Prosecution Letter - False Accusations

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leithg1987

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Hello!

I'm new to this forum, on the weekend I received a prosecution letter for traveling without a valid ticket and anti-social behaviour.

Here is the story -

I boarded a train from Adlington (Cheshire) – Cheadle Hulme on 25/04/2012. I got on the train at my usual stop Adlington (Cheshire) at 18.27. The station is an unmanned station; therefore I’m required to purchase a ticket on the train.

I was approached by the ticket conductor and showed my railcard asking for a ticket to Cheadle Hulme station under 16-25 young person’s discount. My railcard is valid until 21June11 and I have a receipt to validate this.

The conductor stated he could not read the date on the railcard (the year on the card had been smudged after wear of taking the card out of my wallet numerous times) and proceeded not to offer me the discount. I did explain that the railcard had been smudged and that it was definitely valid - holding a lighter under the card would actually have easily resolved the debate in order to show the date. However, he left to go to the other side of the train for some reason? (Thinking he was off to get a lighter) I stayed seated.

Eventually, the train arrived at Cheadle Hulme, I quickly rushed to the back of the train and found the conductor, and he refused to give me back my railcard because he thought I was trying to con him! I explained it was still valid and demanded for him to hand me the card back. He kept saying no....At this point I was tired of the arguing so I offered to just pay the full fare in order to get my card back. He still refused.

We argued outside the train as I continued to demand for the card back as this was still valid, I explained that I would report him for theft and he stated that in fact the card was National Rail's property, so he could confiscate it if he wished. I said that all he needs is a lighter and that a rail conductor had tried this before, he still refused. At this point I walked off in anger as I could see I was holding up the train.

A week after I sent an email to Northern Rail explaining the situation and my disgust at the way I was treated on the train, I received a reply 3 weeks later just asking for my address. I gave it to the customer relations officer and was told I would receive a letter in the post when their investigations were complete.

Lone behold, a week later I received a prosecutions letter, accusing me of anti-social behaviour and refusing to pay for a valid ticket! Both of which are entirely false.<(

Where do I stand and what should I do about the situation?

They have asked for my response to the matter, threatening to take me to court if I do not respond.
 
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sonic2009

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Welcome to the Forum.


I was approached by the ticket conductor and showed my railcard asking for a ticket to Cheadle Hulme station under 16-25 young person’s discount. My railcard is valid until 21June11 and I have a receipt to validate this.

I'm sure you mean 21 June 2012?

We argued outside the train as I continued to demand for the card back as this was still valid, I explained that I would report him for theft and he stated that in fact the card was National Rail's property.

If you see here.

Point 10 .The Railcard does not become your property and if requested must be handed in to a representative of any Train Company.

I'm sure other members will get in touch with you, and will offer advice and will be happy to draft letters to respond to Northern for you.
 

leithg1987

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Thanks for responding Sonic,

Yes it is valid until 21June2012....My mistake!

OK, but I have been accused of not intending to pay the full fare, when I offered to pay before leaving the train at Cheadle Hulme to resolve the situation.

I also asked if he would hand in the railcard at Manchester Piccadilly and after visiting the information office there, nothing had been handed in.

I have since got a replacement railcard, paying £5 to replace this, however I had to hand in my receipt for this and was not allowed it back as they only allow 1 reimbursement per railcard, will this affect my stance in anyway. Surely they keep the same railcard number for each railcard if I needed to prove my railcard was in fact valid?
 

185

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Assuming you are in the right, poor print quality is the railway's fault, not the passengers. Northern themselves have been issuing annual season tickets from their central sales unit of such a poor ticket stock print quality, many colleagues thought they were forgeries.

The black strip on the rear is readable by Conductor's Avantix ticket machines and will always prove or disprove whatever appears on the front. If it was me, and I had proof of purchase of a ticket valid until June 2012, I'd probably be condsidering legal action of my own, as Northern haven't investigated the facts properly.
 

