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Magistrates court hearing - south west trains - breaking byelaw 19

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Hi all, first post here but i was looking for some expert advice please.

 

A few months ago i was traveling with a standard ticket on a packed South West Trains (SWT), i managed to squeeze on to the overcrowded train and was jammed in the vesting area between first and standard class.

 

I had recently had surgery on my knee and it had been it was in the first few days after i was off crutches. It was extremely difficult and uncomfortable to stand for a long period of time in a packed vesting area. After waiting 15 minutes in extreme discomfort the next stop arrived and some further passengers got onto the train. At this point I couldn't stand any longer so i went into the empty first class carriage to take a seat.

 

Just my luck 5 minutes later, a Revenue Protection Officer literally bursts into the first class carriage and angrily demands to see my ID. I was initially in shock, it felt like i was being arrested for robbing a bank, such was the ferocity of the protection officers! I explained to them the situation but they were very stubborn and claimed i was breaking the law. I offered to pay for a first class ticket or go back into standard class they said they had to take a statement of the offense - they also stole my weekly travelcard which had a few days remaining.

 

I had wrote to SWT with my mitigating circumstances but they have completely ignored my case and are arranging a court date.

 

I have been accused of committing an offense contrary to the Railway Byelaws: Bylaw 19... "In that you did, without permission of an authorised persion, remain in a seat, berth or any part of a train where a notice indicates that it is reserved for a specified ticket holder or holders of tickets of a specific class"

 

What options do i have? - frankly i can't afford a solicitor so i was thinking of attending court and pleading guilty with mitigating circumstances. I find it extremely disturbing that after having paying tens of thousands of pounds to SWT over the last decade, the one time i needed a seat i am being charged with a CRIMINAL RECORD!

 

It's simply absurd, for what would have been a £11.70 ticket which i have offered to pay but has been rejected. I admit i was wrong by being in that carriage but it seems inhumane given i was not evading fares at all. There seems to be no appeal process now. so i would like to hear from people who have been through this on how i should proceed in court?

 

Thanks!

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Hi aydee2014

 

Welcome to CAG

 

That is crazy, I suspect if you were having a baby or a heart attack it would be the same, common sense gone out of the window. When you wrote to the rail company, did you include any evidence of surgery on your knee, i.e. Doctors letter, Consultant's Report etc.

 

I would write a Formal Letter of Complaint, mark it as such. Explain what's happened (knee operation), how they have let you down (want to prosecute you) and what you want them to do (apply some common sense). Include a Doctor/Consultant letter, follow-up appointment letter etc. Explain that if the prosecution goes ahead you will provide the court with the same documentation that has been provided to the CEO.

 

Send it to:-

 

Mr Tim Shoveller

Managing Director

South West Trains

tshoveller@swtrains.co.uk

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Hello and welcome to CAG. The forum guys should be along later with advice for you, but as it's the weekend you may need to bear with us until they can get here.

 

You don't need a lawyer for this; the guys here should be able to tak you through this. But you also have the option of trying to negotiate with SWT.

 

My best, HB


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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Hi all, first post here but i was looking for some expert advice please.

 

A few months ago i was traveling with a standard ticket on a packed South West Trains (SWT), i managed to squeeze on to the overcrowded train and was jammed in the vesting area between first and standard class.

 

I had recently had surgery on my knee and it had been it was in the first few days after i was off crutches. It was extremely difficult and uncomfortable to stand for a long period of time in a packed vesting area. After waiting 15 minutes in extreme discomfort the next stop arrived and some further passengers got onto the train. At this point I couldn't stand any longer so i went into the empty first class carriage to take a seat.

 

Just my luck 5 minutes later, a Revenue Protection Officer literally bursts into the first class carriage and angrily demands to see my ID. I was initially in shock, it felt like i was being arrested for robbing a bank, such was the ferocity of the protection officers! I explained to them the situation but they were very stubborn and claimed i was breaking the law. I offered to pay for a first class ticket or go back into standard class they said they had to take a statement of the offense - they also stole my weekly travelcard which had a few days remaining.

