Statutory Declaration done and new Court date

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Jackx

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Hi, I'm looking for advice for my nephew, aged 20, student, living away from home.
He had valid tickets from Uni to home town, but needed to take another train to my house as his parents were taken unexpectedly to hospital that weekend. He didn't have time to get a ticket and boarded the train, hoping to buy one on the train. No conductor came round and staff refused to sell him a ticket when he exited the train. They confiscated his ticket from Uni to home town, and took his details.

Fast forward few months, and their next door neighbour (shared address) passed a letter stating he has been fined £850+ and bailiffs would come to take goods etc. He knows nothing of this legal action and has now got a Statutory declaration, pleaded not guilty, and has a court date next week 'to put his side across'.
We are new to this, and wondered what to expect next week at Court. In view of the SD, is it likely he'll get offered the £85 admin costs? Is he likely to get a criminal record?
Sorry for such long post , your advice is much appreciated. TIA
 
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furlong

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Like any other thread here, to comment, people need to know details of the alleged offences (byelaw or railways act?), stations concerned, the day of the week and time (open ticket office or machines?), the precise tickets concerned (e.g. "off-peak return from X to Y cost £ N"), what happened between leaving the train for which he held a ticket and joining the one for which he didn't - are we talking hours (leaving the station) or minutes (swapping platform) and how early was the change of destination decided? etc.

In general terms, a key factor the courts often consider is whether he had an earlier opportunity to buy the right ticket but didn't do so, and there's a general assumption that if ticket facilities are available, every honest passenger will use them (and not walk past or ignore signs or posters).
 

najaB

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He knows nothing of this legal action and has now got a Statutory declaration, pleaded not guilty, and has a court date next week 'to put his side across'.
The court date isn't just to 'put his side across', the case is being reheard. If he didn't buy his ticket before boarding then it highly probable that he will be found guilty.

As a matter of urgency, you need to try engaging with the TOC's prosecutors to see if they will set the prosecution aside. Ensure that the Court is kept involved as well.
 

furlong

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By way of hypothetical example, imagine this was a return part of a ticket back to home, and the ticket taken as evidence showed a mark from a conductor. Then a question could be asked why the additional ticket wasn't purchased from that conductor. Alternatively, if the university station where he began his journey had no open ticket office and ticket machines that only sold tickets originating from that station and no conductor was encountered on the journey, then the question may move to whether or not there was sufficient time and an opportunity to purchase at the home station before boarding the final train.
 

Master29

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If he knows nothing of this then you need to tell him urgently. There are many on here willing to offer the best possible advice as I can myself testify but at some point he needs to be aware of his responsibilities here.
 

cjmillsnun

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If he knows nothing of this then you need to tell him urgently. There are many on here willing to offer the best possible advice as I can myself testify but at some point he needs to be aware of his responsibilities here.

He would've had to put the SD in himself either directly in court or through a solicitor. I would assume he knows about it now.
 

Jackx

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He travelled from Liverpool to Manchester Piccadilly, then onto to Stockport on a Sunday afternoon in March. There wasn't time to buy a ticket at Piccadilly as the train was in, but I see what you are saying about possibly buying it before he got to Manchester, I suppose he just didn't think straight with all the family issues he had going on. (His Mum would normally pick him up from Piccadilly)

They took his previous return tickets, as they wanted to confirm his details from his bank card that he paid with.

As far as I know he is being pursued for fare evasion, I don't know if this is a byelaw or other offence. He didn't intentionally try to avoid the fare, he kept looking out for the conductor on the train with cash in his hand, and was pleased when he saw the inspectors on exit so he could buy a ticket, in his naivety.

I'll get in touch with the company to try and resolve it before the court date next week. He is devastated that he has to go to Court and that it might affect his future prospects of a job.
 

Jackx

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Oh, the cost of the ticket was around £2.40 if I remember rightly.
 

cjmillsnun

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I'll get in touch with the company to try and resolve it before the court date next week. He is devastated that he has to go to Court and that it might affect his future prospects of a job.

He needs to do that Preferably tomorrow. He needs to call the Train Operating Company's prosecutions department. He needs to be remorseful and explain that he understands that he should have a ticket before travelling, and that this is something he has learned from. He needs to ask if this can be dealt with by means of an administrative settlement. He needs to also explain why he didn't respond to earlier correspondence. There would've been an initial letter, asking for his side of the story, possibly an offer of an administrative settlement, a summons, the court verdict and fine details determined in absentia, and reminders.

If it does go to court, it may not be too late to settle on the day. He should speak to the prosecutor who may decide to make an offer of a settlement. If agreed then they will offer no evidence for the prosecution, which will effectively get it thrown out.
 