CNash

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The text on the front of my own Y-P railcard is rapidly fading, and I haven't taken it out of the wallet provided since I bought it! It's good to know that the magstrip contains all the necessary data, just in case a guard tries to accuse me of waving around a blank piece of ticket stock... :)
 

Urban Gateline

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The text on the front of my own Y-P railcard is rapidly fading, and I haven't taken it out of the wallet provided since I bought it! It's good to know that the magstrip contains all the necessary data, just in case a guard tries to accuse me of waving around a blank piece of ticket stock... :)

However if you keep it near your phone you may well find that the magstripe data has been corrupted or totally eradicated! ;)
 

ANorthernGuard

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Thanks for responding Sonic,

Yes it is valid until 21June2012....My mistake!

OK, but I have been accused of not intending to pay the full fare, when I offered to pay before leaving the train at Cheadle Hulme to resolve the situation.

I also asked if he would hand in the railcard at Manchester Piccadilly and after visiting the information office there, nothing had been handed in.

I have since got a replacement railcard, paying £5 to replace this, however I had to hand in my receipt for this and was not allowed it back as they only allow 1 reimbursement per railcard, will this affect my stance in anyway. Surely they keep the same railcard number for each railcard if I needed to prove my railcard was in fact valid?
Just a couple of points which you may not like but look at things from. Our point of view. I am constantly telling people to get a new card if the date is not readable and then low and behold I see the same person with the same card a month later, even though officially the avantix should be able to read the mag strip not many actually do, chances are I have even told you to get a replacement, personally I wouldn't have been so harsh but what my colleague did was correct and if you did argue with him technically u r being anti social. I know its not what you want to hear but to be blunt we are all getting fed up with the amoiunt of yp cards that we cannot read and then passengers do nothing about it.


 

TTI

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Ticket offices do free replacements for Railcards that have begun to fade to 'blank' due to the recent problems with ticket stock/thermal printing issues.
But if it's too late to read all the data on the railcard (issue no., etc), then it's "tough".

The 'heat trick' to put a heat source (lighter) behind the railcard to blacken it to reveal the expiry date only last a couple of weeks in some cases then it's totally unreadable.

The trend to complain these days is becoming an epidemic (even when, by admission, the complainant travels and incriminates oneself for travelling without paying the fare).

Seems strange that (you claim) that you offered to pay full price and was refused. There appears to be more to this to generate a letter from Northern's Debt Prosecutions unit for your version of events.
 
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radamfi

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if you did argue with him technically u r being anti social.

So any argument with a guard is now considered anti-social behaviour even if, for example, a passenger is trying to justify the use of a ticket that he knows is valid but the guard doesn't?
 

ANorthernGuard

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So any argument with a guard is now considered anti-social behaviour even if, for example, a passenger is trying to justify the use of a ticket that he knows is valid but the guard doesn't?
1. If its an argument and not a discussion then YES
2. If date is not readable then that particular railcard is not valid.

Its like signing for a purchase with a credit card and the signature is not on the card. Do we take the payment.. Certainly not (unless evidence to support ownership) same premise

 

ANorthernGuard

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Can you define 'argument' and 'discussion'?

An argument is voices raised and invariably common sense tends not to be used where we say things we may regret
A discussion is held in a calm manner where brain is used before mouth is opened lol.
 

radamfi

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An argument is voices raised and invariably common sense tends not to be used where we say things we may regret
A discussion is held in a calm manner where brain is used before mouth is opened lol.

Fair enough on that. I am concerned, however, that if a passenger does not agree with the guard's opinion on a ticket, for example if someone takes advantage of loopholes in the Routeing Guide, then it is automatically assumed as an 'argument'. There are many documented cases on here where forum members have been threatened with UFNs costing £100+ even though they know they are in the right and have all the maps etc. printed off as proof. I can fully imagine that in these cases, given the stakes involved, that such conversations can easily turn into 'arguments'.
 

Anvil1984

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Ticket offices do free replacements for Railcards that have begun to fade to 'blank' due to the recent problems with ticket stock/thermal printing issues.
But if it's too late to read all the data on the railcard (issue no., etc), then it's "tough".

