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Fine and court issue - Southern Rail


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OK, got a little problem with Southern Rail saying they intend to take me to court over an unpaid fine. Here's a little info:

 

Got stopped on a Bank Holiday morning about 8am in Brighton, having bought a day return for the previous day. When I bought it and asked one of the Southern Rail employees at the station if I could get the first train back the next day (about 4am) and he said "technically no, but they just let people through at that time if they've got a day return for the day before".

 

The first train back that morning was about 7am from Victoria, despite saying trains were every 30 mins or so from 4am onwards (on their website a few days before). So we got back and going through the barriers back in Brighton I was obviously found to have an invalid ticket. Also - the woman at the station in London let us through the barriers even after acknowledging the tickets weren't valid.

 

The guy at the station took my details and cautioned me and said Southern would write to me, however he gave me no paperwork at the time, and the first letter I've received about it was a letter this morning saying they intend to take me to court.

 

Like I say - I was given no paperwork at the time, and have received nothing about it since, so I don't even know how much I'm meant to be 'evading'. Also, the letter was addressed with the wrong first name. Can I simply send back the form saying that nobody with that name is known at that address?

 

Where do I stand on this? What is the best approach to dealing with it? Obviously the ideal outcome for me would be avoiding paying anything (or at least as little as possible). With all the actions of the Southern staff leading up to the point I was fined, do I have a case to argue with them?

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In the first instance, you knew that you were doing something wrong.

 

All the stuff about staff doing this & that doesn't seem to change that.

 

A mistake in your name may, or may not, impare their ability to prosecute. Mistakes in summons sometimes cause a Court to throw the case out, and sometimes do not. Without knowing (and I advise you not to tell in open forum) how far different 'their' spelling is from 'your' spelling, I wouldn't want to give an opinion, but to give you something to think about, if your name is Jackie Smith, and they called you Jack Smith, a court probably would accept the summons as being 'good', if your name was John Smith, they probably wouldn't.

 

Some of how thorough the prosecution team will be depends on some of the other 'unmentionables'.

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If you were 'orrid' in any way, they may take a bit more care, and be more likely to take a hard stand, if this is a problem that Southern have flagged up as costing them a lot, ditto. If your address features in a lot of their reports and penalty fares, best you get a good solicitor, if it genuinely is a first time offence, maybe not too much to worry about.

 

To effectively deal with the matter, and get it of your chest (people with clear consciences have less ulcers), write to them, apologise, offer to pay reasobale costs. If you enjoy gambling, ignore it all. Bailiffs are very understanding sort of chaps when they knock doors at 5am.

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And, for the record, you have not been fined. Only a Court can fine you, you have been reported. I think, from your post, that Southern are still thinking about whether they want the matter before a Court, or if they might take another, less drastic course.

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The first name is completely wrong, not just a different spelling.

 

What annoys me is that I didn't intentionally try and dodge a fare - what I put above is all true - but more my own carelessness and the Southern Rail website being a bit 'misleading'. When I booked the ticket I searched for an open return, because I wasn't sure if I'd be returning the same day. Yet the results that come up are for both open return and day return. Obviously I opted for the cheapest, and through not looking closely enough didn't realise that it was just a day return.

 

But regardless - this is the first letter I've had about it, and I've not even been offered the chance to pay any penalty fare or charge or anything since that morning (I didn't have any money to pay at the time). There's no mention of any fare or charge on this letter, just a notice of intention to take me to court.

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As Wriggler says, you haven't been fines, or Penalty Fared for that matter. You were reported for an offence either under 5.3(a) Regulation of Railways Act or under byelaw 18.1 of the national Railways byelaws, depending on what exactly you admited to whilst under caution! (It's not up to the RPI to decide what he/she reports you for in relating to either RRA offences or that of a byelaw, that's up to the prosecutions dept and should be on the letter you received!).

 

As for paperwork, there doesn't have to be any involved at the time, and all notes are for the use of the RPI or staff in volved in order to aid their report. Some company's have a sort of pro-forma thingy I believe, but the TOC I work for certainly doesn't. As Wriggler has said, the best thing you can do is contact the Prosecutions Team and offer to pay any reasonable admin costs in order to stay out of court. If you chosse to go to court you'll need to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty, and whichever you choose has to be your choice. If you feel you have been hard done by, by all means plead not guilty! What you mustn't do is ignore correspondance from Southern, as, unless something goes wrong somewhere, they'll just proceed to go to court!

 

Regarding the name error, I suppose it depnds on how significant the difference is, although if you use that in court, the outcome is very much in the lap of the Gods....or Magistrates I guess.

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But regardless - this is the first letter I've had about it, and I've not even been offered the chance to pay any penalty fare or charge or anything since that morning (I didn't have any money to pay at the time). There's no mention of any fare or charge on this letter, just a notice of intention to take me to court.

