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Potential Prosecution for Fare Evasion


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Greetings everyone,

 

I - like many among you - have a concern I would like to raise.

 

Yesterday evening I was heading to a secondary, follow-up interview at Finchly and Frognal and was tagged for the acrimonious charge of fare evasion.

 

I took the London Overground from Woodgrange Park to Gospel Oak.

 

Normally, I use my Natwest card for short, intermediate travels on buses.

 

Because the train I wanted to catch was rapidly approaching the station,

I tapped my Natwest card thinking it would be suitable for travel.

 

However, it was on the train I was told that the Natwest card I had is not usable for train travel on the London Overground.

I pulled out my Oyster card hoping there was money on it, but there was only 1.35 pounds available.

 

I was pulled aside, given the standard procedural questions, and asked to pay the minimum 40 pound penalty.

I told the LO agent I needed to make a bank transfer as I only had a sufficient amount of money for travel on my bank card.

 

He consistently refused and told me if I didn't pay immediately he would file a Witness Statement for Prosecution.

 

We haggled for a bit, but ultimately he chose to file for Prosecution under "Fare Evasion".

 

I admitted to the agent that my intent was NEVER to evade fare, but that I assumed that my Natwest card would be sufficient for travel as it is for travel on buses.

He listened but continued to file the documents.

 

I am an American citizen with the right to remain here in Britain, and I am not entirely familiar with all the legal contours of a prosecution.

However, a night's search led me to a few webpages stating unambiguously that a successful prosecution will lead to a criminal conviction!

 

I would like to know if there's any way I could make an out of court settlement as this is my first offense (either in the U.K. or in the U.S.),

I had no intent whatsoever to dodge paying (as I had to top-up to leave the train station), a

nd a criminal conviction would be severely detrimental not only to my career but my right to remain here in the U.K.

 

Post Script:

The agent asked me why I didn't notice the "red" sign on the tap board at Woodgrange.

My reason was that I had my ipod in and given the train was approaching

I failed to look back to make sure. Otherwise, I would have noticed.

 

Thank you for your assistance

 

sincerely,

 

Concerned Ex-pat

Edited by honeybee13
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I would think that a brief pleading letter

WHEN they write to you for your comments

 

in this instance should work.

please don't hit Quote...just type we know what we said earlier..

DCA's view debtors as suckers, marks and mugs

NO DCA has ANY legal powers whatsoever on ANY debt no matter what it's Type

and they

are NOT and can NEVER  be BAILIFFS. even if a debt has been to court..

If everyone stopped blindly paying DCA's Tomorrow, their industry would collapse overnight... 

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Greetings everyone,

 

I - like many among you - have a concern I would like to raise.

 

Yesterday evening I was heading to a secondary, follow-up interview at Finchly and Frognal and was tagged for the acrimonious charge of fare evasion.

 

I took the London Overground from Woodgrange Park to Gospel Oak.

 

Normally, I use my Natwest card for short, intermediate travels on buses.

 

Because the train I wanted to catch was rapidly approaching the station,

I tapped my Natwest card thinking it would be suitable for travel.

 

However, it was on the train I was told that the Natwest card I had is not usable for train travel on the London Overground.

I pulled out my Oyster card hoping there was money on it, but there was only 1.35 pounds available.

 

I was pulled aside, given the standard procedural questions, and asked to pay the minimum 40 pound penalty.

I told the LO agent I needed to make a bank transfer as I only had a sufficient amount of money for travel on my bank card.

 

He consistently refused and told me if I didn't pay immediately he would file a Witness Statement for Prosecution.

 

We haggled for a bit, but ultimately he chose to file for Prosecution under "Fare Evasion".

 

I admitted to the agent that my intent was NEVER to evade fare, but that I assumed that my Natwest card would be sufficient for travel as it is for travel on buses.

He listened but continued to file the documents.

 

I am an American citizen with the right to remain here in Britain, and I am not entirely familiar with all the legal contours of a prosecution.

However, a night's search led me to a few webpages stating unambiguously that a successful prosecution will lead to a criminal conviction!

 

I would like to know if there's any way I could make an out of court settlement as this is my first offense (either in the U.K. or in the U.S.),

I had no intent whatsoever to dodge paying (as I had to top-up to leave the train station), a

nd a criminal conviction would be severely detrimental not only to my career but my right to remain here in the U.K.

 

Post Script:

The agent asked me why I didn't notice the "red" sign on the tap board at Woodgrange.

My reason was that I had my ipod in and given the train was approaching

I failed to look back to make sure. Otherwise, I would have noticed.

 

Thank you for your assistance

 

sincerely,

 

Concerned Ex-pat

 

Hello and welcome to CAG.

 

I think you're anticipating the worst possible outcome at the moment, which may not happen.