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DaveNewcastle

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As he has now made a plea of 'Not Guilty', then the Court will make time available to hear Witness Statements from the Prosecution and from the Defence. There will be an opportunity before the date of the hearing to ask for any of the Prosecution's Witnesses to give their evidence in person, so that they can be cross-examined. That would be the necessary process to reveal the fatal flaw in their evidence.

Anyone making a plea of Not Guilty MUST request sight of the Prosecution's evidence, so that they can plan their Defence, decide which Witnesses, if any, might be required to rebut the Prosecution's evidence, what Prosecution evidence should be tested by cross-examination to reveal their error, and what evidence of their own might demonstrate that the Offence was not committed.

As you don't even know what offence has been alleged, you can't begin to decide whether he was guilty of the Offence or not. Ad for making a plea of Not Guilty so that he "can put his side across", I can only guess that you are unaware of the role of the Magistrates Courts. They are presented with an alleged Offence of a specific statute (or Byelaw). evidence of an incident which contravened that statute, and the legal authorities which cover the circumstances of the alleged offence where a finding of Guilty was reached.

"{utting his side across" sounds to me more like grounds for mitigation. i.e. reasons why the penalty for a finding of Guilt should be at the low end of the proscribed scale for whatever offence it is. But mitigation is only a consideration of sentencing, once a finding of Guilt has been determined. If he wants of plea Not Guilty only to provide mitigation in sentencing following a finding of Guilt, then he will only have wasted the Courts time and incurred addional costs by the Prosecution, which will be applied for.

If you have persuasive grounds to convince a Court that the Offence was not commited, and this may involve the cross-examination of a Prosecution Witness who can be shown to be in error, then plea Not Guilty.
If you do not have such persuasive grounds, but just personal circumstances which adjust the level of fine as determined by the HM Courts 'sentencing guidelines', then you should be making a plea of Guilty, and then making a statement of personal circumstances in mitigation, with a view to reduce the level of the fine.

It makes no sense to me to plea 'Not Guilty' to an Offence that has actually been committed, and which sharply increase the costs which the Posecution applies for, when all that the accused has to offer are grounds to mitgate the sentence folloeing a findng of 'Guilt'.

But just to repeat the obvious: without knowing what offence is alleged, there is absolutely NOTHING that can be decided about the relevance or reliability of any evidence by either party, and NOTHING that can be relied on in law to confirm or deny the legal allegation against the traveller.

I don't care which stations were involved or which tickets were held, but I DO care, very much, that someone might be about to incur hundreds of pounds of costs and fine and victim surcharge, and possibly even a Criminal Record, by making an uninformed plea of 'Not Guilty' for an unknown Offence and without any persuasive evidence to rebut the evidence of that Offence.

Please don't use the Courts as a forum for emotive discourse. Parliament makes Laws, and the Courts must apply them.
 

Master29

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He needs to do that Preferably tomorrow. He needs to call the Train Operating Company's prosecutions department. He needs to be remorseful and explain that he understands that he should have a ticket before travelling, and that this is something he has learned from. He needs to ask if this can be dealt with by means of an administrative settlement. He needs to also explain why he didn't respond to earlier correspondence. There would've been an initial letter, asking for his side of the story, possibly an offer of an administrative settlement, a summons, the court verdict and fine details determined in absentia, and reminders.

If it does go to court, it may not be too late to settle on the day. He should speak to the prosecutor who may decide to make an offer of a settlement. If agreed then they will offer no evidence for the prosecution, which will effectively get it thrown out.

Just out of curiosity. As a fine of £850 + costs presumably has been incurred and if bailiffs are now involved does this mean the case has already been to court without the OP`s son or is this where the Statutory Declaration comes into play?
 

furlong

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He travelled from Liverpool

Lime Street or a different station? The way the railway sees things (usually backed by the courts), is that if the ticket office was open at the time, then travelling beyond the destination on a ticket without previously paying the extra fare looks like intentional fare evasion. Manchester Piccadilly probably also presented a convenient opportunity to avoid the situation arising as the service to Stockport is frequent.

I don't know if this is a byelaw or other offence.

That's the first thing to determine so you can find out what the company needs to prove in court and what defences the law allows etc.
 

najaB

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Just out of curiosity. As a fine of £850 + costs presumably has been incurred and if bailiffs are now involved does this mean the case has already been to court without the OP`s son or is this where the Statutory Declaration comes into play?
Yes, the case was heard without his knowledge. That is what the statutory declaration is for: they made a statement under penalty of perjury that they knew nothing about the proceedings and the original verdict was put aside - effectively moving everything back to the plea stage.
 

Master29

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Yes, the case was heard without his knowledge. That is what the statutory declaration is for: they made a statement under penalty of perjury that they knew nothing about the proceedings and the original verdict was put aside - effectively moving everything back to the plea stage.

