There are potentially serious implications to a prosecution for fare evasion or TFL oyster card offences. Railway and train companies are increasingly seeking to crack down on fare evasion, and we are seeing large number of people being prosecuted in the courts for what appear to be very minor infractions.
Fare evasion is punished in court by a fine of up to £1,000. However, the imposition of a criminal conviction often carries far more serious consequences and could lead to the loss of your job.
A genuine mistake or misunderstanding can still result in these consequences. However, the Prosecutions Units are typically more concerned with deliberate Fare Evasion, especially misuse of ‘high value’ travel cards (Freedom Passes and weekly or monthly passes).
It is extremely important to know that, with the right approach, a criminal conviction can be avoided. This is what we seek to achieve on your behalf.
We can step in on your behalf to seek to prevent a criminal prosecution at any stage prior to a court hearing date. However, we recommend that this is done as early as possible in the proceedings to maximise your chance of success.
Reeds’ Fare Evasion Solicitors can provide advice and services throughout England, Wales and Scotland. If meeting in person isn’t possible, we can offer remote consultations through Zoom, Teams, Skype and WhatsApp. We can also often offer appointments outside normal office hours.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is fare evasion?
If you are unable to show a valid ticket for all or part of your journey to a ticket or revenue inspector you may be found guilty of fare evasion. Fare or ticket evasion is travelling on public transport without paying the correct fare, whether deliberately or indirectly. This is referred to as ‘fare dodging’ or by the method used, such as ‘turnstile jumping’ or ‘tailgating’.
Fare evasion is known in law as a ‘strict liability’ offence. This means that your intention does not matter: the full offence is made out if you are travelling without the correct fare, regardless of whether it was an honest mistake.
What constitutes as fare evasion?
You may be liable for a fine or prosecution for the following:
- Using another person’s ticket or pass (Student Oyster Card, Freedom Pass or another type of discounted travel card)
- If you travel on public transport (including train or bus) without a valid ticket or ‘permit to travel’.
- If you travel further than the ticket permits
- Caught travelling on an incorrect ticket type, for example a young person’s ticket when over the age of 16
- You are travelling on a day, date or time during which restrictions are imposed which render your ticket or permit invalid.
- Travelling in a class of accommodation for which you do not have a valid ticket (for example ‘first class’).
- The ticket or permit is restricted to a different train company.
- You are travelling with a ticket or permit after the expiry date unless the ticket expires during your journey, in which case you will be allowed to complete your journey.
- You start, break and resume or end your journey when you are not entitled to do so.
What happens if you’re accused of fare evasion?
The train company (TFL or various others) typically write to an individual who is suspected of fare evasion, asking them to confirm whether they accept that they committed the offence. There will be an opportunity to provide information to ‘take into consideration’ while they consider a prosecution.
An increasing number of regional railway companies (including Cross Country and Chilton Railways) have started outsourcing their prosecutions to a private company called Transport Investigations Limited (TIL) in order to protect their brands.
In advice set out by TfL, it reminds those that are being prosecuted for allegedly committing an offence to seek advice from a solicitor. It confirms that fare evasion is a “strict liability offence”, which means that intention is irrelevant; You may be guilty by simply not holding a valid ticket.
How long do I have to respond to a fare evasion letter?
Typically, you will be given 10 days to reply but other companies such as Transport Investigations Limited allow 21 days. This is an ideal time for us to intervene on your behalf, because the decision to prosecution has not yet been made by the train company. It’s a great opportunity to set out personal mitigating factors and supporting documents.
What happens if I’m prosecuted for Fare Evasion?
If they decide to prosecute, you will receive a Court Summons in the post, providing a date when you must attend court. The form will ask you whether you intend to plead guilty or not guilty and will give you an option to enter your plea by post.
It is extremely important that you do not complete this paperwork without consulting a solicitor if your aim is to avoid a criminal conviction.
Will I get a Criminal Record for Fare Evasion?
If you were to plead guilty at court or to be found guilty after a trial, this is a criminal conviction. This can affect your ability to secure jobs and work. It can prevent you from travelling to certain countries, and influencing Visa decisions if you are not a current British Citizen.
Will fare evasion show up on my CRB or DBS check?
CRB checks were taken over by the Disclosure and Disbarring Service (DBS) in 2012. All criminal record checks for a job are undertaken by the DBS.
