WMT - Magistrates Summons - Out of Court?

Discussion in 'Disputes & Prosecutions' started by theoptimist., 15 Nov 2019.

  1. theoptimist.

    theoptimist. Member

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    Hi guys,

    It's been a long four hours of research since I got home to find a hefty brown envelope awaiting me with a Magistrate's court summons for fare avoidance of £2.40.

    I've seen how brutal these forums are, I don't expect you to spare me the rod.


    What happened in short:
    I was changing trains after travelling one stop, at the time I'd usually buy my ticket on an app during my journey - it was during this I was collared by a routine check on the platform in Smethwick.
    I travel into a main station where you must have a ticket - so I wasn't trying to 'get away' by any means. However, I know it doesn't work like that.

    I'd bought my ticket before my details had even been collected, I purchased a Direct debit pass the same day of the incident (it took a few weeks to arrive).

    I know none of that stands for anything now, I'd rather do a OOC, but what's the best thing to say/or write? I'd rather not be turned down.

    I've learnt my lesson the hard way, I'd rather the beating be as light as possible.

    Does anyone have experience of successfully settling out of court? What did you do? What should you avoid saying?
    - The staff were extremely aggressive despite me trying to diffuse the situation - I felt like I was being treated like I'd robbed the local corner shop. I ended up filming because they were swearing and called the police to collect me - who told them no. I'm guessing I need to leave that part out in my letter.

    What they're throwing at me:
    RoRa s.5(3)(a)
    Section 84(2) of Transport Act and Section 18 of British Railways Act 1970 and Section 13 of British Railways Act 1977

    Thank you in advance!

    I have two weeks till court - advice welcome.
     
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  3. 30907

    30907 Established Member

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    To clarify:
    1. Have you already had a letter of intent from WMT to prosecute under one or more heads, asking for a response from you?
    2. did you buy your ticket on the app while on the train, or on the platform at Smethwick? If it is the latter (that's how I read your post) then your action looks like "only paying when challenged" which is why WMT are prosecuting under RoRA for attempted fare evasion.
    3. did your ticket cover the whole of your journey (sorry to sound suspicious, I assume you did)?

    The basic things to say have been covered in many other threads on here.
    However, you need specifically to make it clear that you now understand that you should have bought your ticket before boarding your first train (this being in the T&Cs of the app, even if you are in an area where conductors sell tickets).
     
  4. theoptimist.

    theoptimist. Member

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    1. Have you already had a letter of intent from WMT to prosecute under one or more heads, asking for a response from you?

    - no

    2. did you buy your ticket on the app while on the train, or on the platform at Smethwick? If it is the latter (that's how I read your post) then your action looks like "only paying when challenged" which is why WMT are prosecuting under RoRA for attempted fare evasion.

    Whilst on the platform the transaction was completed. I had the app open, but there's no signal between the stops (flimsy excuse)

    3. did your ticket cover the whole of your journey (sorry to sound suspicious, I assume you did)?

    Yes, open return
     
  5. Llanigraham

    Llanigraham On Moderation

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    If there was no internet access whilst on the platform then the transaction cannot have been completed. It would remain "pending" until there was a connection.
     
  6. Puffing Devil

    Puffing Devil Established Member

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    It's unusual for the train company to go straight to court for a first offence, also to reach straight to the Regulation of Railways Act, not the Bylaws. I think your engagement with the officers must have contributed to this.

    The only way forward now is to write to WMT with a contrite apology and suggest an out of court settlement with a view to covering their expenses in the matter.

    The behaviour of the revenue staff is a separate matter and I would not refer to it at all during the court/out of court process. It will only serve to muddy the waters and will have no bearing at all on the outcome. You can raise a formal complaint once the court matter is settled.

    In court, the offence is "Travels or attempts to travel on a railway without having previously paid his fare, and with intent to avoid payment thereof". You may choose to challenge this in a trial, though your chances would be limited and the potential costs in the region of £1000 should you fail to win. The trial would hinge on your level of "intent" and failing to purchase before you boarded the first train and then buying a ticket on an app on the platform when there was a revenue operation at the station will not play well.

    If it does go to court, you may be able to arrange a plea bargain with the prosecutor on the day for a Bylaw offence in exchange to dropping the Regulation of the Railways act matter. This would be better in terms of a Criminal Record if that's important for you.

