Prosecution letter unpaid fare Vs abusive behaviour

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Rose

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Hi

I am a support worker and I am looking for some advice on behalf of one of my disabled clients. In March she undertook a journey from Scarbororough to Bristol Temple Meads for which she had a valid ticket. She intended to complete her journey to Backwell by bus as she lives on the bus route and has a free disabled bus pass. However unfortunatly she was intoxicated and abusive to staff and met by BTP at temple meads, they then excorted her onto a train to Backwell - therefore she undertook a journey without a valid ticket.
She was then sent a precourt action letter stating:
"It was been reported that on 29th March 2016 you travelled/attempted to travel from Bristol Temple Meads to Nailse & Backwell by train without being in posssession of a valid ticket...GWR is prepared to offer you the opportunity to settle this matter, upon payment of £104.40, this sum includes the fare outstanding of £4.40 together with a charge towards the costs that have been incurred[/I]" My client then wrote to them with an explanation of the circumstances, they replied stating she undertook the journey without a ticket and also "It is noteworthy that you were rude and abusive to the inspector...the use of obscene abusive and offensive language on the railway consitutes an offence in law intself, so to does being drunk and disorderly on the railway and with the facts available the inspector was duty bound to report with matter to us."
A further letter was written by myself and my client stating it was not her intention to travel without a ticket and also apologising for her behaviour (she is a 60year old disabled lady very upset that she was abusive but with no memory of the incident due to her intoxication) and she enclosed a cheque for the unpaid fare £4.40.
Their recent reply to this accepts that she did not intend to travel without a ticket "In light of this information we do not intend to pursue the outstanding fare for this journey" and they returned the cheque for £4.40 "However we do intend to pursue the matter of your abusive bahaviour which is an offence under the railway byelaws...Having given consideration to your current circumstances, I am prepared to offer you a reduced settlement offer of £40".
However the orginal amount was the unpaid fare plus an admin fee - presumably relating to the unpaid fare issue. My client's behaviour was an aside issue. Can they change tact in this way? Is it worth persuing or does she risk the penalty increasing further?
TYIA
 
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Romilly

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6. Unacceptable behaviour
(1) No person shall use any threatening, abusive, obscene or offensive language on the railway.
(2) No person shall behave in a disorderly, indecent or offensive manner on the
railway.

This quote is from Railway Byelaw 6.

Legally, the train company is still within the time allowed for commencing a prosecution in relation to your client's alleged behaviour at the time of the incident you describe. From what you say, the letter already written to the company effectively admits to (and apologises for) the behaviour, so it is not obvious that your client would have any realistic chance of successfully defending a prosecution. If convicted, it is hard to believe that the total financial penalty (i.e. fine, costs etc) would be less than £40, although your client might be allowed to pay by instalments any amount ordered by the magistrates' court.

Although from a commercial point of view this could be seen as the company seeking to recover at least a contribution towards its administrative costs, they have all arisen from your client's behaviour, and the amount requested to avoid court is discounted (some train companies have a starting point of £80). And it is worth noting that intoxication (unless involuntary as a result e.g. of drink spiking) is not a defence in the case of this sort of offence.

So although your client is clearly not liable to pay the company anything, the risk of not settling out of court is that your client is prosecuted and found guilty and ordered to pay a larger overall amount. In short, I don't think that their change of tack alters anything: what now has to be addressed is the current position.
 

DaveNewcastle

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I agree with Romilly's excellent assessment.

Perhaps I can clarify the 'change of tack' issue. It's a situation which has been clarified in law, and in broad and general terms, if an undertaking was made that if the first offer of a resolution included an undertaking not to prosecute, and if that offer was accepted, then a subsequent prosecution should not be allowed to proceed.

But if I read your report correctly, then:
1) no such undertaking was made, 2) the offer had been declined (or not accepted), and 3) the abusive behaviour offence is not the same matter as the ticketless travel offence.

Consequently, the Company is at liberty to investigate and prosecute any and all offences which they find your client may have committed while on the Railways.

Hope this helps.
 

185

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If BTP escort a drunken passenger onto a train, disabled - maybe considered by police to be a vulnerable person, should the police themselves should have considered the issue of her having a ticket prior to putting her on? If that went to mags, I do wonder if a judge became aware she was placed on the train by cops, would it get canned?

That said, for the verbal abuse - it's an easy one in court for the TOC, and £40 as an out of court settlement for that is a bargain - never an excuse for it.
 

TrainfanBen

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If the ticketing issue has been resolved is is not a key material fact that the police felt that the behaviour was not to an extent that required the person to be arrested at the time, and therefore such behaviour is irrelevent now?

