line. Having to answer to an RPI is a discomforting and often unexpected experience; customers often don't understand that everything they say, no matter how innocuous, will be noted down and later used to incriminate them, and so they don't know to be careful of what they say. It doesn't help that the RPI will be pressuring them into answering, threatening (as in this case) a criminal record, and as such it's difficult to keep a level head and think things through properly before saying anything.

Rant over - but here's a question: does the TOC here have to prove that the OP intended to evade the fare? Obviously Byelaw 17 is strict liability, but if they can't prove intent, surely the most they can stick her with is a PFN?
 

M74041

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As lexyboy has said try and avoid it going to court. The one thing that I picked up on immediately was your assumption that it would have taken the queue at the ticket machine 20 mins to go down? How would you know what type of tickets people would be purchasing? The most popular tickets sold at TVMS down there are on the first screen for ease and speed of selling such tickets - mainly travelcards and local destinations.
Also when did you actually travel? Why wasnt the booking office open? was it a sunday?

With regards to this, I've waited many times at Rochester to buy tickets and it takes forever. I can use a ticket machine very quickly, but the vast majority of people fumble around there for ages. Especially tourists and there are plenty of tourists in Rochester. I had read that you only have to ever wait a 'reasonable time' which apparently is no more than about 10 minutes (it was an article from the Metro a while back) and that you are then justified in buying a ticket on the train or at the other end. Considering how much conflicting information there is, it is pretty confusing. In light of that, I also don't think I made several mistakes at all. I made one which was saying Herne Hill - I then corrected myself and tried repeatedly to pay. I wasn't properly cautioned until after he questioned me and at no point was I told I didn't have to stay with him. It seems quite unprofessional in hindsight - at the time I was just panicked and upset.

I know it looks bad and I'm quite sure they won't be sympathetic I just wondered what the odds are on settling out of court as it's my 'first (and last!) offence'... I'm past caring about the money or the injustice of it, I just don't want to lose my career and everything I have worked toward over a railway ticket that costs about £15!!
 

Clip

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Oh well. I already sent the letter so I guess that's that then. I do think it is a pity more time is spent putting people like me through court rather than Brixton's actual criminals, but that's another story.

.
Why should Southeastern spend time on the criminals of Brixton? Thats a bit of a silly statement IMO.

With regards to this, I've waited many times at Rochester to buy tickets and it takes forever. I can use a ticket machine very quickly, but the vast majority of people fumble around there for ages. Especially tourists and there are plenty of tourists in Rochester. I had read that you only have to ever wait a 'reasonable time' which apparently is no more than about 10 minutes (it was an article from the Metro a while back) and that you are then justified in buying a ticket on the train or at the other end. Considering how much conflicting information there is, it is pretty confusing. In light of that, I also don't think I made several mistakes at all. I made one which was saying Herne Hill - I then corrected myself and tried repeatedly to pay. I wasn't properly cautioned until after he questioned me and at no point was I told I didn't have to stay with him. It seems quite unprofessional in hindsight - at the time I was just panicked and upset.

I know it looks bad and I'm quite sure they won't be sympathetic I just wondered what the odds are on settling out of court as it's my 'first (and last!) offence'... I'm past caring about the money or the injustice of it, I just don't want to lose my career and everything I have worked toward over a railway ticket that costs about £15!!

But there is nothing laid down in binding contract that states what 'a reasonable time' is so its all subjective. 10 mins at a quiet rural station would be excessive but at a busy commuter station is 10 mins reasonable? But you should never assume anything and you have basically made a judgement call yourself without any waiting around at all from your OP.

Also you never said which day it was and why the booking office window wasnt open.
 

RJ

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This is my problem with the state of the system as it is today - that due to a misunderstanding on the railways, someone's job could be on the line. Having to answer to an RPI is a discomforting and often unexpected experience; customers often don't understand that everything they say, no matter how innocuous, will be noted down and later used to incriminate them, and so they don't know to be careful of what they say. It doesn't help that the RPI will be pressuring them into answering, threatening (as in this case) a criminal record, and as such it's difficult to keep a level head and think things through properly before saying anything.

