Should guards be given more powers to enforce the law?

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by startingaparty, 7 Jul 2019.

  1. Joe Paxton

    Joe Paxton Established Member

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    I'd have thought that was a prime case for local police involvement...

    (I appreciate they can be thinly spread too of course.)
     
  2. DynamicSpirit

    DynamicSpirit Established Member

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    Nice work :) But why would anyone want to forge an unpaid fare notice? That doesn't seem to make any sense.
     
  3. Hadders

    Hadders Established Member

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    I see frequent calls on this forum to call the BTP or local police. Many people under estimate how under resourced they are, they simply do not have the capacity to respond to the number of fare related issues that a move like this would generate. Then there's the consequential knock on to punctuality while the matter is dealt with.
     
  4. scrapy

    scrapy Established Member

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    Guards already have several powers in law including the right of citizens arrest (not applicable in a ticketing matter). They have the right to photograph and TIR the offender and the right to take somebodys name and address (not that they'll necessarily get it). They also have the right to remove somebody from the railway using reasonable force.

    That said what is allowed by law isn't necessarily allowed by their employers and I don't know a TOC who would encourage (or even possibly allow) a guard to remove a passenger forcibly or make a citizens arrest. So guards do have more powers in law than they would need, rather than giving them more powers they need more backup.
     
  5. district

    district Established Member

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    Then when it turns out they have no ticket as expected what does the guard do then?
     
  6. NSEFAN

    NSEFAN Established Member

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    It'd be more a case of backing the fare dodger into a corner. Their only reasonable way out is to admit they don't actually have a ticket. Why would they refuse to have their phone charged otherwise? At that point its basically the same situation as with old fashioned paper tickets. If you don't have one, you have to buy one or leave the train.
     
  7. AM9

    AM9 Established Member

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    That just perpetuates the problem. If a passenger can't present a valid ticket for travel, they are in breach of the contract that they accepted when they started the journey. The should then be treated the same as a passenger who claims to have lost their ticket or their zip has broken so they can't get at tthe ticket. The appropriate action is as for anyone who fails to present, personal equipment failure does not exclude that obligation. Dishing out a few penalties would soon eradicate most of that scam and encourage passengers to take responsibility for their own actions.
     
  8. al78

    al78 Established Member

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    What does the guard do if they refuse to do either?
     
  9. Bensonby

    Bensonby Member

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    This is an issue that has vexed me for some time: essentially, if you are a total toe-rag it seems you have a carte Blanche to get away with fate-evasion, just be as objectionable as possible and you’ll fall into the “too difficult” category. The net result being the genuine members of the public who have made honest mistakes will be penalised, whilst those who really deserve punishment get off Scott free.

    I don’t see an easy solution to this issue though: short of making all guards/revenue staff quasi-police officers (and giving them the training, equipment, and insurance to be such) then it seems this depressing state of affairs will continue.
     
  10. Journeyman

    Journeyman Established Member

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    I've previously managed staff at a barriered station, where people travelling with the wrong tickets were a common occurrence, either deliberately or accidentally. We made it extremely clear that we didn't expect people to risk getting thumped by over-zealous attempts to extract what was usually a couple of quid out of people. Unfortunately, one of the supervisors was extremely zealous about doing it, and was regularly assaulted, and once caused a massive confrontation that resulted in someone accusing him of false imprisonment.
     
  11. Fredtheshred

    Fredtheshred Member

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    There used to be a guard on London Midland Stratford lines that would get extremely aggressive with fare evaders. I hate fare evaders too, but there is a limit to what you should do without backup.

    I witnessed the same guy in altercations on 3 seperate occasions.

    He would start in the same manner as the other guards, then start to get carried away, and then totally lose it.......and I do mean lose it.

    There would be announcements over the intercom, basically asking people to throw him off.

    Of the three altercations, he got assaulted the one time, and the second time, two railway employees had to step in to stop him getting punched.

    I haven't seen him for quite a while, so not sure if he is still an employee.
     
  12. ForTheLoveOf

    ForTheLoveOf Established Member

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    It's an indictment on the HR management of the industry that someone with a disposition like that remained as a guard in service long enough for you to see a second, let alone a third, incident. And if this was three incidents that you saw, imagine how many times it happened in total...
     