If an offence had been committed, the police would have made an arrest there and then while the events are fresh and evidence maximal for a conviction.

I agree with 185, the police effectively gave the passenger authority to travel ticketless. They after all, under railway byelaws an authorised person but the passenger didn't wish to contest this, which is understandable.

If the passenger has the time, effort and money to go to court It would be interesting to see the outcome of this. I'd suggest they consult a solicitor
 
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najaB

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If the ticketing issue has been resolved is is not a key material fact that the police felt that the behaviour was not to an extent that required the person to be arrested at the time, and therefore such behaviour is irrelevent now?
No, as it's not an offence that requires arrest at the time.
 

Llanigraham

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I agree with 185, the police effectively gave the passenger authority to travel ticketless. They after all, under railway byelaws an authorised person but the passenger didn't wish to contest this, which is understandable.

Are they?
Is there a precise list of who those "authorised" people are?
And in this case do we know whether they checked the woman's ticket or just take her (drunken) word that she had one?
 

Flamingo

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Are they?
Is there a precise list of who those "authorised" people are?
And in this case do we know whether they checked the woman's ticket or just take her (drunken) word that she had one?

BTP are not authorised to allow travel. If anybody can give evidence (not opinion) to the contrary, I would like to see it.

Certain BTP areas, in my experience, are more interested in putting passengers with issues onto trains (often without informing the on-board crew) so that it is no longer their problem. I couldn't possibly say that is what happened here - (but would bet a pound to a penny is exactly what happened!)

As regards the OP, I would tell your client to pay the £40, consider herself very lucky to be allowed to get away with paying that little a sum, and doubly lucky to get home, as it is highly unlikely that a bus would have allowed her on in that state (assuming we believe the story about a bus ticket - I don't know if I do).
 

Llanigraham

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Thanks Flamingo, just as I thought, TrainfanBen was incorrect.

Agreed, the OP should get the £40 paid pronto.
 

hounddog

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BTP are not authorised to allow travel. If anybody can give evidence (not opinion) to the contrary, I would like to see it.

Lifted from a thread on here about 'who is an authorised person'

"authorised person” means:
(i) a person acting in the course of his duties who:
(a) is an employee or agent of an Operator, or
(b) any other person authorised by an Operator, or any constable, acting in the execution of his duties upon or in connection with the railway;

Seems pretty conclusive to me. Why do you think otherwise?
 

furlong

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I think what you might be saying is that while the law envisages that they may do so, local instructions say they should not use that power in respect of the train company that is your employer - in other words it could become a disciplinary matter for the officer if the train company made a complaint?
 
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Elecman

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TOCS do not employ BT Police, they are fully independent of all train operators/ Network Rail although they are funded via a levy on those companies
 

najaB

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I think what you might be saying is that while the law envisages that they may do so, local instructions say they should not use that power in respect of the train company that is your employer - in other words it could become a disciplinary matter for the officer if the train company made a complaint?
The quoted extract from the NRCoC says that the employee or constable needs to be 'acting in course of their duties' in order to be an authorised person - there's no blanket authority by virtue of job title.

So I suppose the train company could easily make a complaint against a constable who gives permission to travel without what they consider to be good reason.
 

furlong

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Because no part of a BTP constable's duties include authorising travel.

I would anticipate that the relevant phrase would be interpreted broadly, not narrowly like that. (You wouldn't expect a passenger to be prosecuted as a consequence of following a constable's reasonable advice or instructions.)
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
(And if a constable wasn't authorised to authorise travel in any specific set of circumstances, you would not expect them to do so.)
 

najaB

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I would anticipate that the relevant phrase would be interpreted broadly, not narrowly like that. (You wouldn't expect a passenger to be prosecuted as a consequence of following a constable's reasonable advice or instructions.)
I agree, that's why I said that the TOC would likely only complain if they thought that the BTP constable didn't have good reason.
 

Flamingo

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All of the above arguments are still individual posters opinion or interpretation of the bylaws. Anything more concrete, or any case law?
 

crehld

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All of the above arguments are still individual posters opinion or interpretation of the bylaws. Anything more concrete, or any case law?

There was a thread a number of months ago where this issue was discussed at length, and included a range of case law to support various points so you (plural) can get your fill there. Essentially people (including, it appears, those with many years front line experience) seem rather prone to confuse a member of staff who is authorised to do something by a railway company and someone who constitutes an "authorised person". The two are not one and the same.

Anyway this discussion really isn't of assistance to the OP. They have received advice that GWR are entitled to 'change tack', and that it is probably in their client's interest to pay the amount offered to settle the matter. Unless the OP has further questions relevant to the topic at hand I see no need to engage in further discussion.
 
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