 

I had wrote to SWT with my mitigating circumstances but they have completely ignored my case and are arranging a court date.

 

I have been accused of committing an offense contrary to the Railway Byelaws: Bylaw 19... "In that you did, without permission of an authorised persion, remain in a seat, berth or any part of a train where a notice indicates that it is reserved for a specified ticket holder or holders of tickets of a specific class"

 

What options do i have? - frankly i can't afford a solicitor so i was thinking of attending court and pleading guilty with mitigating circumstances. I find it extremely disturbing that after having paying tens of thousands of pounds to SWT over the last decade, the one time i needed a seat i am being charged with a CRIMINAL RECORD!

 

It's simply absurd, for what would have been a £11.70 ticket which i have offered to pay but has been rejected. I admit i was wrong by being in that carriage but it seems inhumane given i was not evading fares at all. There seems to be no appeal process now. so i would like to hear from people who have been through this on how i should proceed in court?

 

Thanks!

 

It seems both that:

A) from what you have said, some discretion by the on train staff my have been in order, but

B) there may be some parts missing from your description of events.

 

1) did they give you a receipt or other authority to travel after confiscating your travel card?

 

Incidentally, they can't "steal" your travelcard, since you agreed when you purchased it that it remains their property, and they can demand it back, for example for evidence for a prosecution.

 

Did things get heated? Were you argumentative at all ?

 

2) it seems odd that they would " burst " into a carriage and "angrily" demand ID 's : did they do anything else (such as ask for tickets?). I am left wondering if there are some gaps in the details that perhaps you have left out.

 

You say "they claimed I was breaking the law" : from the details you have given, you were breaching Bylaw 19.

Your medical issues may indeed be mitigation, but not an outright defence.

 

You say "I wasn't evading fares ", but look at it from their point of view : had you paid (in advance) a first class fare?

If the train was so full, there was a chance revenue protection would not have got through : would the 1st class fare have been paid in those circumstances?

(This isn't strictly relevant to a Byelaw 19 prosecution, which is 'strict liability' - they don't have to show intent to avoid your fare )

 

Given the "tone " of your post : "absurd ", "ferocity", "burst", "angrily" : did your letter to SWT mention these or take a similar stance? Did you offer to pay the fare, or "the fare and their admin costs"?

 

Bear in mind that the prosecution office gets to see your letter, but also the report from the revenue staff, who may too have noted if they felt you were "abrupt", "unrepentant", or at all "unco-operative" : so this may influence their decision.

 

If it goes to court you are correct that you may have to plead guilty and offer your circumstances in mitigation - but that isn't the same as "not guilty".

 

If your letter to SWT was contrite, didn't attempt to put any blame on the revenue staff, and offered to pay their reasonable costs as well as the fare : it may well go to court.

If not, might another such letter avoiding those pitfalls be worth a further attempt to avoid court?

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The OP says she was in some discomfort, maybe some pain, I wouldn't be too approachable either, especially if I'm trying to co-operate but getting nowhere with my explanation and it's easily dismissed.

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I have been accused of committing an offense contrary to the Railway Byelaws: Bylaw 19... "In that you did, without permission of an authorised persion, remain in a seat, berth or any part of a train where a notice indicates that it is reserved for a specified ticket holder or holders of tickets of a specific class"

 

What options do i have? - frankly i can't afford a solicitor so i was thinking of attending court and pleading guilty with mitigating circumstances. I find it extremely disturbing that after having paying tens of thousands of pounds to SWT over the last decade, the one time i needed a seat i am being charged with a CRIMINAL RECORD!

 

 

 

 

I have to say that I agree with Bazza, the charge as laid by Summons suggests that there may have been a little more to this interaction otherwise it is unlikely that the prosecution team would have proceeded to prosecution.

 

 

If this is the only charge that is summonsed it is worth remembering that if you either plead guilty, or are found guilty by the Court this does NOT result in a conviction for a recordable offence.

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Thanks for the reply Bazza, i have addressed your comments in red below

 

It seems both that:

A) from what you have said, some discretion by the on train staff my have been in order, but

B) there may be some parts missing from your description of events.