  13. Meerkat

    Meerkat Member

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    Not worth risking the guard’s once the person is clearly non-compliant.
    Rail travel being a pretty restricted thing they aren’t going to get away with it a lot without doing it on the same train and roughly same time, so they can be caught by waiting RPIs.
    Is it easy for a guard to tag the cctv so all guards can be shown the faces and an office bod can do pattern spotting? If it isn’t done pretty sure a tech company could knock something up quite easily....but it would require the TOCs to be interested....

    A mug shot taken every time someone refuses to comply, no confrontation, then a database of offenders and times/places for RPIs to follow up.
    I know it would be more work for the guards, but they must get annoyed with people taking the mick and not being able to safely do much about it
     
  14. Pluto

    Pluto Member

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    You've hit the nail on the head, anybody who can look menacing and act aggressively knows that they can bunk the fare with impunity because nobody other than a police officer is going to stand up to them. I was on a Thameslink train recently and I saw a rather large bloke acting quite aggressively to two RIP's who were on board checking tickets, I don't know the full story of why he didn't have a ticket but they clearly decided he was too difficult to deal with and moved off. I'm not suggesting staff put themselves at risk but this does rather send out the wrong message. A few stops further on and the fare dodger got off, he was the perfect gentleman then helping an elderly lady onto the train.
     
  15. cuccir

    cuccir Established Member

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    Do we actually have any evidence that this is the case?

    First, if someone is as objectionable as you're claiming, then there's little likelihood that they'll only be behaving this way when on the railways. Yes, it is possible that when the law catches up with them it's not for fare evasion, but fundamentally I'd be very surprised if people at the extreme end of behaviour will get away with it for that long.

    Second, over in Disputes & Prosecutions there are cases posted with some frequency - say, every 1 or 2 months - where individuals have clearly been targeted because of suspicious travel patterns. Often these are commuters who've been avoiding paying for their full journey through some tactic or another. It's hard to know how representative that forum is of fare evasion as a whole, but we can guess that generally we're seeing people who've made a couple of bad decisions, either deliberately or accidentally, rather than the persistent yobbish type who is knowingly avoiding their fare out of contempt for authority. So if anything, I'd expect that there's more of this sort of targeting going on than that forum sees and if nothing else it's pretty strong evidence that if individuals are repeatedly taking the mickey, then they will come to be known and dealt with.

    While we might witness from time to time individuals getting away with fare evasion because guards aren't sufficiently empowered, in practical terms, to detain them, I don't think that's necessarily evidence that such individuals typically end up avoiding consequences of their actions over the medium to long term.
     
  16. Phil-D

    Phil-D Member

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    Having worked in the security industry, both as a patrol officer, and a dog handler, I wouldn't advise anyone to try and push things too far with an aggressive person, it's bound to end badly, and it's really not worth it! Your employer expects you to do a job, fair enough, but they by and large are not going to be too bothered if you get hurt, and god forbid you should lose your life, I'll guarantee you'll be forgotten in a few weeks. I've dealt with some seriously aggressive people in my time, and in some cases I've let them walk away, in others they've been nicked,it all depended on the situation. My career ended after an armed robbery, I was dealing with one site while at the same time there was an armed incident taking place at another. The criminals stole a truck full of scrap metal, rather than the truck containing the high value electrical items. It was widely believed that due to the severity of the incident (2 guards threatened with guns, beaten and tied up) that they'd return when they realised their mistake. The police advised that security be increased, including bringing in a dog handler, as they were unable, understandably, to maintain a presence at the scene for the next few days.
    My employers solution was simple, he informed me that to avoid compromising security at the other site, and possibly losing the contract, that I was to leave my two GP dogs on site (free running), and attend the other site myself, with no dogs!
    When I pointed out that not only was it pointless sending a dog handler with no dog, plus it was actually illegal to leave guard dogs free running on a site that had no handler present, I was told to shut up and get on with it! Needless to say I refused, and quit the job.
    At the end of the day, saving a firm a few quid for a ticket is not worth it if it risks someone losing their life, plus if it does get physical, you're usually the one who gets the grief off the public, seen it too many times with the police. You end up with 3 of 4 officers trying to detain a suspect, then a member of the public starts whinging about why it takes so many of them. It's simple really, whilst a criminal can use whatever violence they see fit to escape custody, the law prevents someone acting lawfully to detain them from doing the same,they can punch you in the face to get away, but you punch them in the face to stop them fighting, and all hell brakes loose, it's a one sided thing, and at the moment it all seems to be stacked in the criminals favour. A criminal gets hurt fleeing a crime and it's not a case of 'well, if he'd not been commiting a crime he'd not have got hurt' oh no, it's usually a case of 'if you hadn't chased him he'd not of got hurt'. The world has gone mad!
     