The conviction would appear on a standard DBS check until ‘spent’. It would also appear on an enhanced DBS check until ‘filtered’ after 11 years. No doubt this can have a profound impact on someone’s career prospects, particularly in certain fields.
The conviction would be disclosed on various types of visa and immigration applications.
What can a solicitor do for me?
We have many years’ experience in dealing with the various train companies and have an excellent track record of settling the matters out of court.
We can make an out of court settlement offer on your behalf. This includes drafting powerful and persuasive arguments to convince the company not to prosecute you.
The best fare evasion solicitors will have a direct line of contact with the relevant Prosecutions Unit and can make representations on your behalf in an efficient and timely way.
Is Legal Aid available for fare evasion and oyster card offences?
In short no. Legal aid is not available to cover legal fees for fare evasion offences at court.
How much does a fare evasion solicitor cost and what does the service include?
We offer a fixed fee service, limited to 3 hours on our hourly rate.
The service includes:
- An hour face-to-face consultation (either in the office or via zoom / teams / whatsapp etc)
- Drafting a detailed letter to the Train Company – inviting them to settle out of court without a prosecution
- Guidance on providing supporting documents to enhance the chances of success
What transport companies can you handle prosecutions from?
- Transport for London (Docklands Light Railway, Tube, London Overground)
- Transport Investigations Company Limited
- GTR – Govia Thameslink Railway
- Transport Investigations
- C2C Rail Ltd
- First Capital Connect
- Cross Country Trains
- East Midlands Trains
- South West Trains
- Virgin Trains
- London Midland
- Northern Rail
- Arriva Trains Wales
- Chiltern Railways
- Greater Anglia
- Heathrow Connect
- Heathrow Express
- Gatwick Express
P was a young man who had used his father Freedom Pass on the London Underground. He was using it to travel to work over a 3-month period. The TFL investigator was able to obtain a list of all of the journeys undertaken using the Freedom Pass. This identified that P had been travelling at the same time and to the same destination as per the previous trips. TFL estimated that approx. £800 of unpaid trips had been taken by P. We were able settle this case out of court on behalf of P after obtaining evidence of the specific financial difficulties that P was suffering at the time as well as a recent family bereavement.
B was travelling on the train to Gatwick Airport without a ticket. He was summoned to appear at court to hear the matter, with the hearing only a few days away. We were able to urgently contact the train company. They withdrew the prosecution on the basis B paid for the train company’s administrative costs and the unpaid ticket.
B was travelling into London over a 3 month period, purchasing a ticket which did not cover the whole journey. As the turnstiles were always down in his local station, he was able to board the train without his ticket being checked. He purchased a ticket from a station much closer to his final destination, saving approximately £15 on each trip. The train company noticed this suspicious pattern and stopped him when he arrived into London. He was invited for an interview under caution. He had a conference with Reeds solicitors and received advice about whether to agree to be interviewed. Successful representations were made to settle the matter out of court.
Testimonials for Reeds Fare Evasion SOlicitors
“Nathan Seymour-Hyde was an amazing solicitor and person to speak with. He promptly responded to emails and WhatsApp messages. However, what was even greater was his amazing advice. He explained each issue with clarity and cohesion and was extremely understanding and considerate of the nuances of a fare evasion issue. He went beyond the time frame of the consultation and did not rush or make me feel pressured at any point. He deals with the matter fast and we have got an amazing result with no criminal record. He is everything you want in a solicitor handling a fare evasion matter. I would highly recommend his service and this firm.” (Google Review, September 2021)
“The solicitor who took on my case took a statement; we spoke about my situation in depth. He was very honest and though the odds may have been against us, he was able to come up with a good plan of action. Throughout the process there was great communication between us and a week or so later, he informed me I was able to settle out of court with no criminal conviction.”
“I decided to use my mother’s Freedom Pass just to save money which was a terrible mistake. After using it for a few weeks I was stopped by a ticket inspector. I then received a letter from TfL saying that I was summoned to court for fare evasion. I was lucky to find Nathan who helped me with my case. From start to finish, my claim was dealt very professionally. They did an excellent job and she gave me all the information I needed”
“My solicitor has been extremely professional, and his confidence has put my mind at rest. Most importantly I got the result that I wanted! Thoroughly recommend!”
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