 

You need to wait for the letter from the train operating company [TOC] to see what they plan to do, but hopefully the forum experts will be along to give you some pointers.

 

Just a quick question though. Are you saying that you tried to tap in with your NatWest card rather than an Oyster card please? I think your argument about not hearing the bleep because of your ipod may not wash because there is a visual display as well, isn't there?

 

My best, HB

Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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Honeybee,

 

Thank you for your kind response. I did tap my Natwest card thinking it would be acceptable given that I had used it on the bus moments before. I didn't hear/see the Oyster beep because the train was approaching and I had music on and thus unable to hear anything. I literally assumed everything would work out.

 

And you're right, I am thinking about this deeply. However, the legal implications of this are severe and I would like this resolved in a reasonable way as this would be, as stated in my initial response, my first offense.

 

Thanks,

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HB is absolutely correct I'm afraid. Not being able to hear the audible warning that your card had failed will not negate the fact that there would have been a visual warning saying 'Seek Assistance'

 

Having failed to pay the fare before travelling and not holding a valid ticket, but travelling anyway, at the very least a Byelaw offence is evident.

 

Not having a valid ticket AND not having the means to pay the fare due on demand does escalate the matter into the area of a possible charge of fare evasion.

 

The inspector was right not to issue a penalty fare notice in this case.

 

All you can do at this stage is await the letter and once it arrives you will know the unique reference allocated to your case. You might wish to offer an unmitigated apology for failing to ensure that you had paid the fare before travelling and ask if they are prepared to deal with the matter without Court action. The company are not obliged to do so, but are likely to consider any reasonable offer especially if there is no previous incident in your name.

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Old-CodJA,

 

Thank you for your response. You say, "Not having a valid ticket AND not having the means to pay the fare due on demand does escalate the matter into the area of a possible charge of fare evasion".

 

I'm not particularly savvy with respect to the relevant law, but doesn't "not having the means to pay the fare due on demand" mean, or at the very least imply, that I lacked sufficient funds for my journey? If so, that would be false in my case since I admitted to the agent that I had sufficient funds for the day's travel. Not only did I admit that to the agent, but I topped up at Gospel Oak (in front of the relevant agent) sufficient for my journey and to get home. Maybe I'm missing something?

 

Cordially,

 

Concerned Ex-Pat

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The inspector was rightly issuing a penalty fare for irregular travel without intent to evade fare.

It is not acceptable for him to file a report because you could not pay on the spot.

This not only is bad practice but goes against the transport for london act 2008 which states that a penalty fare is payable within 21 days at the reduced rate of £40.

No mention of payment on the spot.

In essence the inspector realised that this was a genuine mistake but because you couldn't pay on the spot decided to file for prosecution despite you had no intention to evade the fare.

This is very wrong and I would complain to London Overground (TfL) without waiting for their letter.

Threatening customers with prosecution because they haven't got the £40 in their pocket is a no no.

If they refuse to withdraw this prosecution I would go to court and grill the inspector on the witness stand.

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Old-CodJA,

 

Thank you for your response. You say, "Not having a valid ticket AND not having the means to pay the fare due on demand does escalate the matter into the area of a possible charge of fare evasion".

 

I'm not particularly savvy with respect to the relevant law, but doesn't "not having the means to pay the fare due on demand" mean, or at the very least imply, that I lacked sufficient funds for my journey? If so, that would be false in my case since I admitted to the agent that I had sufficient funds for the day's travel. Not only did I admit that to the agent, but I topped up at Gospel Oak (in front of the relevant agent) sufficient for my journey and to get home. Maybe I'm missing something?

 

Cordially,

 

Concerned Ex-Pat

 

Your original post says that

 

i) you did not have a valid ticket - because you had not successfully touched in a valid Oyster and did not hold a paper ticket for your journey

ii) your Oyster did not hold sufficient stored credit to pay the fare due if asked.

 

The fact that you could obtain sufficient funds after travelling is irrelevant

 

The strict liability requirement of the Byelaw is that you must pay the fare before travelling. That is what happens when you touch in a valid Oyster card.

 

 

The inspector was rightly issuing a penalty fare for irregular travel without intent to evade fare.

It is not acceptable for him to file a report because you could not pay on the spot.

This not only is bad practice but goes against the transport for london act 2008 which states that a penalty fare is payable within 21 days at the reduced rate of £40.

No mention of payment on the spot.

In essence the inspector realised that this was a genuine mistake but because you couldn't pay on the spot decided to file for prosecution despite you had no intention to evade the fare.

This is very wrong and I would complain to London Overground (TfL) without waiting for their letter.

Threatening customers with prosecution because they haven't got the £40 in their pocket is a no no.