  17. Phil-D

    Phil-D Member

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    Mmm, sounds like a typical bully boy, he'd probably have a go at a woman, or a kid, or someone who looked unlikely to kick off, but faced with a large thuggish looking person, he'd probably bottle it.
    I used to knock around with a guy like that once, we'd go into a pub and he'd start having a go at someone, if it turned nasty, we'd all get dragged into it, "come on lads, back me up", was his usual request. One night I'd had enough, we'd been in a pub having a few beers, there was about 6 of us, we were all into heavy metal at the time, anyway there was a similar sized group of mods in the pub too. We were getting on fine with them, chatting, laughing, having a joke with them, no problems, until the idiot started, anyway one by one we made a discreet exit, eventually, when the brown stuff hit the fan, he was on his own! He got a right hiding, but he never caused trouble again.
     
  18. bramling

    bramling Established Member

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    It doesn’t help that staff can’t win a lot of the time. Leave off and the social media tag will be “guardlets evader get away with it”. Do something more adventurous and it will be a repeat of the Scotrail incident. Having said that I don’t think that guard dealt with that incident well - holding the whole train to ransom effectively.
     
  19. Pluto

    Pluto Member

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    I'm sure we've all seen it on the railway over ticketing issues, somebody who comes over as meek and mild has the book thrown at them whilst somebody who is likely to be a handful gets away with it.

    Incidentally the fare dodger (well alleged), that I mentioned may well have thought he was in the right, what was clear is that as soon as he became aggressive the RPI's didn't want to know which is understandable but it does rather send out the wrong message.
     
  20. underbank

    underbank Member

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    That's the same in a lot of areas of modern life, such as certain members of society who live a nomadic existence and don't bother with trifling matters such as road tax, insurance, motoring laws, paying taxes, complying with trade waste disposal regulations, etc. They know damn well that they'll get away with it if they refuse to co-operate and the law enforcement agencies therefore turn a blind eye in normal day to day operations, until there's a particular police/customs operation with huge amounts of resources.
     
  21. Bromley boy

    Bromley boy Established Member

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    Absolutely.

    Recently at a major suburban station I witnessed someone aggressively demanding to be let through the barriers. When this was refused they simply “tailgated” a fare paying passenger through before walking away laughing to board a train.

    This took place in front of a number of uniformed staff who were powerless to do anything.
     
  22. rg177

    rg177 Established Member

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    I think I've had the same one a couple years ago. The train skipped a request stop I wanted on the Stratford line and when I went to query this in the back cab I received a curt response which gradually ramped up into a very angry and loud monologue and some pretty provocative behaviour while I just stood there a bit bewildered. Needless to say I walked away and decided it wasn't worth engaging.

    Never had a conductor behave in such a way before or since and I haven't seen him again either.
     
  23. underbank

    underbank Member

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    Surely, the answer is more/better barriers at all stations, firstly to stop people getting on the train in the first place, which avoids the risk/hassle of challenging someone on the train. And secondly, if they over-ride or use the wrong train, then to stop them leaving the platform at the destination so they can be challenged/detained in a controlled manner where there are likely to be more staff (railway and BTP) to deal with them. Then you don't need to do anything on the train itself, i.e. the one place where there are fewer staff and fewer resources to deal with offenders. The station/platform is the best place to enforce.
     
