Unexpected court summons!

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[email protected]

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This morning I received a court summons dated 07/12/15.

On the morning of 25/06/15 I boarded a train at Waterloo for Stanstead as I was going on holiday. I purchased a valid ticket and sat down. I didn’t realise I’d sat in a seat which was a business class seat. It is a short train journey, we had a lot of baggage and the train was empty so we just sat down in the nearest seats.

Shortly after that the ticket inspector came to us. Instead of simply pointing out our error and explaining what would follow he said ‘your holiday is about to get more expensive’ and was extremely passive aggressive. He should have simply explained the situation instead of making inappropriate vague suggestions of what was going on. At this point we still didn’t realise what the problem was and that we had mistakenly sat in the wrong seats because he didn’t actually tell us so we carried on sitting there.

This all began only minutes into the journey just after departing from Harlow Town. From this point he joked and remarked all the way to Stansted still without issuing us with a ticket or fine. He explained that the machine was not working and he couldn’t find / verify our correct address. He was calling the operator and kept getting cut off and the machine continued to fail. At this point I had written down some of my details on a piece of paper. A further collection inspector came over to help but to no avail. We were then kept waiting on the platform at Stansted while they continued to attempt to get the machine to work. At this point we had to leave because we were in danger of missing our flight so we had to ask to leave. We were told at this point that due to the operating failure of the machine no fine would be issued. We were also advised that as we hadn’t signed to accept the fine there was nothing that could be done so we’d been let off with a warning to look out for signs next time and only sit in the correct seats on the train.

You can appreciate the shock and anxiety I’ve been going through today over receiving a court summons! I have read the full summons and the statements provided by the ticket inspectors which say that reminders were issued to my address. This is incorrect. I have received no correspondence whatsoever over this matter until this summons on 17/02/16. The whole point of not being able to issue the ticket was that my address could not be verified as the machine was not operating properly.

If given the opportunity I would have paid for the ticket / the fine or whatever else. I’m not denying that I was seated in the incorrect seat on the given date and time. However, I have done all I was required to do in order to rectify the situation at the time.

• I offered to move seats
• I co-operated by writing down my details
• I co-operated by speaking with a second ticket collector
• I remained speaking with the ticket collector for over an hour
• I stayed on the platform at Stansted airport
• I had to run for my flight because I’d waited for so long for the resolution
• I was told that no further action would be taken
• I did NOT sign to accept the fine
• My address was NOT verified
• I have NOT received any reminders
• Why hasn’t the other traveller I was sitting with been summoned in this instance for the same ‘offense’?
• Why was the summons signed and stamped on 07/12/15 but I only received it today (17/02/16) in the post – is this something to do with you not being able to find the correct address for me?
• If the fine was not signed for then how do I know these ‘reminders’ and proof of paperwork on the day of 25/06 have not been produced later and back-dated?

To go from being told in no uncertain terms that no action would be taken and I couldn’t even accept a fine to receiving a court summons 8 months later is nothing short of a complete shock. I could hardly even remember the incident and had to check back on the dates upon receiving the summons this morning.

Please advise what I should do here.

I really feel I have cooperated and complied as much as I could in every instance of this (apparent) ongoing issue. I’m really not sure what more I could’ve done to avoid this situation from escalating in this way.

The two ticket inspectors spent an hour with me (meaning they can’t have inspected any other tickets on that journey). Reminders apparently being sent out (to an incorrect / incomplete address) and on top of that my time in writing this and paying 12p a minute to call and try and understand exactly what has happened here. It’s quite frankly a farce.

I don't know what the best course of action at this point is as I feel I've only been offered a last resort option!

Thanks,
Sarahlubelle
 
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clagmonster

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Joined
8 Jun 2005
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First question. What offence does the summons state you are being accused of?
 

steamybrian

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Joined
26 Nov 2010
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1,361
Location
Kent
Boarded a train at Waterloo for Stansted..?
.. but there are no through trains from Waterloo to Stansted..?
...."a short journey.." Where did you board the train.?

.some repeated question(s)
 

Antman

Established Member
Joined
3 May 2013
Messages
6,597
This morning I received a court summons dated 07/12/15.

On the morning of 25/06/15 I boarded a train at Waterloo for Stanstead as I was going on holiday. I purchased a valid ticket and sat down. I didn’t realise I’d sat in a seat which was a business class seat. It is a short train journey, we had a lot of baggage and the train was empty so we just sat down in the nearest seats.

Shortly after that the ticket inspector came to us. Instead of simply pointing out our error and explaining what would follow he said ‘your holiday is about to get more expensive’ and was extremely passive aggressive. He should have simply explained the situation instead of making inappropriate vague suggestions of what was going on. At this point we still didn’t realise what the problem was and that we had mistakenly sat in the wrong seats because he didn’t actually tell us so we carried on sitting there.

This all began only minutes into the journey just after departing from Harlow Town. From this point he joked and remarked all the way to Stansted still without issuing us with a ticket or fine. He explained that the machine was not working and he couldn’t find / verify our correct address. He was calling the operator and kept getting cut off and the machine continued to fail. At this point I had written down some of my details on a piece of paper. A further collection inspector came over to help but to no avail. We were then kept waiting on the platform at Stansted while they continued to attempt to get the machine to work. At this point we had to leave because we were in danger of missing our flight so we had to ask to leave. We were told at this point that due to the operating failure of the machine no fine would be issued. We were also advised that as we hadn’t signed to accept the fine there was nothing that could be done so we’d been let off with a warning to look out for signs next time and only sit in the correct seats on the train.