Rant over - but here's a question: does the TOC here have to prove that the OP intended to evade the fare? Obviously Byelaw 17 is strict liability, but if they can't prove intent, surely the most they can stick her with is a PFN?

What misunderstanding? Someone decides to tell a ticket inspector that they got on at the previous stop on the line, when they actually travelled from dozens of miles away, plus had an opportunity to pay the fare at the station they actually started at. Next you'll be telling us that Southeastern shouldn't bother collecting fares at all!

The whole point of RPIs is to catch people out who don't feel that paying for a ticket for their whole journey is a priority when travelling by train. I'm local to the area and happen to know that Brixton is unbarriered and has limited staffing hours, plus it's not common to see the RPIs out and about, which is why people don't feel that getting a ticket as soon as possible is important. FCC aren't having it from people any more and I wonder how much more the present system of trust has to be abused before other TOCs start adopting a similar stance.
 
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yorkie

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Rant over - but here's a question: does the TOC here have to prove that the OP intended to evade the fare? Obviously Byelaw 17 is strict liability, but if they can't prove intent, surely the most they can stick her with is a PFN?
As documented in recent threads, intent must be proven for a Regulation of Railways Act offence, which is recordable. Intent does not need to be proven for a strict liability Railway Byelaw offence. In both cases, the result would be a fine, albeit lower for the byelaw offence.

Many passengers who are faced with prosecution, with no previous record, are able to successfully negotiate an out of court settlement.
 

CNash

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You missed the part where the OP said that she only said she'd travelled from Herne Hill out of habit, exacerbated by her personal circumstances at the time, and then corrected herself. Must the RPI take her first answer as binding? Can he prove that she didn't travel from Rochester? As I understand it, the RPI has interpreted her slip as evidence of guilt, and that's why she's being prosecuted for fare evasion - because the RPI thought that she was deliberately lying.
 
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M74041

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In response to the various questions and points:

- why was station closed at Rochester. No idea. It often is but I don't write the rotas so can't be held responsible for it really.

- when I got off the train there were about 15 police officers there. I don't care about inspectors but 15 police officers would be better off arresting the various drug dealers who hang around just outside the station

- I don't appreciate the assumption I get off at Brixton because there are no barriers. I get off there Becase unfortunately I work there. As stated I usually travel from Hearn Hill on my oyster card (this was even checked at the time)

- thank you to the person who has answered my actual question about the possibility of out of court settlement - useful to know.
 

RJ

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How many opportunities did you actually have to buy a ticket? I could well be wrong but there are very few, if any, direct trains from Rochester to Brixton so if there was a change of trains involved, was any effort made to buy a ticket at the intermediate station?

This information is important in determining how strong any application for appeal or lenience is going to be.
 

M74041

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Thank you too to CNash for the point about intent. I did correct myself so thought that would be ok. You live you learn!
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
They stopped me when I got off at Brixton. As previously stated I offered to pay and wasn't allowed. I didn't pass the ticket office. I also have said that I expected a ticket inspector to come round on the train. My connection at BS is about 2 mins after the train gets in. The whole reason I didn't get a ticket was because I was late and therefore missing the connection would make me later. There actually is a man at Brixton station
Where I could have bought a ticket and he watches people swipe out. It's not
Unmanned.
 

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In response to the various questions and points:

- why was station closed at Rochester. No idea. It often is but I don't write the rotas so can't be held responsible for it really.

- when I got off the train there were about 15 police officers there. I don't care about inspectors but 15 police officers would be better off arresting the various drug dealers who hang around just outside the station

So the booking office was closed then - something you negated to add in your OP. Though it is your responsibility to purchase a ticket before you travel but from what you have written you haven't even attempted that. You took it on your own shoulders to not even try to purchase a ticket from the TVM at Rochester.

Were they regular police officers or were they British Transport Police officers? If it was the latter then they generally deal with railway related issue and not the riff raff on the streets.
 