  24. Meerkat

    Meerkat Member

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    Barriers don’t stop the ones willing to be aggressive and too expensive for all stations.
    Better to target the worst and make an example of them, which would be easier if there was a mug shot database listing their previous and when they are likely to travel.
     
  25. cuccir

    cuccir Established Member

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    That's not the point though. They may 'get away with it' in the moment, but what I'm questioning is whether they actually do get away with it in the long run. We have pretty good evidence that TOCs do target persistent fare evaders, and fundamentally someone repeatedly evading their fares is going to make a mistake at some point, or turn up at a station when there happen to be a couple of BTP officers about, or whatever.

    I know it's both anecdotal and on Tyne and Wear Metro rather than network rail, but this recent case of a wanted criminal getting done by undercover police officers is illustrative I think. Maybe he's evaded fares dozens or hundreds of times, but in the end it's caught up with him. This is an exceptional case BUT I think it supports the point that getting away with fare evasion in the moment does not mean that it never catches up with people.
     
  26. Pluto

    Pluto Member

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    Well it's nice to think that wrong doers will get their cummupence at a later date but as a previous poster alluded to there is a certain element of society who don't bother with what they see as trivial matters like paying train fares, TV licence, council tax, parking tickets etc because they know that the chances are they'll get away with it.
     
  27. cuccir

    cuccir Established Member

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    Yes, ambassadors ;)

    But in all seriousness, that's exactly the point that I'm contesting: I don't think that people who behave like this do get away with it (and I don't think that the motivation is that they think they'll get away with it). Even if they get caught 1 time in 10, or whatever, the effect is still to fine them, have them do community service, lose other rights etc. Maybe I'm wrong but there are thousands of people prosecuted for fare evasion every year, a record number of people in prison in general.

    But the point in relation to the topic is that I don't think guards need these extra powers because we have pretty good evidence that thousands of people are successfully prosecuted for fare evasion every year. The way to 'get' persistent fare evaders is to get support from teams of RPIs to carry out targeted stings, ideally (but not always due to resources) with the support of (potentially undercover) BTP, either to focus on specific individuals or high-evasion stations and routes. Do it enough and this will catch those persistent evaders who might ignore the individual guard, working alone.
     
  28. gazzaa2

    gazzaa2 Member

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    Not necessarily make them police officers but if you assault or strike a guard then it'll be treated as it would an assault on a police officer and a jail term. I don't know if this is the case or not but it'd make the guards more confident to know there's a genuine deterrant, rather than just a slap on the wrists for striking a guard for demanding you buy a ticket.
     
  29. js1000

    js1000 Member

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    'Should guards be given more powers to enforce the law?'

    No. The law may say one thing but it doesn't mean it happens in practice. It can only be 'tested' in a court of law.

    1) Define the vague term 'enforce the law'? It is simply not a railway staff's job to 'enforce' the law. Under RoRA 1889, a member railway staff can only 'detain him until he can be conveniently brought before some justice'. And in reality this law is extremely out of date as we live in an environment where litigation is far more common than it was in 1889. Detaining a person with the risk of injury to you or them is clearly not desirable.

    2) Often unpaid fares are meagre amounts of money. Passengers who hop on a service for 10 minutes in the hop the guard doesn't get down the train. Holding a train with 100 passengers up for 10, 20, 30+ minutes waiting for police to arrive - however principled and morally correct - over a £3 fare is ludicrous.

    3) Altercations can put staff in positions of dangerous. No prudent employer ever wants to deal with the aftermath of an incident which potentially involves liability insurance and litigation for any injury suffered.

    4) Unfortunately, there will always be fare evaders. A lot of them are stupid chancers but some are smart when it comes to playing the system.

    Correct procedure would be for the guard to instruct the fare evader to leave at the next stop and to report the incident with a description of them. The TOC can at least check that it may not be a one-off.
     
  30. js1000

    js1000 Member

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    I have a couple of stories of what I can only describe as instances of errant guards who have handled a situation very poorly. A small minority of them can be very immature and petty. The sort of incident that if their supervisor was with them they would never act or talk like that to passengers. Every place has bad apples I suppose.
     

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