 

1) did they give you a receipt or other authority to travel after confiscating your travel card?

No, nothing just took my travelcard.

 

Incidentally, they can't "steal" your travelcard, since you agreed when you purchased it that it remains their property, and they can demand it back, for example for evidence for a prosecution.

That is fair enough, but what about the money i had paid for the travelcard? I missed out on £30 worth of travel - more than the cost of the first class single fare journey i was willing to pay that day.

 

Did things get heated? Were you argumentative at all ?

I was not happy at all and yes i did argue my case, i was eventually escorted off the train as they took so long taking the statement that my stop had arrived.

 

2) it seems odd that they would " burst " into a carriage and "angrily" demand ID 's : did they do anything else (such as ask for tickets?). I am left wondering if there are some gaps in the details that perhaps you have left out.

Yes they did first ask my ticket after rushing into the carriage to which i showed them my travelcard and began to explain my situation but they were rude and kept interrupting, they just kept demanding to see my ID to which i first asked why this was necessary and that i would just pay for the first class ticket - they said no and angrily kept demanding it. They then called another off duty police officer and collectively the three of them threatened to arrest me unless i showed my ID! I felt extremely intimated.

 

You say "they claimed I was breaking the law" : from the details you have given, you were breaching Bylaw 19.

Your medical issues may indeed be mitigation, but not an outright defence.

I accept this, this is why i offered to pay the first class fare.

 

You say "I wasn't evading fares ", but look at it from their point of view : had you paid (in advance) a first class fare?

If the train was so full, there was a chance revenue protection would not have got through : would the 1st class fare have been paid in those circumstances?

(This isn't strictly relevant to a Byelaw 19 prosecution, which is 'strict liability' - they don't have to show intent to avoid your fare )

 

Given the "tone " of your post : "absurd ", "ferocity", "burst", "angrily" : did your letter to SWT mention these or take a similar stance? Did you offer to pay the fare, or "the fare and their admin costs"?

Yes to both of these, i mentioned the outrageous behaviour of their staff and offered to pay the first class fare plus admin in full.

 

Bear in mind that the prosecution office gets to see your letter, but also the report from the revenue staff, who may too have noted if they felt you were "abrupt", "unrepentant", or at all "unco-operative" : so this may influence their decision.

 

If it goes to court you are correct that you may have to plead guilty and offer your circumstances in mitigation - but that isn't the same as "not guilty".

 

If your letter to SWT was contrite, didn't attempt to put any blame on the revenue staff, and offered to pay their reasonable costs as well as the fare : it may well go to court.

If not, might another such letter avoiding those pitfalls be worth a further attempt to avoid court?

i am planning on sending another letter, offering to pay the full fare again.

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I have to say that I agree with Bazza, the charge as laid by Summons suggests that there may have been a little more to this interaction otherwise it is unlikely that the prosecution team would have proceeded to prosecution.

 

 

If this is the only charge that is summonsed it is worth remembering that if you either plead guilty, or are found guilty by the Court this does NOT result in a conviction for a recordable offence.

 

Thanks old-codJA... there wasn't anything more to the interaction, the revenue protection officer were very scruffy thug-looking individuals and i just felt very intimidated by the whole scenario, i added further explanation in my previous post.

That is useful information about it not resulting in a conviction for a recordable offence, i guess i have nothing to lose.

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Thanks for the reply Bazza, i have addressed your comments in red below

 

Sending another letter offering to pay the full fare?

Not much to loose, but unlikely to succeed.

 

Would you instead consider sending another letter:

A) avoiding any criticism of them / their staff,

B) apologetic both in words and "tone"

C) offering to pay not only the fare due, but also

D) Their administrative costs to date. ?

 

If they don't accept that offer (and they don't have to!), then at least you will know you have tried to the limit of your ability.

Missing out any of A-D might give them a reason to not further consider your offer.

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Sending another letter offering to pay the full fare?

Not much to loose, but unlikely to succeed.