The 'heat trick' to put a heat source (lighter) behind the railcard to blacken it to reveal the expiry date only last a couple of weeks in some cases then it's totally unreadable.

The trend to complain these days is becoming an epidemic (even when, by admission, the complainant travels and incriminates oneself for travelling without paying the fare).

Seems strange that (you claim) that you offered to pay full price and was refused. There appears to be more to this to generate a letter from Northern's Debt Prosecutions unit for your version of events.

From what I interpreted.he only offered full fare in exchange for his.railcard back.
 

michael769

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An argument is voices raised and invariably common sense tends not to be used where we say things we may regret
A discussion is held in a calm manner where brain is used before mouth is opened lol.

Actually it is not. An argument is simply a discussion involving differing viewpoints.

Raised voices, threats, insults (which are antisocial) can be part of an argument, but an argument can also be had in a calm and respectful manner.
 

Wolfie

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Ticket offices do free replacements for Railcards that have begun to fade to 'blank' due to the recent problems with ticket stock/thermal printing issues.
But if it's too late to read all the data on the railcard (issue no., etc), then it's "tough".
The 'heat trick' to put a heat source (lighter) behind the railcard to blacken it to reveal the expiry date only last a couple of weeks in some cases then it's totally unreadable.

The trend to complain these days is becoming an epidemic (even when, by admission, the complainant travels and incriminates oneself for travelling without paying the fare).

Seems strange that (you claim) that you offered to pay full price and was refused. There appears to be more to this to generate a letter from Northern's Debt Prosecutions unit for your version of events.

My italics

Arrogant complacent organisations with zero customer care ethic obviously do not like their malpractices being exposed - tough! What you appear to be saying is that passengers should take rail-staff's interpretation of the rules at face value, even though the passenger may actually be in the right, and just pay up whatever figure the staff member names - in your dreams sunshine! If the OP had a valid railcard WHY exactly should he have to pay full fare? The more that TOCs make use of the inheritantly unfaor nature of the horribly dated legislation (which in no way reflects modern consumer legislation) around railway fares the more complaints will continue to rise until eventually the politicians will HAVE to get off their fat rear-ends and do something.

My bold

This is an outrageous statement! This would mean that a TOC can supply defective goods (namely a railcard) and then refuse any replacement recompence despite the fact that the problem only arose due to its ticketing problems/errors......if you want a media storm just go right on......
 

GadgetMan

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Ticket offices will happily and very quickly replace faded railcards. But for that to happen a passenger needs to visit a ticket office with the faded railcard.

They don't fade overnight, so it would be fair to say people have plenty of time to get it replaced at their convenience. As others have mentioned, us guards will regularly advise passengers with fading railcards to get them replaced, but a significant number of passengers choose to ignore that advice until the matter goes further with discount being refused or railcard withdrawn.

Ideally it would be nice to have railcards that lasted the duration, but unfortunately they don't and the customer has to make a choice of either investing a few minutes of their time getting a faded card replaced or risking the expense and inconvenience of being left without the card if it is withdrawn at a later date.
 

hairyhandedfool

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The railcard is provided to the holder as proof of their entitlement to the discount in much the same way as a ticket provides proof that the journey has been paid for. A faded (to the extent it is not readable), damaged or altered Railcard is not a valid Railcard.

A faded Railcard can be replaced by a manned ticket office on request, provided the faded Railcard is surrendered at that time. It is in the interest of the holder to arrange for faded Railcards to be replaced before use (where possible).
 

jon0844

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We can't know how readable the date was. Perhaps the guard was being very picky? We don't know obviously, but this could be a factor in deciding it a ticket really was valid or not.

With hindsight, the correct course of action would to have paid the full fare and claim back the difference later, proving that the railcard was valid (and getting it replaced at the same time). However, if the railcard was taken away then it would be quite hard to do. I'm not sure I know what I'd do, given the fact you could later get told that there's no proof you had the card with you, and hadn't simply lost it.

