Willfully admitting liability for something you knowingly haven't done

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crehld

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This piece of 'advice' on another thread (the details for which are irrelevant for this thread) presents, to me at least, a conundrum:

I can't help feeling that the whole thing is going to cost you more than the £20 PF in terms of time, stamps, and antacids for the stomach ulcer you are getting from fighting it.

I think I'd have paid it and moved on a long time ago...

I get the argument (and even find it somewhat persuasive) that it may be preferable in terms of time, effort, stress and resources to resolve a matter swiftly at the cost of being 'wronged' (the difference between a right course of action and a "right" course of action as one poster put it). Yet I personally find such 'advice' quite puzzling and it concerns me that those who follow such advice out of mere convenience might put themselves in an even more tricky situation.

So, what are the legal implications here? Is it acceptable to willfully accept liability for and/or plead guilty to a crime which you knowingly haven't committed because it is the easy option to dispose of the matter? Does wilfully admitting guilt to a minor railway offence when you knowingly haven't committed it open one up to a much more serious charge of perverting the course of justice, I wonder?

I have asked this question in one form or another on numerous dispute threads where such advice features, but these questions have so far been overlooked and a clear answer has not been forthcoming. I ask not to be difficult, but because I am genuinely interested in the answer.
 
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bristolboy

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Paying a penalty fare isn't admitting guilt of a crime. It's engaging in a contract with the railway company to give them money in exchange for passage.

Pleading guilty to something you didn't do in a court to avoid the larger penalty if wrongly found guilty after pleading innocent would be a whole nother matter.
 

DaleCooper

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I don't think paying a PF or similar is necessarily the same as admitting guilt. Is it not quite common for damages or compensation to paid without an admission of culpability in order to avoid the costs of a court case?
 

Bletchleyite

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I'd agree. A PF is the fare the railway says is due for your journey. You can pay it, or you can argue (ideally having paid it, given the process) that it isn't in fact due. Very different from lying to a Court in a prosecution - would that be contempt of court?

It's not an awful lot different to you boarding at an unstaffed station with no TVM, and the guard incorrectly coming through and charging you an Anytime Single when an Off Peak would be due. You can pay what is asked, which is a perfectly valid ticket for the journey, or you can point out that a lower fare is in fact due and pay that.

Actually, thinking of court, isn't it a valid tactic to plead guilty to a small offence rather than possibly be hit with a larger one? Provided it is a simple case of "you will be prosecuted or you won't", and not a case of getting someone else off their due penalty, is that even a problem? I'm not sure. Though I wouldn't do that, as I don't want a criminal record. With a PF, I'd pay it, appeal, push the appeal a level up then probably give up on the grounds that too much time spent exceeds the value of the PF.
 
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DaveNewcastle

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Where does "willfully accept liability for and/or plead guilty to a crime which you knowingly haven't committed" come into the example (or into the original incident from which this was taken) ? I can't see it at all.
 

furlong

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Some quotes from one of the Parliamentary debates for the original bill:

There have been arguments that the penalty fare will make criminals of honest passengers. This is just not so.

The innocent are protected by the Bill, but it is only fair that the dishonest traveller should be caught. However, even when he is caught he is not a criminal

One of the social benefits of this Bill is that it will take most ticketless travel outside the scope of the criminal law and will free the hard-pressed magistrates' courts to deal with other serious business.

If, however, a passenger on a train is not in possession of a ticket, he is not to be treated as a criminal under this Bill. He is simply asked to pay a penalty fare, which is a civil penalty and not a criminal one. If there are good reasons why he has not been able to obtain a ticket before travelling, not even this civil penalty will be due.
 

crehld

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Where does "willfully accept liability for and/or plead guilty to a crime which you knowingly haven't committed" come into the example (or into the original incident from which this was taken) ? I can't see it at all.

As clearly stated my opening post the context surrounding other incidents on this forum is irrelevant. I'm interested in the broader principle. Apologies for not expressing that clearly enough in the opening sentence of my original post. Allow me to rephrase as two distinct questions:

1. Could payment of a penalty fare by a passenger, which was paid not because the passenger had warranted the penalty but to swiftly dispose of the matter, be used as evidence in a later prosecution of that passenger's prior admission of guilt?

2. Is pleading guilty to an offence (be it a railway byelaw infraction, a RoRA charge or indeed any alleged crime) you know you haven't committed, again to dispose of a matter swiftly, wrong or unlawful?
 
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Flamingo

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That post was in relation to the (very long-running) thread about the specific set of circumstances that the OP has found themselves in, the length of time and effort they are putting into sorting it out to their "satisfaction" ( for want of a better word), and was intended to be somewhat tongue in cheek.

How could I forget that around here, some people think irony means "made of iron".

(I knew I'd regret logging back in and posting)
 
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crehld

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I don't think paying a PF or similar is necessarily the same as admitting guilt.


I'd agree. A PF is the fare the railway says is due for your journey. You can pay it, or you can argue (ideally having paid it, given the process) that it isn't in fact due.