    You should seek paid legal advice if you are contemplating a trial.
     
  7. Brissle Girl

    Brissle Girl Member

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    It may be worth you thinking about the pattern of previous fare purchases on the app, as these will presumably be known to those seeking to prosecute. In particular, will they suggest a history of fare evasion through by "short-faring"? If so, that might influence the response to any request for an OOC settlement, as to whether this was a one-off, or just the first time you've been caught, which makes the intent much clearer.

    As to the allegation of the staff being aggressive, I would have expected people on revenue duty to much prefer these situations to be dealt with calmly and without undue aggravation. After all, they will get enough of the latter without going looking for it. So I'll admit to being slightly sceptical that their aggression was completely unprovoked. There may well be station cctv or body camera evidence that they can call upon if you raise a complaint, which would either support your case or may of course contradict it. But as has been said, this should be separate to the potential court case.
     
  8. theoptimist.

    theoptimist. Member

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    Thank you @Puffing Devil.

    I think they are using the engagement with the officers against me. One was extremely rude and yob like - even towards other passengers in the station - only once I began filming did he calm down and his colleague stepped in and I dealt with them instead.

    I question if they'd genuinely use body cam as evidence because it would highlight the shocking behaviour of the staff.

    @Brissle Girl

    No, this was a very new commute at the time - I hadn't got round to ordering a pass (website issues whenever I'd tried before) which was why I'd starting using the app.
     
    Last edited: 15 Nov 2019
  9. gray1404

    gray1404 Established Member

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    What station did you start your journey at and what time of day was this?

    Did you finish the full purchase of your ticket AND (VERY IMPORTANTLY) activate the ticket (and it work without problems) if required BEFORE you got onto the train?


    Are you saying that you presented a valid ticket, that had been purchased and activated before the start of travel (if required) but the staff at the revenue check disputed this?
     
  10. theoptimist.

    theoptimist. Member

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    @gray1404 My ticket wasn't purchased till I was on the platform - I didn't have signal to complete the purchase during the journey- of course this doesn't stand for anything.

    Travelled from Langley to Smethwick (3 mins apart) 8:20am
     
    Last edited: 15 Nov 2019
  11. gray1404

    gray1404 Established Member

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    OK so you didn't purchase a ticket until you were at the interchange station and had got off the first train.

    Does Langley have a ticket office or a ticket machine that was open/working and would accept your chosen payment method which you could have purchased your ticket from before you got on the first train?
     
  12. theoptimist.

    theoptimist. Member

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    It has a machine/office - were they open on the date in question? Probably, which doesn't help my case. I only buy e-tickets. What I've learnt from this is buy in advance ALWAYS.
     
  13. theoptimist.

    theoptimist. Member

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    I think you've misinterpreted what I've written.

    I had signal on the platform - I didnt have signal prior to that. I've personally found that if I attempt to buy a ticket on an app and move into an area without signal before completing the transaction, it is simply cancelled.

    That's something I've noticed on various occasions. Not convenient when you have a train to catch and you need you ticket for the barrier!
     
  14. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    Those nasty train companies, making it so that their Internet apps require an usable Internet connection to work. The nerve!

    Might I suggest that if you find yourself at the ticket barrier, still trying to pay for a ticket that the problem lies closer to home than the TOC and their app.
     
  15. Realfish

    Realfish Member

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    Although in the wrong, so it seems, I think that you'll find that the OP has called in for advice, not sarcasm.
     
  16. Brissle Girl

    Brissle Girl Member

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    No, but remember (and I think you know this now) that with the app it is your responsibility to have completed the transaction before you board the train. This is a basic rule to prevent fraudulent travel. The introduction of an app has increased the convenience of being able to buy a ticket at your leisure before (or indeed when) you get to the station (and any queue that you may find there). So in that sense it is a big improvement in terms of convenience and options to purchase before you travel.
     
  17. michaelh

    michaelh Member

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    Why didn't you buy a ticket before you got on the train?
     
  18. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    They've also sought to deflect responsibility to the TOC, or at least that's the way it reads to me.
     
  19. WesternLancer

    WesternLancer Established Member

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    Yes, well put - I mean you can't go to the supermarket, take your shopping and pay for it on the way home can you!
     
  20. cuccir

    cuccir Established Member

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    I'm aware I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but this response seems to have been overlooked

    As far as I can tell then, we're still at an early stage (your initial post read as if they're already prosecuting you, but I don't think that is the case).

