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National Rail penalty fare letter - what next?


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Hi all, I have spent all weekend searching the internet for the most helpful places to look and can safely say your forums have been very helpful and informative, hence my post.

 

I realise you are all probably bored to teared with these sort of posts, as I have also noticed many similar situations, however, I just really wanted to ask a specific question.

 

This weekend I recieved a letter from Northern Rail following my lack of a valid travel ticket in June - a genuine mistake that I am wracked with guilt over. Sorry, in the title I put National Rail, its actually Northern Rail, but I can't seem to change the title.

 

The main body of the letter stated:

 

"Before I proceed further with the investigation of this matter, I would lilke to give you the opportunity of responding with your explanation concerning this incident. Please complete the bottom section of this letter and if you wish to make any comments about the incident, please do so on the revers of this letter.

 

Failure to respond to this letter may result in legal action being taken against you"

 

I am planning to respond with much remorse, many apologies and stating that this is my first and last offence and I will never do it again. I am also going to offer to pay the fare and any reasonable administration charges or fines in order to settle out of court. I absolutely CANNOT get a criminal record, it would totally destroy my future career.

 

My question is this - if they respond with an invoice for any fines or admininstration costs and I pay these on time, does that mean they cannot/will not take me to court? Or can they still proceed with court summons if I pay these fines? Does paying the fines mean a criminal record, as well?

 

The letter seems to imply that if I respond willingly and pay any costs needed, they won't take legal action, as it states "failure to respond to this letter may result in legal action being taken against you". I thought from reading the letter that if I comply willingly and cooperatively (which I will and will state in my reply that I shall) then they won't take the case to court, but from reading some other threads on here, it seems they might still take me to court?

 

Any help and advise would be greatly appreciated - this is my first and only run in with the law, I am a contributing, law-abiding citizen and I have been my whole life, this was a genuine mistake and I have been in bits all weekend over this. I am absolutely petrified it will ruin my future.

 

Thanks in advance, again.

Edited by LilyKitten
Had to change "National Rail" to "Northern Rail" - typo mistake
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Hi LK, is this a penalty fare notice or a prosecution? PF's are dealt with by and Independent overseer rather than a rail company as a rule. They have to be.

This sounds like a prosecution; it would be intersting to know more aboout the original ticket irregularity?

 

BUT, regardless of that, the short answer is 'NO', to your basic question. If they make you an administrative offer and you accept, the case will be closed. They cannot prosecute you if it is already settled. This is all on the assumption that eveything is paid up etc; they will take a dim view if asked to receive weekly installments 'on the tally' as it were! And since it is a private settlememnt between you and the company, there is no record anywhere other than the Prosecutors' office (which of course is worth bearing in mind if it ever happens again).

 

Other people are generally not lucky enough to be made an offer of settlement, maybe those were the threads you were seeing....?

 

Good luck and keep in touch.

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Hi Grotesque,

 

I am not entirely sure what type of letter it is, as the letter only states what I quoted above and my name, date of the event and reference number. The form at the bottom I have to fill in asks my name, date and it says to write on the back my version of events, if I wish to. However, I presume typing out a letter and enclosing it will be acceptable?

 

Some more details:

 

I was travelling from a station where the ticket office was shut. During my journey, the ticket officer did not come round or ask to see any tickets. I was stopped for not having a ticket upon my leaving Manchester Picadilly station, I was walking through the exit doors. I had not previously passed any guards who had asked for a ticket. It was early afternoon and certainly not rush hour. It was a single journey and my ticket should have cost £1.85. I was going to include these details in my reply but after reading forums I see I should have actively seeked out a guard on the train.

 

I did walk past the ticket office in the centre of the station on my way out, without attempting to buy a ticket, as I was in a rush for an appointment and ultimately, although I was wrong, I didn't think it was my responsibility at that stage, after my single journey and near the exit, to buy a ticket for that journey or that I would be stopped at any other point for a ticket. Although I now know that was wrong and I would never do it again.

 

Two ticket guards came up to me. One cornered another passenger and one cornered me. I do not remember anything being said about it being used as evidence but at that point, I was very shocked so they may well have said it, but I don't remember it at all and I generally have a good memory.

 

The guard was quite harsh in dealing with me even though I had evidence there and then to show I always buy a ticket, including my Railcard and many, many past tickets which I had in my purse. He didn't pay any attention to that. As I said, this is my first and last unintended offence.

 

The guard who questioned me (he was not a police officer but he also didn't tell me his job role or position, he flashed his card very quickly and not long enough to read it) asked me why I didn't buy a ticket. I told him that the ticket office on my boarding station was closed and there was no guard to be seen on the train. He then asked why I hadn't bought one on my exit and I explained that if it was a returning journey I would have, as I always buy tickets, but I was in a rush for an appointment and this was a genuine mistake. He then took my name and address and rang someone up to verify them to make sure they were correct - so I am hoping he could see I was honest and up front - and that's all that happened really, until this point. He wrote down my explanation in a little black notebook and I signed it after checking it was what I said - especially about the ticket office at my home station being closed and there was no guard on the train.