A receipt should have therefore been given for taking away the railcard, or some evidence that it had been taken away. The ticket should still exist somewhere for a second opinion, which may well back up the guard - but at least the OP would know.

While a ticket is never your property, I would hope that you couldn't just get any member of staff decide to take your ticket away for no good reason (e.g. simply to spite you). It doesn't appear to happen, but if there's no receipt issued then how could you be sure it could never happen? Have an argument with an RPI, have the ticket confiscated and later get a letter to say you'll be prosecuted for not having a valid ticket...
 
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Ferret

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We can't know how readable the date was.

No, but I have a fair idea having seen plenty recently that are just about blank. Holding them up so the carriage lights hit them at the right angle seems to work for me 99% of the time. It's about time the railway in general got this sorted, because it's ripe for both outright fraud and unfortunate situations like this!
 

jon0844

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My annual seasons also faded, and I think part of the problem was down to it being pressed against the plastic film in the ticket holder. Maybe heat/friction or humidity played a part - I don't know.

I did, however, get the ticket replaced if this happened. Usually the magstrip forced a replacement long before that!
 

bb21

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My italics

All quotations are displayed in italics so you might need to use a different method to highlight the text you want to emphasise.

My bold

This is an outrageous statement! This would mean that a TOC can supply defective goods (namely a railcard) and then refuse any replacement recompence despite the fact that the problem only arose due to its ticketing problems/errors......if you want a media storm just go right on......

It is not an outrageous requirement. It is the passenger's responsibility to ensure that he/she has a valid ticket and any railcard held. A railcard that cannot be verified as genuine is not a valid railcard. A railcard that is illegible and has damaged coding on the mag stripe cannot be verified on the train.

As someone has pointed out, they do not fade overnight, therefore it is the passenger's responsibility to ensure that it is replaced before it comes completely illegible. It's got nothing to do with the railcard being faulty.
 

jon0844

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In this case, was the OP given a receipt and is the railcard available anywhere for the TOC to judge if the railcard WAS readable or not? Perhaps independently if required.
 

leithg1987

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You're right in the fact that I should have got a replacement as soon as the date started to fade in the first instance, however I thought the lighter trick had worked and I wasn't anticpating for my ticket to fade that quickly, this was infact the first time I'd notice the year was unreadable, the month and date were actually readable.

I think it was a total overeaction from the ticket conductor, he could have just informed me that he was not going to accept the railcard at that time and provide a receipt for purchase as another poster has pointed out. However he took my railcard to the other side of the train without saying what he was intending to do with it, waited until my last stop and decided to tell me then I would not be getting it back.

Yes I offered to pay the full fare, because I knew I had to pay for the train. He refused, therefore I cannot be prosecuted for refusal to pay for the train.

I was not anti-social, I was assertive with my demands to hand my railcard back, but my voice was never raised. We argued for 2 minutes outside the carriage.

What would be my most appropriate action from here. I would rather just have the case resolved away from the court rooms.

I got on the carriage with a valid railcard with full intention to pay for the train, I came off with a potential criminal record, angry and with no railcard. Would you not agree that it's unreasonable for the conductor to take such action?
 

leithg1987

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In this case, was the OP given a receipt and is the railcard available anywhere for the TOC to judge if the railcard WAS readable or not? Perhaps independently if required.

I had a receipt for the railcard but I have now used it to buy a replacement railcard.

The receipt had to be given in as you're only allowed one reimbursement of a railcard.

The original railcard is with the conductor. Probably in the bin, because it's been proven to be valid.
 

scrapy

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Customer services at Piccadilly will not have recieved the railcard and will therefore not know anything about it as it will probably have been forwarded with a TIR to the prosecutions unit.

The prosecutions unit will not bring about a prosecution on the basis of an arguement or discussion, they will require the conductor to write down exactly what was said. There must therefore be something specific in the
conductors report to warrant the allegation. It might therefore be worth the OP contacting the prosecutions department to ask for a copy of the conductors report (they would have to provide this to the defence if it is used as evidence in a court case anyway) or at least for them to clarify what is meant by anti-social behaviour (did they actually use the term 'anti-social behaviour' or something similar?).