RJ

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Thank you too to CNash for the point about intent. I did correct myself so thought that would be ok. You live you learn!
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
They stopped me when I got off at Brixton. As previously stated I offered to pay and wasn't allowed. I didn't pass the ticket office. I also have said that I expected a ticket inspector to come round on the train. My connection at BS is about 2 mins after the train gets in. The whole reason I didn't get a ticket was because I was late and therefore missing the connection would make me later. There actually is a man at Brixton station
Where I could have bought a ticket and he watches people swipe out. It's not
Unmanned.

Ok, so let me get this straight.

I can deduce from what you wrote that you travelled from Rochester and changed trains at Bromley South, passing up the opportunity to buy tickets at both stations because you were running late and in a hurry, but intended to pay the fare at Brixton, regardless of whether or not there was a long queue there too.

When you got to Brixton, there was a revenue blockade on the platform. The first thing you said to the inspector was that you came from Herne Hill. He then said something about Orpington, which is understandable as that's generally the furthest place services through Brixton come from. You then said a second time that you came from Herne Hill, but after you saw him writing in his notebook, you then corrected yourself and said that you had come from Rochester.

I'm sure that you knew it was wrong that you didn't pay at Rochester in the first place and didn't want a Penalty Fare for all that way, which is understandable. I'm sure that you came to your senses when you saw that the inspector was taking down notes of what you had told him with the police present as witnesses, rather than just let you buy a £1.90 ticket from Herne Hill.

To be honest, I feel that it would be a very easy prosecution for Southeastern and I don't agree with the above posts that they would retrospectively issue a Penalty Fare.

The best you can hope for is for them to accept an out of court settlement which covers their costs, plus the full fare that you were supposed to pay on the day, in addition to apologising profusely for your actions on the day and highlighting that it was your first offence. It's probably best not to mention irrelevant things like the inspector's attitude, the ticket office queue at Rochester, hardended criminals on the streets of Brixton or other personal circumstances as they see excuses on a regular basis and would probably be less inclined to show any lenience.
 

Ferret

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RJ - it's amazing how the Inspector's attitude crops up. I for one am fed up of hearing it. And I'd wager Prosecution Departments are too. I suspect the only reason his 'attitude' is being mentioned is because he wouldn't let the OP off. And that's a view I'd expect a seasoned Prosecutor to take as well - so take my advice and leave that out of any correspondance.

I also agree that this is quite a simple matter for SET if it goes to court. The excuses offered simply won't wash, and there's probably enough evidence for an s.5 RoRA prosecution if the train company so desire. Therefore, I second the advice to settle out of Court, stressing it's a first offence.
 

cuccir

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RJ - it's amazing how the Inspector's attitude crops up. I for one am fed up of hearing it. And I'd wager Prosecution Departments are too. I suspect the only reason his 'attitude' is being mentioned is because he wouldn't let the OP off. And that's a view I'd expect a seasoned Prosecutor to take as well - so take my advice and leave that out of any correspondance.

I also agree that this is quite a simple matter for SET if it goes to court. The excuses offered simply won't wash, and there's probably enough evidence for an s.5 RoRA prosecution if the train company so desire. Therefore, I second the advice to settle out of Court, stressing it's a first offence.

Of course IF the OP's statements are correct- laughing and mocking from the RPI - then that's also unacceptable. But I think Ferret and RJ accurately reflect how Southeastern's prosecutions department will view this case. I'd support their advice as the easiest route for the original poster, even if the RPI was rude.
 

M74041

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For the last time, my question was not whether what I did constituted a prosecutable offence, evidently it does because I am being prosecuted and as stated repeatedly I'm aware now that I should have bought a ticket before.

I also know there is a possibility of settling out of court. If you read the actual post my question was how likely this was and whether people had had similar circumstances. You can have a go at me all you like about complaining about the inspectors attitude but frankly being threatened into signing a caution you have refused to sign is not allowed by police (it's duress blatantly) and is not appropriate by rail staff either. Similarly when I have been regularly told by STAFF on the train that purchasing the ticket on the train is fine I'm hardly to assume otherwise.

Thank you to those who have attempted to answer my question. But the pure contempt of this site is so much so that it rather negates the positives.

Compassion and apparently logic are clearly dead.

Enjoy your soapboxes folks. I'm out!
 
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