You can appreciate the shock and anxiety I’ve been going through today over receiving a court summons! I have read the full summons and the statements provided by the ticket inspectors which say that reminders were issued to my address. This is incorrect. I have received no correspondence whatsoever over this matter until this summons on 17/02/16. The whole point of not being able to issue the ticket was that my address could not be verified as the machine was not operating properly.

If given the opportunity I would have paid for the ticket / the fine or whatever else. I’m not denying that I was seated in the incorrect seat on the given date and time. However, I have done all I was required to do in order to rectify the situation at the time.

• I offered to move seats
• I co-operated by writing down my details
• I co-operated by speaking with a second ticket collector
• I remained speaking with the ticket collector for over an hour
• I stayed on the platform at Stansted airport
• I had to run for my flight because I’d waited for so long for the resolution
• I was told that no further action would be taken
• I did NOT sign to accept the fine
• My address was NOT verified
• I have NOT received any reminders
• Why hasn’t the other traveller I was sitting with been summoned in this instance for the same ‘offense’?
• Why was the summons signed and stamped on 07/12/15 but I only received it today (17/02/16) in the post – is this something to do with you not being able to find the correct address for me?
• If the fine was not signed for then how do I know these ‘reminders’ and proof of paperwork on the day of 25/06 have not been produced later and back-dated?

To go from being told in no uncertain terms that no action would be taken and I couldn’t even accept a fine to receiving a court summons 8 months later is nothing short of a complete shock. I could hardly even remember the incident and had to check back on the dates upon receiving the summons this morning.

Please advise what I should do here.

I really feel I have cooperated and complied as much as I could in every instance of this (apparent) ongoing issue. I’m really not sure what more I could’ve done to avoid this situation from escalating in this way.

The two ticket inspectors spent an hour with me (meaning they can’t have inspected any other tickets on that journey). Reminders apparently being sent out (to an incorrect / incomplete address) and on top of that my time in writing this and paying 12p a minute to call and try and understand exactly what has happened here. It’s quite frankly a farce.

I don't know what the best course of action at this point is as I feel I've only been offered a last resort option!

Thanks,
Sarahlubelle

Presumably you mean Liverpool Street rather than Waterloo?
 

DaveNewcastle

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Joined
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Messages
7,387
Location
Newcastle (unless I'm out)
Thank you for providing such a thorough report of the circumstances - it helps in giving appropriate advice.

My first approach is to look for any evidence of the Offence having been commited. You won't want to hear this, but there is. You fell foul of Railway Byelaw 19 which states
Railway Byelaws said:
19. Classes of accommodation, reserved seats and sleeping berths

Except with permission from an authorised person, no person shall remain in any seat, berth or any part of a train where a notice indicates that it is reserved for a specified ticket holder or holders of tickets of a specific class, except the holder of a valid ticket entitling him to be in that particular place.
This is what's called a 'strict liability' offence, in that either you were, or you were not, in the situation described. Fortunately, it is only a 'Byelaw', so although it is treated in some ways as a Criminal offence, it leaves no Criminal record. But it seems clear to me that there is ample evidence that you did in fact fall foul of that Byelaw by remaining in First Class accomodation.

My second approach is to look for evidence to support the view that that it was not appropriate to enforce the Byelaw in this situation. You will disagree I'm sure, but while the list of circumstances during the rest of the journey and the time afterwards might have led to the abandonment of the matter, and might still do so, none of these facts seem to come with any evidence which would help if it is to be prosecuted and argued in the Magistrates Court. For that reason, Im sorry that I can't give you much comfort in hoping that the claim against you can be dropped at this stage on the grounds of the facts.

I appreciate your concerns over the dates of issue on the Summons and consequential delays. These are only symptomatic of the appaling crisis which our HM Courts Service system is currently suffering from. With severe funding cuts, work is taking extraordinary amounts of time to complete. There's nothing we can do about it (other than lobby our MPs). Cases are being brought forward which challenge the judiciary for the delays and the consequential impact on people's lives - but these just add to the backlog.
There's nothing you can gain by referring to the time delay in the Courts Service.

Lastly, I look at the probabilities of various strategies, ranging from simply admitting the offence, paying the penalties and moving on, to, contesting it vigourously in a Court, risking high costs and an uncertain outcome, to advance the possibility of being exonerated completely. Having got to this stage, the latter is too risky to advise.
That leaves you, either, with the quick though frustrating solution of admitting and paying and so moving on, or, attempting some sort of last minute resolution.
It's your choice, but I'm inclinded towards the attempt at a resolution.

If you drop all the other issues, and simply focus on a quick and simple financial settlement (I'm assuming from your detailled report that the first class fare has not been paid, so there is an outstanding debt plus administrative costs anyway), then my advice to you is to get in touch with the Company's Prosecutions Manager a.s.a.p. and attempt to resolve the matter without any confrontation or discussion of faults or laying any blame. If, and only if, that fails, then try again using the services of a local solicitor from a firm which specialises in Criminal Defence work. Give them the full background that you have so helpfully provided here, and this summary of my evaluation, and ask them to negotiate a settlement on your behalf.

Please bear in mind, that now that a Summons to appear has been issued, there are now 3 parties to any negotiation, you, the Railway Company, and the Court Service. All correspondence should be copied to all three parties, and crucially, if an Out-of-Court settlement is agreed between you and the Railway Company, then you must make sure that the Court is aware that the matter has been resolved and that the prosecution will not proceed.

Hope this helps.
 
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island

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Joined
30 Dec 2010
Messages
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Location
0036
You said the court summons was dated 7/12/15 and later that it was 17/2/16. Which is it please? And when are you required to attend court?
 

najaB

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Messages
23,984
Location
Scotland
You said the court summons was dated 7/12/15 and later that it was 17/2/16. Which is it please? And when are you required to attend court?
I believe the OP said it was dated 7/12/15 but only received on 17/2/16.
 
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