 

Would you instead consider sending another letter:

A) avoiding any criticism of them / their staff,

B) apologetic both in words and "tone"

C) offering to pay not only the fare due, but also

D) Their administrative costs to date. ?

 

If they don't accept that offer (and they don't have to!), then at least you will know you have tried to the limit of your ability.

Missing out any of A-D might give them a reason to not further consider your offer.

 

ok thanks Bazza i will try just this and report back.

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Hi aydee2014

 

In post 18 is an example, but different circumstances, amend (change everything that does not apply) and add to make it relevant to your specific circumstances.

 

Read through it several times just to make sure it reads well.

 

http://www.consumeractiongroup.co.uk...ly-travel-card

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thanks rebel! I sent a very friendly letter offering to make payment plus admin costs along with an explanation of the detrimental effects on my career that a court case would have... but they are having none of it... court case set for next week... any advice?

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Hi aydee2014

 

Did you explain about surgery on your knee in your letter to the train company?

 

thanks rebel! I sent a very friendly letter offering to make payment plus admin costs along with an explanation of the detrimental effects on my career that a court case would have... but they are having none of it... court case set for next week... any advice?

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Hi aydee2014

 

Did you explain about surgery on your knee in your letter to the train company?

 

i did indeed and offered up a note from the doctor as proof.

 

But they came back to say due to the high level of passengers using first class services it is in the public interest to pursue this case to court.

 

I have called the prosecution center offering payment and an out of court settlement for the fourth time, but they are unwilling to even discuss it! shocking! All over a £11 ticket they are taking me to court with the only charge being byelaw 19!

 

After initially disagreeing with the RPO (i remained polite throughout as noted in the witness statement) i did on the day offer payment, and officially did so two times further in both my following letters. The courts will laugh at this case!

 

How do you experts think i should proceed? Guilty with mitigating circumstances? Does anybody have any sample letters i can frame my response to the court with? I can't attend court on the day as i have no means to travel so far and will be forced to take time off work (i get paid by the hour) so it will be a double wammy for me.

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Hi aydee

 

It's unfortunate that you won't be able to attend. When you wrote to them, did you state that you wouldn't be attending court?

 

You need to get a letter from your Doctor as evidence of your mitigating circumstances. You should have sent that with your previous letter.

 

Then we can help you draft a letter to the Judge/court.

 

The thing is that First Class is almost always empty, the government are pushing to get rid of First Class compartments.

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Hi aydee

 

It's unfortunate that you won't be able to attend. When you wrote to them, did you state that you wouldn't be attending court?

 

You need to get a letter from your Doctor as evidence of your mitigating circumstances. You should have sent that with your previous letter.

 

Then we can help you draft a letter to the Judge/court.

 

The thing is that First Class is almost always empty, the government are pushing to get rid of First Class compartments.

 

yes i am in the process of getting the doctors letter, but the court case is early next week so i need to quickly decide how i will proceed.

 

i did not mention that i cannot attend court in my letter.

 

i really appreciate everyone's help here. i'm hoping the court will look favourably on my case as i have offered to pay 4 times now.

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thanks again rebel, looks like i should have done the doc note before ! :-(

 

but now my court case is less than 5 days away and they are refusing to speak to me even if i call them. what do you suggest given the circumstances now?

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Hi aydee2014

 

Plead guilty, but with mitigating circumstances. Send a letter to the Judge/court, explain that you had recent surgery and were in pain so had to sit down in first class. Enclose the Doctors letter and any other proof you have. Explain that you have tried to convey this to South West Trains 4/5 times, but they won't speak to you over the phone. So you've been left with no alternative but to write to the court as you have work commitments and can not attend.

 

 

thanks again rebel, looks like i should have done the doc note before ! :-(

 

but now my court case is less than 5 days away and they are refusing to speak to me even if i call them. what do you suggest given the circumstances now?

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Hi aydee2014

 

Plead guilty, but with mitigating circumstances. Send a letter to the Judge/court, explain that you had recent surgery and were in pain so had to sit down in first class. Enclose the Doctors letter and any other proof you have. Explain that you have tried to convey this to South West Trains 4/5 times, but they won't speak to you over the phone. So you've been left with no alternative but to write to the court as you have work commitments and can not attend.

