The penalties for fare evasion offences are governed by a framework of Government Statute Law and local Byelaws. They are relevant for both the civil and criminal pathways of a particular matter.
A fare evasion allegation will typically start with a conversation between a commuter and a Revenue Protection Officer (RPO). During that conversation, the RPO will form a view regarding how to deal with an alleged ticket infraction. Certain railway networks will have a Penalty Fare scheme in place, but not all. Many railway operators will report incidents of alleged intentional fare evasion to their prosecution teams.
The Railways (Penalty Fares) Regulations 2018
When it comes to Penalty Fares, The Railways (Penalty Fares) Regulations 2018 sets out the way in which they are administered. Penalty Fares are a civil rather than a criminal sanction. In essence, they are a written agreement between the commuter and the train company, where typically £20 must be paid within 21 days. Any failure to pay is a civil debt and this is clear in provision 12 of The Railway Regulations. Nevertheless, in practice, rail operators do not try to enforce the civil debt via bailiffs etc. If a Penalty Fare is not paid, the individual can expect to be prosecuted in the Magistrates’ Court for the original byelaw offence (see below).
Do I Have to Give My Name to a Ticket Inspector?
The RPO has the power in law in to require a commuter to provide their name and address when they propose to charge a Penalty Fare. Although Penalty Fares are a Civil sanction, any failure to provide the requested details is a criminal offence.
Prosecution for Fare Evasion
If the RPO decides against issuing a Penalty Fare (or he/she is unable to because no scheme applies), the matter is instead reported for prosecution. This creates the potential for the matter to be prosecuted as a criminal offence within the Magistrates’ Court. If a prosecution at court is initiated, it is undertaken as a private prosecution by the train company (or their agent).
A Defendant receives Single Justice Procedure paperwork in the post, which specifies the charge(s) and the Magistrates’ Court at which the case will be heard. There are two different fare evasion charges that the railway company can pursue in the UK:
1. Byelaws [Regulation 17 and 18]
Byelaws are local laws, typically made by a local authority to deal with local issues. They are made using powers granted by an Act of Parliament and therefore are a form of delegated legislation.
Transport for London only prosecute under their own specific Byelaws. Typically, the charge will read that the Defendant has entered a compulsory ticket area without having a valid ticket, contrary to
to Byelaw 17(1) of the Transport for London Railway Byelaws made under paragraph 26 of Schedule 11 to the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and confirmed under section 67 of the Transport Act 1962.
The regional train companies prosecute under a very similar but different Regulation if they seek a prosecution for fare evasion as a Byelaw offence. The charge is ‘Entering a train for the purpose of travel without a valid ticket, contrary to Railway Byelaw 18(1) of the Railway Byelaws 2005 made under section 219 of the Transport Act 2000’.
Both Byelaw offences above are ‘strict liability’, which means that a person’s intention or theoretical dishonesty is irrelevant. The offence is simply made out by not having a valid ticket. The only defence to the allegation is where there was no opportunity to buy a ticket before boarding the train or where permission is given by an authorised person to travel without a ticket.
2. s.5(3) of the Regulation of Railways Act 1889 – intentionally travelling on the Railway without having paid the fare.
The above charge is favoured by a number of railway operators, who it seems prefer to focus on intentional fare evasion. It is more serious than the byelaw version, as it includes the element of ‘intentionally’ evading the fare. Moreover, because it a recordable offence, this has implications for criminal background checks (DBS checks). Any conviction would show up on a standard or enhanced DBS check for 11 years, until ‘filtered’ from the record.
Settling Out of Court – Criminal vs Civil Law
Once a train operator initiates a prosecution via a summons in a Magistrates’ Court, the matter is very clearly within the criminal law pathway. However, an offer can be made to the train operator to ‘settle out of court’. If successful, this has the effect of extinguishing the criminal proceedings, in favour of an agreement between the individual and the train operator. Typically, the agreement will involve the payment of costs and any outstanding fares.
Where Reeds Solicitors are instructed on behalf of clients, we set out detailed representations to the train company, outlining a person’s mitigation, alongside supporting documents. The aim is to give the individual the best possible chance of achieving an out of court settlement, thereby maintaining their clean criminal record.
Nathan Seymour-Hyde is an experienced Solicitor at Reeds who specialises in fare evasion and transport law. Navigating fare evasion law can be tricky. If you have an urgent matter that you require assistance with, contact Reeds Solicitors either through our contact page here or contact Nathan directly through his profile here.