    Presuming you hear from them in writing, respond by writing back to them and be clear that you understand now that you need to buy before boarding. Offer to pay for their costs in investigating this.

    I think najaB above has taken agaisnt the relatively jocular tone you've written this thread in, and I can understand this. This may be a way of coping mechanism for dealing with your embarrassment or feelings of regret, or it may reflect that you're not taking responsibility. If it is the latter, you should start doing so and you should make sure any response to the train company does not convey this tone.
     
  21. 221129

    221129 Established Member

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    If you read the opening post it already says he has received the Summons.
     
  22. theoptimist.

    theoptimist. Member

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    Thanks @Realfish - I'm not sure why @najaB felt that comment was called for.

    I'm not asking for unnecessary judgement or cheap sarcastic opinions based on my previous actions - because that does not change the situation at hand in any way.

    I'm simply asking for advice on what steps to take next as I'm already aware my actions would be viewed unjustifiable in the eyes of the court.
     
  23. theoptimist.

    theoptimist. Member

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    Thanks. As this is more of an informal discussion on a forum, I'm happy to write in an informal tone. It goes without saying if I were addressing the business/courts I'd use a completely different style of writing.
     
  24. Fare-Cop

    Fare-Cop Member

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    Firstly, what date is your Court hearing set for?

    Time is of the essence in getting these things resolved if any settlement is at all possible and if you have received a Summons. The likelihood of success will also depend on your attitude towards the company and its' staff.

    If I were you I would write to the Prosecution Department (details will be on the Summons) as follows:

    1. Express a sincere apology to the company and their staff for your actions, do not attempt to divert attention to say they were in some way to blame. Recognise that your failure to pay your fare before travelling is wrong.
    2. Recognise that fare evasion is a serious matter costing the rail industry huge sums annually
    3. If this is the first time that you have been spoken to by a rail company about a ticketing issue, say so and ask if the matter might be resolved by an administrative disposal rather than prosecution
    4. Offer to pay the fare due and all of the company's reasonably incurred costs in dealing with this matter
    5. If you have no past history of any similar matters, say so and give a written undertaking not to travel without a valid ticket in future.
    6. Explain that you realise your actions were unacceptable and 'out of character'. Say that you now worry that a conviction will result in a loss of your good name and could badly affect your future employment.

    So far as what happened at the time, it is often the case that individual actions can cause unexpected, or unwanted reaction in these situations. I know for certain that some forum members will take issue with what I say next, but it is a fact that over the years I have lost count of the number of allegations that have proven unfounded when video images have been viewed. I only recall three incidents where revenue staff were necessarily dismissed as a result of what was revealed by the footage after shared independent analysis.

    A great many inspectors have bodycams these days and virtually all stations are covered by CCTV, especially where there is a barrier line and it is drummed into staff that they are on viewable record, which does tend to moderate behaviour better than in the distant past.

    That said, if the reaction of a staff member was exactly as you describe without hint of anything that could have been interpreted as intimidation in any way, then you should definitely pursue the complaint as an entirely separate issue.
     
    Last edited: 20 Nov 2019
  25. najaB

    najaB Veteran Member

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    Because...
    If you attempt that kind of line with a TOC - "It's not my fault that your app didn't let me pay for my ticket when I was already at the station." - then expect them to have exactly the same response that I did.
     
  26. Fare-Cop

    Fare-Cop Member

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    najaB is spot-on.

    So far as a charge of an offence contrary to Section 5.3(a) of The Regulation of Railways Act [1889]is concerned, this phrase in the judgment in the case of Corbyn (1978) is very important.

    Lord Widgery, Judge Park and Judge Cumming-Bruce heard the Appeal and in coming to their decision Cumming-Bruce gave the first judgement.

    In that delivering that decision this phrase stands out:

    'It is clear from the first clause of section 5 (3) (a) that the traveller is not to travel on the railway without paying the fare for the journey before he begins that journey.'

    All three agreed with the findings given.

    Any prosecutor will draw the Magistrates attention to that point and to the fact that pre-purchase facilities were available to the OP before starting the journey
     
  27. Brissle Girl

    Brissle Girl Member

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    I wouldn't put the comment about it being "out of character". The mention of character clearly implies that there was an attempt to defraud the railway. However, from the statements we've had, it appears as though there was a genuine misunderstanding regarding the rule that you have to have bought a ticket on the app before boarding the train. I know we can all say "Ah, but you should have read, taken in and remembered the T&C's", but who does that for every internet transaction.