When contacting the prosecutions department you do not need to try and explain yourself as this could incriminate you, however you should ask for clarification on what they mean by anti social behaviour so you can respond to their letter.

As for the allegation of ticketless travel, there were ticket purchasing facilities on arrival at Cheadle Hulme so if the OP did purchase a ticket before leaving the station, this could easily be dismissed.
 
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ole man

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So we've reached a understanding that is was the OP's fault for having a invalid railcard, but what i cant understand is the attitude of the conductor, is his word that the OP was being anti-social final and that he is guilty.
 

ANorthernGuard

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Customer services at Piccadilly will not have recieved the railcard and will therefore not know anything about it as it will probably have been forwarded with a TIR to the prosecutions unit.

The prosecutions unit will not bring about a prosecution on the basis of an arguement or discussion, they will require the conductor to write down exactly what was said. There must therefore be something specific in the
conductors report to warrant the allegation. It might therefore be worth the OP contacting the prosecutions department to ask for a copy of the conductors report (they would have to provide this to the defence if it is used as evidence in a court case anyway) or at least for them to clarify what is meant by anti-social behaviour (did they actually use the term 'anti-social behaviour' or something similar?).

When contacting the prosecutions department you do not need to try and explain yourself as this could incriminate you, however you should ask for clarification on what they mean by anti social behaviour so you can respond to their letter.

As for the allegation of ticketless travel, there were ticket purchasing facilities on arrival at Cheadle Hulme so if the OP did purchase a ticket before leaving the station, this could easily be dismissed.

Pretty much what you have said ( we all do them on a reasonably regular basis) I personally give people the benefit of the doubt once, 2nd time I tell them straight and the 3rd time I will take what action is necessary. With a depot like Picc we do the same routes on a regular basis and we do remember people. I have taken railcards off people in the past all for totally legit reasons and this is one of them (The guard was not myself by the way but I have a feeling I have seen the OP before) and I have a very good gut feeling on things of this nature and I do have the feeling I myself has spoken to him (can't be 100% but say about 80%). By the nature of human beings we do not like being told we are in the wrong, whether it is a teacher or parent telling off a child or an adult being told that as no date can be seen on his railcard that it is not valid, now on arrival at Cheadle Hulme the G4s Personnel would have missed him as he would be 3/4 asleep on the Down Wilmslow, now if the OP did purchase a Ticket at Cheadle Hulme he does (In my opinion) just needs a telling off (By way of letter and a reminder that the Railcard belongs to National Rail and not himself) and warned not to let it happen again, However if he didn't then (IMHO) then he will deservedly face further action. As I have said if this was the 1st time the OP has been told about his railcard I have some sympathy but I have a feeling he isn't.

Obviously this is just my opinion but as a Picc based Guard he takes his job seriously (but with common sense included) I feel that the full story is not on show, now if the Guard also raised his voice and started "arguing" then he crossed a line as I strive to be professional but to be fair we see incidents like this atleast 2-3 times a day and only about 5% seem to take notice (until I explain what would happen) then maybe still only 30-40%. sorry OP but in this case I feel you knew better and you made a mistake.
 
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jon0844

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I had a receipt for the railcard but I have now used it to buy a replacement railcard.

What I meant is, did you get anything from the conductor to show he'd taken your ticket?

It should have been taken away to be investigated, surely? Not just taken and binned because he decided it was probably out of date and you were trying to defraud!

I must be missing something here. Even if the date had faded (and now there's no railcard, who knows?) if you can prove the ticket WAS in-date, then I'd say there's no fraud. But, if it's invalid due to being unreadable, a receipt for the confiscated railcard could have been given, a full price ticket sold and the OP going to get a partial refund and a replacement railcard - or at worst, no refund, but a replacement railcard (having the current one to swap) and no follow-up action.
 
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