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Last month my ticket failed to work in a ticket machine and so I approached a guard to let me through the barrier.

I purchase a weekly travel card from the ticket machine each week and pay by debit card. The machine prompts you to enter a photo card number prior to paying. On this occasion whilst purchasing my ticket I did not have my photo card to hand and did not recall the number from the top of my head. Rather than key in a random number i opted to type my name in as the photo card number so that it would be readily apparent that the travel card was mine (even if it did not match my photo card). When stopped the guard asked to see my photo card which i duly produced. The number on my travel card obviously differed from the photo card as I am fortunately not called GH 8578 V. I explained the situation to the guard and subsequently produced the receipt which tied up with my debit card number and also my driving license which demonstrated that the number entered on the travel card was in fact my first name. The guard acknowledged that on reflection the travel card could only be mine unless by some miracle i had happened upon a travel card valid for my journey and who's photo card number by a miraculous coincidence happened to be my name. I was told that this was fine and that he had to fill in a form and that I just had to verify what he said and then i could be on my way. I was not placed under any caution. His statement said that the number on my travel card did not mach the photo card - I agreed that this was true and signed and with my ticket returned was allowed through the barrier to board the train. I subsequently received a notice of intention to prosecute from FCC stating that I was found to be entering a train for the purpose of travelling without a ticket entitling travel. To say I was shocked by this is a slight understatement. Surely if in the opinion of the guard the ticket did not entitle me to travel I should not have been given back my ticket and allowed through the barrier? I should have been asked to purchase a ticket which entitled me to travel and that would have been that? I would also suggest that whilst perhaps I was in the wrong to have a ticket which did not display my photo card number it should be obvious to all concerned that this was not an attempt to travel without paying. Further to this at this point I was not on a train and so would question the offence raised? Can anyone suggest a suitable response short of explaining the facts and circumstances above....? thanks in advance

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If all is exactly as you say, this does seem a little OTT although the presentation of a valid ticket entitling travel is effectively a strict liability requirement.

 

Fistly there are a few procedural points that you appear to have questioned.

 

i) You do not have to be cautioned for a prosecution to proceed

 

ii) I agree that the 'inspector' should not have returned the ticket to you if he intended to write a report

 

iii) If he intended making a report, the inspector should have retained the ticket and given you a receipt for it, in the form of a 'Zero fare' ticket allowing you to complete the journey that you were making.

 

iv) Yes, you were wrong to use a ticket that specifically required a photo-card to make it valid without having the requisite photocard present at the time of travel

 

v) Intent is not a prerequisite of bringing a prosecution where the strict liability breach of Byelaw is concerned.

 

vi) You don't say which station this occurred at, but given that it was barriered and FCC were the TOC concerned, I suggest it was probably a station where a controlled ticket area (CTA) exists so you did not have to be on a train, merely within the CTA.

 

vii) In general terms the traveller does not have to be on a train either. If no CTA exists a person who is intending to travel is subject to the Byelaws and the provisions of The Regulation of Railways Act. National Railway Byelaw 18.2 makes a requirement that an intending traveller must show a valid ticket on demand and S.5 of the said Act says 'if any person travels, or attempts to travel' so staff have the right to check tickets accordingly.

 

Was there a photo booth nearby? Many stations still have them. If so, the commonsense approach for any inspector who underwent training in our day, would have been to hang on to your ticket whilst you got a suitable photograph, went to the booking office and obtained a free rail photocard and then he should have entered the card number, endorsing the back of the ticket with his name and number to explain the apparent alteration..

 

Job done, but I guess that's all far too simple these days.

 

If there was no possibility of a photo being available then the retain & report process is justified.

 

However given that he returned your ticket I would point that out to FCC that by returning the ticket to you and advising that you could continue to travel using it, you were in effect, given authority to travel without a valid ticket by an authorised person in accordance with the exemptions under National Railway Byelaw 18.3 and therefore, can they please explain what specific legislation do they propose to use in proceeding to prosecution?

Edited by Old-CodJA

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Many thanks for the excellent response. This occurred at St Pancras station. Whilst there are photo booths at the station they are some distance away from the FCC area and access to the thameslink services. Both my photocard, the ticket and my driving license were photocopied before being returned to me. I appreciate that by the letter of the law I was in the wrong but feel that the laws when properly applied are to ensure tickets are not transferred between passengers etc resulting in revenue loss etc. I would hope in this case that common sense would prevail and once it was acknowledged (as had been by the guard) that I was not trying to evade paying etc no further action would be taken. Your final paragraph contains excellent information. Do you think I should refer to this when replying or simply state the facts as best as possible and should I receive a further notice cite this? Or is the next step a summons in which case this will be too late? Once again appreciate the excellent advice and guidance.

