First time poster here.
I would like to start off by saying that I've read through various threads and it's quite heartwarming to see the level of attention and support you give to people dealing with often stressful and anxiety inducing circumstances. I'll certainly be making a donation as this is truly a valuable resource.
I've read several similar threads to my own situation but I thought I'd seek your advice.
I opened a letter just a few hours ago from London Collection and Compliance Centre which is dated 11th January 2022 for an amount totalling £870.68. I'll attach a copy below. I can't quite remember the date of the initial offence. For context, I boarded a bus (I believe in 2018) and unbeknownst to me, my contactless card did not register correctly on the reader. I had my headphones in with music playing and was sat for my journey and then was approached by a ticket inspector who informed me that I did not tap and therefore was unable to provide proof of a valid ticket. Despite explaining the circumstances, I was asked for my details which I provided in full. I was honest and forthcoming with the ticket inspector but I wasn't aware this would amount to a fine as I was provided with a printed pass for the remainder of my journey. I accept liability for not being able to provide proof of a valid ticket and do not wish to dispute this regardless of intent.
I'm not entirely sure why I didn't pay the fine upon receipt of TfL's initial correspondence but I'm a long time sufferer of anxiety and depression which at times is so debilitating that I'm unable to make the best decisions or carry out simple actions. Some of which would mean I wouldn't need to make this post. I struggled financially at the time of receiving this letter and further correspondence which placed I did not deal with correctly because of the mental state I was in. I struggled to cope with and stupidly I neglected my responsibility and buried my head in the sand. I made an error in judgement that I wholeheartedly regret.
As of writing (early hours of 26th January 2022), the 10 working days given in the 'Further steps notice' has elapsed (25th January 2022). I rarely receive mail and therefore I don't regularly check my mailbox. However, I decided to take a look today as I suspected I missed a Royal Mail delivery. I intend on calling the number on the letter at the earliest appropriate time in the morning and dealing with this matter. I'm desperate to right my previous wrongs as I've worked hard to deal with my anxiety by beginning therapy. However, like many others in this thread, I'm worried about the prospect of having a criminal record. I'm 26 years only and I don't have any previous convictions nor have I had any trouble with the law. I have a real love for the service TfL provides and I'm capable of listing off an endless stream of related trivia. I have no previous run ins with TfL and regularly travel on the network and pay the correct, full fare each time.
I'm worried about how this will affect my future in regards to employment and my intention of naturalising as a British citizen (I've been in the UK for 20 years now).
I'll note my primary questions below and would truly appreciate your advice.
a) If I get in contact with the number on the letter as soon as possible, will that be too late despite the close proximity to the deadline?
b) What would be the best potential approach to resolving this issue? (I'm unable to pay the amount in as a lump sum.)
c) If I were successful in arranging a payment plan/somehow paying the amount in full, how would that affect the court proceedings? Would this still result in a criminal record?
d) I've seen other threads which mention OOC settlements with TfL, would this be an option despite receipt of a 'Further steps notice' letter?
e) Should I end up in court or have the opportunity to speak to someone over the phone - will I be able to explain my circumstance and plead for leniency?
f) What other general steps would you suggest I take at this stage to mitigate the consequences?
Apologies for this post being so long, I wanted to include as much relevant detail as possible and I'm more than happy to provide any that's missing. I don't want to make excuses for myself. I completely accept I'm in the wrong for allowing things to get to this stage, despite the difficulty I had with my mental state but I want to do right by myself and deal with this. I'll post regular updates and be sure to include a conclusion once I deal with the matter regardless of the outcome.
Thank you in advance for looking at this post, I really do appreciate what you do.