If they refuse to withdraw this prosecution I would go to court and grill the inspector on the witness stand.

 

 

The inspector appears to have filed an intent to avoid a fare report according to Concerned777, but unless his report actually states that this was 'because the traveller could not pay the £40 penalty', I think you are making a very big assumption, which may ultimately prove incorrect.

 

IF the inspector has actually made a statement to that effect, king12345 is right, the charge will go nowhere, but I very much doubt that you will see a witness statement to that effect.

 

The issue of a Penalty Fare Notice, is discretionary. If an inspector sets out with intention to issue such a notice and, during questioning it becomes evident that 'intention not to pay' may be reported, the inspector may choose to make a report instead.

 

I agree, this cannot be simply because the traveller fails to pay a penalty fare on the spot. There is a 21 day payment / appeal process, which must be observed.

 

The fare evasion charge would appear to be possible because the traveller had no valid ticket and, if challenged to pay on train, could not do so. (see Bremme 1964) Being able to access funds to top up the card after having made the journey and after having been challenged does not alter that fact.

 

There was insufficient credit on the Oyster, which means that the prosecutor will allege that if the ticket check had not been made, the traveller would have left the railway without paying the fare due.

Section5 of the relevant Act states 'having not previously paid.....'

 

The general rules in relation to penalty fares make clear that if there is evidence to indicate intent to avoid a fare, a penalty notice is not the appropriate action.

 

A summons has not yet been issued, so it is perfectly possible that a prosecutor could go for a Byelaw charge and to prove that, the prosecutor does not need to refer to intent.

 

 

We haggled for a bit,

 

 

What this 'haggling' amounted to will be important and should be recorded in the inspectors' notes

 

You may choose to write and complain, however I stand by my suggestion that you wait until you get their letter to confirm what it is that they allege.

Edited by Old-CodJA
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If they go for a bylaw offence you are done.

If they go for rra 1889 then I would argue it.

Of course the inspector will not write in his report that the op was reported for fare evasion because he didn't have the £40.

That's why he needs to be grilled when on the witness stand.

He's at best done something unethical, but in my opinion he stitched up the op to pump his figures.

Disgraceful if you ask me.

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Disgraceful that someone is expected to pay for a journey when asked? It's ironic that you are making the very assumption referred to above.

It's disgraceful that the inspector knew there was no intention to evade the fare and in fact he was issuing a penalty fare, but then decided to file for prosecution because the op didn't have the £40 there and then.
The penalty fare doesn't have to be paid on the spot, there are 21 days to pay the reduced rate of £40.
The op didn't decline to pay for the journey, didn't have the chance.
Stations with no barrier are a passenger nightmare and a cash cow for tfl, because it's very easy to make a mistake.
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The op didn't decline to pay for the journey, didn't have the chance.

 

 

Whilst I agree with your assertion that when a PF is issued there are 21 days to pay, you appear to be persistently ignoring the facts that make the elements of the two offences that can be charged.

 

 

If evidence comes to light that suggests to an inspector that an offence is evident, there is no obligation to continue with the issue of a Penalty Fare Notice.

 

The traveller did have chance to pay the fare due right at the start of that journey - there are ticket machines at Woodgrange Park station. It is up to the traveller who knows that s/he needs to pay a fare to ensure that s/he has done so.

 

The OP says that s/he did not intend to use the Oyster and indeed that Oyster did not have sufficient funds to cover the fare in any case. It is therefore essential that the intending traveller ensures that s/he gets a ticket for their intended journey.

 

1. It is the traveller's responsibility to make sure they hold a valid ticket before travelling where facilities are available to do so. Ignorance of a law or Byelaw is not a defence.

2. If there are no facilities to pay before travelling it is up to the traveller to pay the fare due on demand at the time of travel and not later. There were facilities at the starting station and the traveller did not have the means to pay with them on the train or at the time of the ticket barrier check. (See Bremme 1964)

3. If the inspector had not checked, the fare would not have been paid.

4. The travellers' intent will be judged not by what they say they intended to do, but by their words & actions at the time. (See Corbyn 1978)

 

This is like going into a cafe without means to pay, ordering and eating breakfast and when asked to pay saying 'Oh, I haven't got any money, but if you come with me to a cash point I'll get it for you.' How many places do you think that will work?

 

I am sure that the prosecutor's office will seriously consider whether or not this matter can be settled without Court action, which is what the OP asked in the first post.

 

We must always remember that we only have one perspective on every incident to go by on here, I'd be interested to know what the OP meant by the comment 'We haggled for a bit'. Comments made here may have provided good reason for the inspector to discontinue the PF issue and proceed to report.

 

A question for the OP: Were you 'cautioned' by the inspector at this point. As an American citizen this is what you would know as being 'read your rights'?