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I think you can give a very brief summary of the incident in your letter, just as you have here, and add the reference to Byelaw 18.3 exemption as a footnote.

 

Finally, ask them to see the matter for what it was, an error. Advise that you will not repeat the occurrence and that you are and always have been in posession of a photo-card. Suggest that the warning has been noted and ask that they close the file with no further action.

 

I'm not saying you are likely to do so, but as a general rule I suggest people try to avoid including the 'threats', implied or direct, that we see so often in some letters. Comments suggesting 'I'll see you in Court then' and the like usually hardens the resolve to ensure that the writer isn't disappointed.

Edited by Old-CodJA

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Many thanks again for taking the time to reply so comprehensively. I will do as you suggest, in honesty I am keen to avoid any aggravation which is why I wondered if citing the exemption was just likely to antagonise / strengthen the resolve to prosecute.

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Many thanks again for taking the time to reply so comprehensively. I will do as you suggest, in honesty I am keen to avoid any aggravation which is why I wondered if citing the exemption was just likely to antagonise / strengthen the resolve to prosecute.

 

I can well understand that thinking, but I suggest that it is as well to ask that particular question early on.

 

If FCC have sent a 'notice of intention to prosecute', they have a duty to advise what law they allege that you have broken.

 

Citing the exemption and asking them to close this down with a warning at the first opportunity could result in you avoiding 'correspondence tennis' and a lot of wasted time & worry.

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Stories like this really make the inspector look obsessively officious, to put it mildly. As someone who's a supporter of revenue protection, I feel that in some cases, there is clear cut abuse of the laws as they stand. I mean, it's not enough for FCC that the OP paid the correct fare and made a concerted effort to compensate for the lack of photocard - they now want to extract money from the OP on a technicality. At first, I respected what I clearly mistook for a zero tolerance approach to people who didn't feel it was important to pay the correct fare. I think this is taking things a step too far. Thanks for helping the OP out OC and I certainly hope it works out.

 

Let one of FCC's RPIs start on me for using one of my style of valid ticketing arrangements on their trains - I'll happily reject any offers of a "merciful" Penalty Fare and before long they'll be sticking their NIPs where the sun doesn't shine!

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Stories like this really make the inspector look obsessively officious, to put it mildly.

 

I could not disagree more.

 

The OP made perfectly clear that the RPI was NOT officious, but perfectly aimiable and if you had read the post thoroughly that is very evident

 

see the quote below:

 

 

The guard acknowledged that on reflection the travel card could only be mine unless by some miracle i had happened upon a travel card valid for my journey and who's photo card number by a miraculous coincidence happened to be my name. I was told that this was fine and that he had to fill in a form and that I just had to verify what he said and then i could be on my way. I was not placed under any caution. His statement said that the number on my travel card did not mach the photo card - I agreed that this was true and signed

 

 

It is the FCC prosecutors' office that sent out the letter, not the RPI

 

It seems that someone in that office cannot conduct a proper investigation before jumping to issue a 'notice of intention to prosecute' unnecessarily

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I could not disagree more.

 

The OP made perfectly clear that the RPI was NOT officious, but perfectly aimiable and if you had read the post thoroughly that is very evident

 

see the quote below:

 

 

 

 

 

It is the FCC prosecutors' office that sent out the letter, not the RPI

 

It seems that someone in that office cannot conduct a proper investigation before jumping to issue a 'notice of intention to prosecute' unnecessarily

 

Passively officious then.

 

The act of submitting a report in this case screams jobsworth to me. RPIs, especially FCC's, are not oblivious to the possible and likely outcomes of such an action. There was nothing at all to stop that member of staff having the situation corrected without going down that road. No matter how nice they were about it, its was a callous decision to make.

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Passively officious then.

 

The act of submitting a report in this case screams jobsworth to me. RPIs, especially FCC's, are not oblivious to the possible and likely outcomes of such an action. There was nothing at all to stop that member of staff having the situation corrected without going down that road. No matter how nice they were about it, its was a callous decision to make.

 

How does any of that excuse the 'jobsworth' sitting in an office from issuing the threat of prosecution when it is unlikely to succeed?

 

If you fail to produce your drivers licence when asked by a Police officer will he not report it? Yes he will

Does the contabulary immediately issue a threat of prosecution because a technical offence has been comitted? No, you will be given 7 days to produce evidence that you hold one.

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