 

 

 

 

I'm a little disappointed that because I have been so busy I did not get to read this thread again until now.

 

Reading through this I think I can see why the TOC continued to prosecution. There will also have been detailed consideration of any statement from the Police Officer, who may well have placed himself on-duty to assist if you were truly argumentative and uncooperative in his opinion.

 

Perhaps Aydee can tell us what happened at the Magistrates Court hearing.

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I'm a little disappointed that because I have been so busy I did not get to read this thread again until now.

 

Reading through this I think I can see why the TOC continued to prosecution. There will also have been detailed consideration of any statement from the Police Officer, who may well have placed himself on-duty to assist if you were truly argumentative and uncooperative in his opinion.

 

Perhaps Aydee can tell us what happened at the Magistrates Court hearing.

 

no worries, thanks for the reply... i pleaded guilty with mitigating circumstances, having re-read the statements the actual fare due was £3.70 as i was only in first class for one stop (confirmed in the witness statement) All this hassle for less than £4!

 

how long do i have to wait to get the verdict from court? i presume they will send me a letter to my home address?

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no worries, thanks for the reply... i pleaded guilty with mitigating circumstances, having re-read the statements the actual fare due was £3.70 as i was only in first class for one stop (confirmed in the witness statement) All this hassle for less than £4!

 

how long do i have to wait to get the verdict from court? i presume they will send me a letter to my home address?

 

 

 

Yes, the resulting team will send you a notice to your home address.

 

This is usually sent out pretty quickly after the hearing because technically any fine/costs/compensation order is payable to the Court straight away.

 

It may help others if you come back and let us know the result.

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May be worth pointing out that obviously Old_Codja is right, but if one was to be in financial difficulty the courts are usually quite accommodating and they'll be willing to give you a bit of grace (You should see the defendants of...less affluent backgrounds faces drop when they're passed their sentence by a Magistrate only to be told that their fine etc is payable immediately....They can never pay it immediately but I do feel certain magistrates enjoy this part). Having said that, I'm assuming you've already filled out a means form and sent it with your plea? This being the case, it would have been clearer from the outset to the court, as opposed to not filling one out in the first place.

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May be worth pointing out that obviously Old_Codja is right, but if one was to be in financial difficulty the courts are usually quite accommodating and they'll be willing to give you a bit of grace (You should see the defendants of...less affluent backgrounds faces drop when they're passed their sentence by a Magistrate only to be told that their fine etc is payable immediately....They can never pay it immediately but I do feel certain magistrates enjoy this part). Having said that, I'm assuming you've already filled out a means form and sent it with your plea? This being the case, it would have been clearer from the outset to the court, as opposed to not filling one out in the first place.

 

thanks stigy, it said on the plea for me to fill in a means form but actually there was no form in the bunch of letters they sent me. I did write in my letter to the court that i am in real bad debt and am currently in a Debt Management Plan which sadly has 17 years to run :-( ...

 

i'm not sure if they will have any consideration, but in any case i won't be able to pay the fine if it is too high, it will just have to get added onto my debt plan i guess? i'm guessing it will be atleast £500 for a £3.70 fare (great justice system we have!)... who would i contact to discuss this once i find out the penalty?

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thanks stigy, it said on the plea for me to fill in a means form but actually there was no form in the bunch of letters they sent me. I did write in my letter to the court that i am in real bad debt and am currently in a Debt Management Plan which sadly has 17 years to run :-( ...

 

i'm not sure if they will have any consideration, but in any case i won't be able to pay the fine if it is too high, it will just have to get added onto my debt plan i guess? i'm guessing it will be atleast £500 for a £3.70 fare (great justice system we have!)... who would i contact to discuss this once i find out the penalty?

 

When you get the notice from the Court you will get details of who to contact in case of difficulty. Do contact them immediately if the fine and other cost orders are going to present a problem as monies owing to the Court will take precedence over most other debts I'm afraid.

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