 

We do all have to take responsibility for our own actions I'm afraid, which is what the OP actually appears to have done in seeking clarification on the likelihood of getting it settled, rather than always look for reasons to excuse them.

Edited by Old-CodJA
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Old-CodJA,

 

Thank you for your response.

 

There was insufficient credit on the Oyster, which means that the prosecutor will allege that if the ticket check had not been made, the traveller would have left the railway without paying the fare due.

Section5 of the relevant Act states 'having not previously paid.....'

 

Right. This is precisely what I am challenging. I acknowledge and concede that I had insufficient funds on my Oyster card since I admitted to the officer that I intended to use my Natwest card for travel. What I deny, and what I denied on the Witness/Prosecution form, is that I intended to evade fare. As I explained to the officer, my intended destination was Gospel Oak. I frequently travel to the Gospel Oak area because I volunteer near there. I know the station and I'm used to routine, random checks. I knew beforehand the station had CCTVs, ticket agents, and Oyster turnstiles. There is no way I could have, given my knowledge of the area, have plausibly left the railway without paying. Had I not been stopped, I would have tried to use my Natwest card and discovered it wouldn't have worked. At that point I would have tried to use my Oyster card, discovered it was low on funds, topped up and would have had to pay twicethe amount since I hadn't tapped the card in the first place. In short, there is no way I would have been able to evade fare. I was going to either be caught or forced to pay for my fare.

 

The only evidence to the officer's credit is that I hadn't tapped my card at Woodgrange Park and my balance was 1.35 instead of 1.85 which would have been sufficient for fare. But all of that is consistent with my account of the events since, as I explained to the officer, I tried to use my Natwest card for travel.

 

A question for the OP: Were you 'cautioned' by the inspector at this point. As an American citizen this is what you would know as being 'read your rights'?

 

I don't recall him doing so.

 

What this 'haggling' amounted to will be important and should be recorded in the inspectors' notes

 

He initially offered me to pay the penalty fare at a minimum of 40 pounds. I told him that I didn't have that much on my bank card and would need to make the appropriate transfer to do so. He said, "Then you don't have money." I responded by saying I had money for travel but I was around 10 pounds short of paying the minimum of the penalty fare. He said, "If you don't have money, then why would you travel?" At this point I repeated that I only left home with sufficient money for travel to my intended destination. He said, "Well, sir, if you don't have money then I'm going to have to file a prosecution form." I said, "Wait, why am I being prosecuted for not having 40 pounds for a penalty fare?" He said, "If you don't have money, sir, then I have no choice but to report you." At this point the "you don't have money" line seemed ambiguous given that I had clearly explained that I had money in my bank account for travel, but not enough for the 40 pound penalty fare. So, while I won't go as far as saying he threatened me with prosecution for failure to pay the 40 penalty fare, he did make it seem that way. We argued this for a good ten minutes, chewing up the bulk of the conversation. I get that offering a penalty fare to an OP is discretionary, but it seemed superfluous to even bother with asking me for 40 pounds if he suspected I was out of money in the first place.

 

Thanks for your comments!

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It's disgraceful that the inspector knew there was no intention to evade the fare and in fact he was issuing a penalty fare, but then decided to file for prosecution because the op didn't have the £40 there and then.

The penalty fare doesn't have to be paid on the spot, there are 21 days to pay the reduced rate of £40.

The op didn't decline to pay for the journey, didn't have the chance.

Stations with no barrier are a passenger nightmare and a cash cow for tfl, because it's very easy to make a mistake.

 

He didn't know any such thing and neither do you.

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Right. This is precisely what I am challenging. I acknowledge and concede that I had insufficient funds on my Oyster card since I admitted to the officer that I intended to use my Natwest card for travel. What I deny, and what I denied on the Witness/Prosecution form, is that I intended to evade fare.

 

 

 

This is why I make the point that WoodGrange Park has facilities to pay BEFORE you travel and you were obliged to use them.

 

You state that you intended to use your 'NatWest' Card, but you did not check whether or not it was an acceptable means of paying in the way you wanted to use it. It was your responsibility to do so and you did not do so.

 

Unfortunately, making assumptions has led to many people failing to avoid conviction by Magistrates in the past. If you had checked before hand you would have been able to pay the fare at the machine before boarding a train and the situation would not have arisen.

 

As I have previously said, if they proceed to charge with intent, the Magistrates decision will be based on your words & actions at the time, not what you say you thought. I am far from certain that you would not be convicted.

 

The prosecutor will be sure to press the point before the Magistrates, who will want to know what steps you took to pay your fare before travelling and why you did not do so.

 

If they proceed with the strict liability matter, that offence is complete.

 

Please wait until you get the letter, you will then know what you are being accused of and will be able to respond accordingly.

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