 

"If they make you an administrative offer and you accept, the case will be closed." - I hope you are right. I would certainly pay up straight away and in full amount. I would certainly not want to continue this any longer than necessary and at this stage I would do anything to avoid a criminal record.

 

Thanks for your reply, I really appreciate your help.

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Hi, It definitely sounds to me as though no Penalty Fare was issued, and you were reported by the rail staff for not having a valid rail ticket. You've done everything I'd always suggest doing, in that you've written a letter stating that you are sorry and will pay all reasonable admin costs etc etc etc. I will reiterate what Grotesque has already said in that if an offer is accepted and paid, they will not seek to prosecute you. They don't have to accept any offer you make, and can go to court anyway, but you've done all you possibly can to avoid this.

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Thank you both for your reply, you've been a massive help.

 

I was just wondering, do you think I should put my case of the story on my letter or do you think I should simply apologise and offer to pay all needed penalty fines? I've seen similar situations on other forums where others have advised people in similar situation not to include their own explanation of events, but to just make it clear that the incident was a mistake.

 

Thanks again.

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To be honest there's nothing really in there that stands out enough, or that will make them look at you any more favourably. At the end of the day, if you weren't stopped on exiting the station, the fare wouldn't have been paid. Do you really need to remind them of that?

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Hi Grotesque,

 

I am not entirely sure what type of letter it is, as the letter only states what I quoted above and my name, date of the event and reference number. The form at the bottom I have to fill in asks my name, date and it says to write on the back my version of events, if I wish to. However, I presume typing out a letter and enclosing it will be acceptable?

 

Some more details:

 

I was travelling from a station where the ticket office was shut. During my journey, the ticket officer did not come round or ask to see any tickets. I was stopped for not having a ticket upon my leaving Manchester Picadilly station, I was walking through the exit doors. I had not previously passed any guards who had asked for a ticket. It was early afternoon and certainly not rush hour. It was a single journey and my ticket should have cost £1.85. I was going to include these details in my reply but after reading forums I see I should have actively seeked out a guard on the train.

 

I did walk past the ticket office in the centre of the station on my way out, without attempting to buy a ticket, as I was in a rush for an appointment and ultimately, although I was wrong, I didn't think it was my responsibility at that stage, after my single journey and near the exit, to buy a ticket for that journey or that I would be stopped at any other point for a ticket. Although I now know that was wrong and I would never do it again.

 

Two ticket guards came up to me. One cornered another passenger and one cornered me. I do not remember anything being said about it being used as evidence but at that point, I was very shocked so they may well have said it, but I don't remember it at all and I generally have a good memory.

 

The guard was quite harsh in dealing with me even though I had evidence there and then to show I always buy a ticket, including my Railcard and many, many past tickets which I had in my purse. He didn't pay any attention to that. As I said, this is my first and last unintended offence.

 

The guard who questioned me (he was not a police officer but he also didn't tell me his job role or position, he flashed his card very quickly and not long enough to read it) asked me why I didn't buy a ticket. I told him that the ticket office on my boarding station was closed and there was no guard to be seen on the train. He then asked why I hadn't bought one on my exit and I explained that if it was a returning journey I would have, as I always buy tickets, but I was in a rush for an appointment and this was a genuine mistake. He then took my name and address and rang someone up to verify them to make sure they were correct - so I am hoping he could see I was honest and up front - and that's all that happened really, until this point. He wrote down my explanation in a little black notebook and I signed it after checking it was what I said - especially about the ticket office at my home station being closed and there was no guard on the train.

 

"If they make you an administrative offer and you accept, the case will be closed." - I hope you are right. I would certainly pay up straight away and in full amount. I would certainly not want to continue this any longer than necessary and at this stage I would do anything to avoid a criminal record.

 

Thanks for your reply, I really appreciate your help.

 

This is clearly a verification letter, with the purpose of giving you an opportunity to give your explanation of events before any final decision is made as to whether ptrosecution should proceed.

 

I feel that I have to remark on a couple of your specific comments, for example;

I was travelling from a station where the ticket office was shut. During my journey, the ticket officer did not come round or ask to see any tickets.

 

Why did you not actively seek out someone to pay on the train? It is always the traveller's responsibility to go to staff in order to pay if they have genuinely not been able to get a ticket before boarding, it is not the staff's responsibility to seek out the traveller in order to sell them a ticket.

 

If the booking office was closed, was there no self-service machine at the station where you got on? Many travellers will say 'the station was shut' and the company will have a record of when station booking offices and machines are not working.

 

Furthermore,

I did walk past the ticket office in the centre of the station on my way out, without attempting to buy a ticket, as I was in a rush for an appointment and ultimately, although I was wrong, I didn't think it was my responsibility at that stage.

 

Exactly who's responsibility did you think it would be to pay your fare??

 

This letter is not an 'offer to settle' letter and there is no obligation on the rail company to offer such an opportunity.

 

It might be a very good idea for you to reply promptly offering an unreserved apology and offering to pay the unpaid fare and all of the rail company's admin costs and asking if they will accept this as an alternative to prosecution.

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