    So I would be more inclined to say that I didn't appreciate that I had to buy a ticket before boarding, and presumed that it was OK to buy en route if pushed for time at the station. I did try to purchase when I got on, but due to the blackspot wasn't able to complete the transaction. I now understand that it's not OK to buy on board and won't do it again, but that it was a mistake rather than done with any fraudulent intent.
     
  28. some bloke

    some bloke Member

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    These comments might be of interest even if you've already sent a letter.

    I know you may be aware of this, but just to be sure, that argument wouldn't suitable to make to the company or magistrates if you always intended to pay.

    It doesn't prove lack of intent, because for example someone might forget there were barriers, or hope they were open. Also, having to pay at the destination doesn't necessarily mean having to admit to the whole journey.

    Could you please clarify the sequence of events on the platform? Do you mean for example that you were buying the ticket while the staff were talking to you?

    A main reason for the company deciding to accuse you of intent may be perceived behaviour. So you might benefit by thinking of anything that might have looked like the behaviour of a person who had no intention of paying the correct fare, and mentioning something that explains that behaviour. When did you see the staff? When did you start the process on your phone? How did you behave?

    The purpose is to address or anticipate specific (unstated) concerns which the company may have, and/or things that staff may have written in their report. Maybe there's nothing to add, but it might be worth thinking about.

    Another area is this. What were your beliefs about the lawfulness of buying during the journey?

    Did you think, for example, that it was lawful, or that it was a grey area but allowed, or that it was unlawful but no-one would mind because you had no intention of paying less? These sorts of things may be useful to get clear.

    I'm not advocating writing a lot of detail; just that it may be worth thinking about what, from their point of view, may have been reasons to allege intent. If you take some time to think out the answers (focusing to some extent on the question of why they should accept that you didn't intend to avoid any fare), you might pick a few key points and make them brief.

    Since the usual procedure is to send a letter requesting the passenger's point of view, it's possible there was an admin error, or a letter was lost in the post. So it might be worth pointing out that you didn't get such a letter, just in case.
     
  29. some bloke

    some bloke Member

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    I think that's the right approach - it may be wise to be cautious inferring someone's attitudes from their words.

    Seems very reasonable to me. What you said about loss of signal being inconvenient can be seen as a separate issue from how far the company was responsible for a situation. I hope you'll be happy to engage more on this forum.
     
  30. theoptimist.

    theoptimist. Member

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    Yes. I was dashing from the train to straight across to the other platform - it wasn't until I tried to side step and almost collided with what I thought were workmen/passengers waiting to board the train I'd got off did I realise they were Revenue Protections. Suave move.


    Update.

    I managed to resolve this out of court - thank the good Lord.
    I wrote in (thanks @Fare-Cop, advice taken). I didn't bother going around the mill - regardless of my perspective or the events with the Rev Protect team the fact remains - if the ticket machine wasn't on fire at previous station then there's no justifying reason to not have a ticket beforehand in their eyes.

    I'd familiarised myself with RoRa. I pointed out that I'd immediately purchased a monthly pass since. I had some personal mitigating circumstances (not sure if that helped at all).

    And I heard nothing.
    Foolishly and bad timing I'd not thought about sending the letter via recorded delivery - not that I'd had time to reach the Post Office in any case. Time was running out, so I ran every number I could find (the payment line was about as useful as ringing the bus depot). I rang a totally random department and coincidently was redirected to a Senior Manager - who kindly put me in touch with the Manager for the right department.

    Unfortunately as we were very short on time the only option was to speak with the Prosecutor on the day. As the Rev P Manager had informed me of this I confirmed what time I'd be arriving and so they were expecting me. I happily paid the costs. It was dreadful timing but the alternative would have been much worse as I really couldn't risk anything negative on a DBS check.


    Thanks ever so much to everyone who contributed. This was a real eye opener of a situation, I think I aged a lifetime in the past few weeks - I look forward to sleeping properly!
     
  31. Blinkbonny

    Blinkbonny Member

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    Well done, theoptimist. May you soon go back to your sunnier disposition!
     

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