In addition to my last post, are you saying in the quote that you didn't have enough money for a rail ticket valid on that day, or for a Penalty Fare?

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Wriggler identifies an important question. If you bought the ticket online the view taken by Southern may well be less sympathetic.

 

The TOC doesn't have to write to you if an offence is detected, but does usually send a verification letter and that is what you have received.

 

A penalty fare is not appropriate where a traveller has no valid ticket and no means to pay the single fare due at the time of travel and would not be issued retrospectively in any case.

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Wriggler identifies an important question. If you bought the ticket online the view taken by Southern may well be less sympathetic.

 

The TOC doesn't have to write to you if an offence is detected, but does usually send a verification letter and that is what you have received.

 

A penalty fare is not appropriate where a traveller has no valid ticket and no means to pay the single fare due at the time of travel and would not be issued retrospectively in any case.

 

I bought the ticket online a few days before I travelled.

 

When I got stopped trying to go through the barriers in Brighton they were going to issue an on the spot fine or penalty fare (not sure which), but I didn't have any money on me at the time to be able to pay it.

 

I'd rather settle this out of court, obviously, because it'll be a lot easier. I'm guessing the name issue is just a typo, human error. However, I'm not prepared to get stung for some extortionate amount.

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Also, with regard to the paperwork - a similar thing happened when I travelled with a young persons rail card ticket but didn't have my card on me. That time they filled in the same form the guy did at the station this time, but they gave me a copy and gave me a deadline to pay a £20 fine or details to appeal.

 

What's the difference in this situation? Why would the guy this time not give me the form to either pay up or appeal?

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The difference is that on this occasion, the Inspector used discretion and wrote a report. Why the Inspector saw things that way can only be guessed at.

 

It could be that the Inspector knew that you had previously had a penalty fare, it could even be that the Inspector had left the penalty fare pad in the office, in any event, the initial decision as to how a case will go is at the discretion of the inspector.

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We do not know what the Inspector saw, or thought he saw.

 

I certainly don't know what the Southern managers tell their staff, or if the local station staff had been complaining about a particular Sunday morning problem, which might also happen on Bank holidays.

 

From a justice point of view, I have never liked penalty fares or other 'fixed penalty notices'. In this case, the Inspector is saying that he thinks an offence has taken place, but he is allowing others to make the judgements, potentially including the judgement of Magistrates. I have always thought that represents a better and more open form of justice than simply say 'pay 20 quid'.

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Yes Wriggler7, I agree entirely. I was involved in this line of work right at the beginnings of penalty fares in 1984 and have never liked the idea.

 

My personal interpretation from what I've read here suggests the use of discretion allowed the inspector to make his decision based purely on the legal position.

 

1. The OP didn't have a valid ticket

2. The OP didn't have the means to pay the fare due

3. The OP had made the journey.

 

The legislation states that the traveller must present a valid ticket or pay the fare due if asked.

 

The OP could not meet any of those requirements and a report is justified.

 

A really important factor to bear in mind is the wording 'pay the fare due if asked'.

 

Travellers should always remember that in this situation the inspector does not have to ask you to pay.

 

They may do so, but if an offence is detected they are not obliged to allow the fare to be paid unless in certain circumstances, such as the traveller had started a journey at a station where no pre-purchase facilities exist.

 

In relation to an earlier question, if the ticket was purchased online, it is likely the TOC will not accept any argument about not knowing the validity. The purchaser has to 'click' acceptance that they have read & understood the terms relating to the ticket that they wish to purchase before it is issued.

Edited by Old-CodJA
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Over the years, I have tried to use the mitigation 'why didn't the inspector/traffic warden/constable issue a fixed penalty.

 

Prosecutors look blank and say 'I cannot speculate'. I once asked a prosecutor to speculate. Wished I hadn't. Shrewd old git prosecutor said 'In this case, I do not know, but often it will be because............' Clerk to Magistrates turned to Bench and said 'Worships, I advise you to ignore those comments, they may not be relevant in this case, but the officer had that discretion.'

 

The only thing/person on trial is the defendant and the charge. Why a different method of dealing wasn't used is irrelevant, and may even be prejudicial to the defendant. If we ask the Inspector, he may well say 'I checked, the defendant was given a penalty fare before.' And if the defence seeks to adduce something likely to lead to a damaging revelation of previous bad character, then the witness may answer.

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Just out of curiosity, at this point in time, how exactly have you paid for that journey?

 

I bought the ticket online a few days before I travelled.

 

When I got stopped trying to go through the barriers in Brighton they were going to issue an on the spot fine or penalty fare (not sure which), but I didn't have any money on me at the time to be able to pay it.

 

I'd rather settle this out of court, obviously, because it'll be a lot easier. I'm guessing the name issue is just a typo, human error. However, I'm not prepared to get stung for some extortionate amount.

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