Thanks for that. Makes clear sense now. . A year or so ago I had a similar situation, which to my shame I admit I didn`t handle very well as, like the OP in this instance, my daughter had been caught having in the meantime moved house and so no correspondence (No, the silly girl didn`t redirect her post but relied on the landlord to do it. Of course, nothing for months only to find a deduction of earnings was the first she`d heard about her already gone court date. When we contacted the magistrates court they said as it has now been heard there was nothing they could do. This was the difference between the OP`s case here and my daughters. They recommended we contact the Crown courts which we did but made no promises that they would grant us anything. As my daughter was 7 months pregnant at the time they did respond and we got a hearing a few weeks later. It was reduced to the £80 fine and £20 costs. As she was heavily pregnant it may well be why she got off very lightly.

To the OP take DaveNewcastles excellent reply very seriously as you will be unlikely to get anything near as low as this with your current defence. Forget any mitigating circumstances for now. Saying he didn`t intentionally avoid paying the fare will look very bad on him in light of the evidence. You need to be more serious about why he missed the original hearing which , you claim he didn`t receive as it was a shared address. Was this the case with all his mail. He needs to be honest here and not play games. "I suppose he didn`t think straight with all our family issues going on at the moment." Is this you saying this or is it him. If so you might need to expand on why this would affect his ability to purchase a ticket. I don`t mean to sound unsympathetic in any way. As I said earlier I had a similar situation. Didn`t handle it as well as we should but clearly got lucky. Again; please be serious about this. My daughters fine was originally over £900 including various costs and this was after the first hearing. You are going into a second so unless he is serious it`s going to get much higher than that if he loses.
 
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Jackx

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Thanks everyone for the advice. I have passed this info onto my nephew and he will contact the company to discuss it further, and hopefully avoid court and all that entails with costs and criminal record etc.

The post at their current address is a cause for concern, as they live in a subdivided house and they rely on their neighbour passing post on to them. The landlord hasn't registered both properties, just the other one where all the post goes. Unfortunately, the property which gets all the post has been empty for months and only just relet in July, and the new neighbours passed the bailiff letter to them. This is why he wasn't getting any letters about the legal action. I'm sure the letting agent would confirm this.

I'll post an update as things progress. Thanks again for the superb advice.
 

mullin

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The post at their current address is a cause for concern, as they live in a subdivided house and they rely on their neighbour passing post on to them. The landlord hasn't registered both properties, just the other one where all the post goes.

So their landlord is very likely commiting council tax fraud by only paying CT on the one property, probably doesn't have planning permission for the conversion either. but that's unrelated to the matter at hand...
 

Jackx

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So their landlord is very likely commiting council tax fraud by only paying CT on the one property, probably doesn't have planning permission for the conversion either. but that's unrelated to the matter at hand...

Yes I agree, however I was trying to explain why he didn't receive any notification of the legal action in response to another post, which may help his case.
 

philthetube

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If the post issue is an ongoing problem it might be worth getting P.O. box if practical, or having your mail redirected to someone you trust.
 

najaB

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Yes I agree, however I was trying to explain why he didn't receive any notification of the legal action in response to another post, which may help his case.
Sadly, no. If the matter gets to court ask the magistrate will consider will be what happened on the day. Missing post played no part in ticketless travel.
 

6Gman

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As my daughter was 7 months pregnant at the time they did respond and we got a hearing a few weeks later. It was reduced to the £80 fine and £20 costs. As she was heavily pregnant it may well be why she got off very lightly.

What has pregnancy got to do with the enforcement of fares legislation?
 

Master29

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What has pregnancy got to do with the enforcement of fares legislation?

If you had read my statement to the OP you may have had an idea. I said it may well be how she got off lightly, not necessarily why. I don`t know that for sure but I do know courts courts do seem to take this into account.
 

cjmillsnun

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Just out of curiosity. As a fine of £850 + costs presumably has been incurred and if bailiffs are now involved does this mean the case has already been to court without the OP`s son or is this where the Statutory Declaration comes into play?

The SD has been made because the OP's nephew allegedly knew nothing of the court proceedings. If that wasn't the case, then he is looking at other charges so I hope he is being honest. The SD sets aside the previous court verdict and the case is heard again
 

Jackx

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Quick update to let you know how he got on with the Court case. The case was settled out of court, with the help of an advocate contacting Northern Rail on his behalf. He settled and paid costs of £200.
I suppose it could have been much worse for him, yet the feeling that there has been an injustice here still prevails. He had every intention of buying a ticket on board, yet, conspicuously, he was unable to buy one on that fateful occasion.
 

mikeg

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I'm glad you got the matter settled. However what I would say is from your first post is that there is plenty of opportunity to pay at the Liverpool stations. Not having time is as in sure you are now aware not an excuse. It is not the railway's fault that they were running late and it is a legal requirement to buy a ticket before getting on the train. There was no injustice beyond a high settlement cost.
 
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