It's not so much the fact that the penalty fare is the same of criminal guilt, but more that in paying the penalty and not appealing (again to make the matter go away) could be interpreted as a de facto admission of having done something wrong, which could be used as evidence that you have, in fact, done something wrong.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
That post was in relation to the (very long-running) thread about the specific set of circumstances that the OP has found themselves in, the length of time and effort they are putting into sorting it out to their "satisfaction" ( for want of a better word), and was intended to be somewhat tongue in cheek.

How could I forget that around here, some people think irony means "made of iron".

(I knew I'd regret logging back in and posting)

Fair enough. But again as I clearly and unambiguously stated, the context of that (or any other) thread is irrelevant to the broader question I am seeking an answer to.

You post was selected as a recent example of many others which sometimes are and sometimes are not made in jest. (And I often lack the ability and perhaps sense of humour to tell the difference)
 
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Bletchleyite

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The reference above to the original law is interesting, as it seems that, as I thought, the PF was essentially intended to decriminalise ticketless travel.

As TOCs are now not using it for this purpose, this would further a view that it should be abolished, with genuine cases simply being charged the fare, and cases of wilful fare dodging being prosecuted.

It's a pity the relevant Byelaw was not repealed at the same time, leaving only RoRA for more serious cases of wilful fraud. I'm not a fan of strict liability criminal offences for things like this.
 

rs101

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Question - does a customer having received and paid a Penalty Fare previously have any bearing as to whether they are eligible to receive one for an unrelated incident?
 

Steveoh

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None. Penalty Fares exist outside of the legal system.

I believe I'm correct in saying a TOC is able to withdraw a Penalty Fare and go for a prosecution instead. Would the fact that somebody has paid penalty fares in the past enter that decision making process? I think that is probably the crux of what the OP is saying. IE although they exist outside of the legal system, they do exist inside the TOC system.
 

najaB

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I believe I'm correct in saying a TOC is able to withdraw a Penalty Fare and go for a prosecution instead. Would the fact that somebody has paid penalty fares in the past enter that decision making process?
While anything is possible, I'd be surprised if a TOC refunded a promptly paid PF as it would be *very* hard to make a RoRA prosecution stick (difficult to show intent to avoid paying a fare that they've refunded) and the compensation they would get from a Byelaw prosecution would be less than the PF amount.
 

DaleCooper

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I believe I'm correct in saying a TOC is able to withdraw a Penalty Fare and go for a prosecution instead. Would the fact that somebody has paid penalty fares in the past enter that decision making process? I think that is probably the crux of what the OP is saying. IE although they exist outside of the legal system, they do exist inside the TOC system.

I suppose it could influence the TOC's decision to prosecute but I believe I'm correct in saying that evidence of a previous offence cannot be used in a court case except for sentencing, I'm happy to be corrected if that's wrong.
 

Flamingo

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I'm not involved in that side of the business, but the only reason I could see for withdrawing a PF and commencing prosecution would be if the TOC discovered the PF was incorrectly issued due to the passenger misleading them, for example somebody arriving at Paddington claiming they started from Reading West, but after issuing the PF it turns out they came from Swansea...
 
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DaveNewcastle

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1. Could payment of a penalty fare by a passenger, which was paid not because the passenger had warranted the penalty but to swiftly dispose of the matter, be used as evidence in a later prosecution of that passenger's prior admission of guilt?
Guilt of what? The fact of paying a 'Penalty Fare' could be presented as evidence of something, but it would have little or no persuasive value for most of the offences that I can think of on the Railways, unless it was to seek to confirm the person's presence at a place and time which they had hitherto denied.

I'm not involved in that side of the business, but the only reason I could see for withdrawing a PF and commencing prosecution would be if the TOC discovered the PF was incorrectly issued due to the passenger misleading them, for example somebody arriving at Paddington claiming they started from Reading West, but after issuing the PF it turns out they came from Swansea...
Yes, that's a good example.
Or they if it was found that had been using a forged or stolen payment card, or some other criminal activity.

2. Is pleading guilty to an offence (be it a railway byelaw infraction, a RoRA charge or indeed any alleged crime) you know you haven't committed, again to dispose of a matter swiftly, wrong or unlawful?
Possibly a potential perjury. There's is a tradition of people pleading 'guilty' to something they believe they haven't done, and with impunity. In fact the most frequent circumstances is to gain more benefit for themselves, such as to reduce a prison term.
 
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bb21

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It's not so much the fact that the penalty fare is the same of criminal guilt, but more that in paying the penalty and not appealing (again to make the matter go away) could be interpreted as a de facto admission of having done something wrong, which could be used as evidence that you have, in fact, done something wrong.

I don't think that matters much as someone else has pointed out above me, the Penalty Fares system is a civil penalty, so has little implication in future criminal cases.

There is one risk I can think of, which is should the person's name and address be taken, a future ticket irregularity, should another name and address check be performed, may see less discretion being used, hence, eg. a prosecution being pursued instead of another Penalty Fare being issued, but then one would have thought that most of us are honest citizens who pay our fares so it shouldn't really matter. In any case, should the passenger be wrongly accused on some future date and, heaven forbid, taken to court unfairly, I would expect the judge to find him not guilty, past record or not.
 

AM9

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...Possibly a potential perjury. There's is a tradition of people pleading 'guilty' to something they believe they haven't done, and with impunity. In fact the most frequent circumstances is to gain more benefit for themselves, such as to reduce a prison term.

I imagine that pleading guilty of a criminal act would only lead to a perjury charge if it could be demonstrated that such a pleading was to protect a third party or to prevent a more serious crime being investigated/considered.
If there wasn't any other issue at stake, who would challenge the plea? The prosecution would hardly want to abandon their winning position and any such challenge would need to be supported with evidence which would make their original case look a bit flawed.
 

Merseysider

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Neil Williams said:
It's a pity the relevant Byelaw was not repealed at the same time, leaving only RoRA for more serious cases of wilful fraud. I'm not a fan of strict liability criminal offences for things like this.
I completely agree Neil. I would support the retaining of RoRA but abolition of Byelaw 18 (or amendment so that UPFN must be offered to first timers, etc) but, realistically, is anything like that likely to happen?
 

najaB

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I would support the retaining of RoRA but abolition of Byelaw 18 (or amendment so that UPFN must be offered to first timers, etc) but, realistically, is anything like that likely to happen?
Like most things the problem isn't the law, but rather how it is applied. Pretty much any rule/regulation/law that has any teeth is capable of being abused and misused.

All this was discussed recently, so there's no point rehashing the same points.
 
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johnnychips

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I imagine that pleading guilty of a criminal act would only lead to a perjury charge if it could be demonstrated that such a pleading was to protect a third party or to prevent a more serious crime being investigated/considered.

Didn't an MP and his wife get done for one taking the driving penalty points of the other and they were both gaoled? Can't remember the details.
 

tony_mac

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As far as I can see, the plea itself is not made as a witness, or under oath, so could not result in a perjury charge, as such (I'm sure somebody more knowledgeable can tell me why I got that wrong...).

Accepting a Fixed Penalty Notice (the real, legal kind) is not considered to be an admission of guilt for the offence.
http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?274886-FPN-s-(Fixed-Penalty-Notices)-are-NOT-an-admission-of-guilt
Its issue was not a form of justice, as justice normally included guilt. It was not a conviction, admission of guilt, any proof that a crime had been committed, or a stain on the persons character. It therefore followed that it was not admissible as an admission of an offence or of bad character in the sense of impugning the defendant’s character.
 

Barn

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There's always perverting the course of justice too, as we saw with Vicki Pryce who made a false admission of guilt.
 

AM9

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Didn't an MP and his wife get done for one taking the driving penalty points of the other and they were both gaoled? Can't remember the details.

Yes, Chris Huhne had points and 'persuaded' his wife Vicky Pryce to admit a speeding offence as the driver when it was Huhne driving at the time.
 

DaveNewcastle

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Possibly a potential perjury. There's is a tradition of people pleading 'guilty' to something they believe they haven't done, and with impunity.
As far as I can see, the plea itself is not made as a witness, or under oath, so could not result in a perjury charge, as such . . .
It's hard to imagine that someone falsely offering a plea of 'guilty' would not be subjected to any more examination than to confirm their identity, their plea and perhaps a written Witness Statement; it is usual for the prosecution to have SOME work to do! Even sentencing is likely to involve some questionning about the accused's understanding of the offence. And I did make three qualifications in the post you're responding to (and which I've requoted here): "possibly", "potential" and "with impunity".

Perjury has been alleged when a person or persons have falsely represented their guilt.

But you're quote right to offer the opposing "possible" and "potential" extreme. I can imagine a hypothetical innocent person making a written plea of 'guilty' and failing to attend the hearing and being sentenced in their absence, remaining free of any blemish to their standing from having lied.

Perhaps it's worth repeating that there is a regular and acknowledged procedure of giving a false admission of 'guilt' where the effect and purpose is to reduce a sentence.
Such a lie might usually remain unchallenged where the consequences are limited to a person's sentence, but it is more likely to be challenged by e.g the Attorney General, the Crown Prosecution Service or possibly the National Crime Agency if the circumstances justify it. I think that challenge would only arise in exceptional circumstances, such as a serious crime where the focus of the prosecution is in the recovery of the proceeds of crime or the frustration of the ongoing trade in crime. Similar intervention by the Crown would arise in matters of 'national security'.
 

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Somebody earllier posted a link to the Parliamentary debates from the 1980s. I was struck by the following passage:

deferred fare authority machines at many stations. This is an entirely new concept. They will accept any coin between 5p and £1 and will issue a ticket to the value of the coin inserted, showing also the date and time of purchase and the station name. If a ticket machine has failed or the ticket office queue is too long, or it is closed for any reason, purchase of a deferred fare authority will avoid incurring a penalty fare on the train. The ticket examiner, either on the train or at the destination station, will then charge the appropriate fare for the journey that the passenger is making, but give credit for the value of the deferred fare ticket already paid.

Did Deferred Fare Authority Machines ever come into use? I'm quite young and can't remeber British Rail. But they seemed like a good idea.
 

bb21

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That indeed refers to the Permit to Travel machines.
 
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