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Alice H
Alice H, Solicitor/Partner
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 2850
Experience:  Partner in national law firm
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Can you answer a question about my son receiving an intended

Customer Question

Can you answer a question about my son receiving an intended notice to prosecute for sitting in a first class carriage with a standard ticket?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Alice H replied 2 years ago.
My name is ***** ***** I am a solicitor based in London. What would you like to know about this?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
My son has received a letter from a rail operator for sitting in first class with as second class tickets - he has spoked to the operator and they have said that if he writes a letter explaining the circumstances and if he makes an offer to settle out of court - that will be that. How much is a reasonable amount - obviously we do not want this to go to court.
Expert:  Alice H replied 2 years ago.
I understand. You need to check what the first class fare would have been for the journey - that really is your starting point. A reasonable amount would usually be making up the difference between the two fares plus a nominal amount for costs (usually a fixed penalty starts at £20). Once you have calculated the fare difference and added the costs figure that really should be your minimum offer. As this has not resulted in court proceedings, the costs figure does not need to be increased as lawyers etc will not have been involved and the purpose of this exercise is simply to put the company back in the position they would have been if your sin had purchased the correct ticket, as opposed to making a profit from this exercise. Your son also needs to be careful about what admissions he makes in the letter because, if the offer is not accepted, the letter could be potentially used against him.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
My son has said they have told him if it goes to court - he would be looking at costs in total of approx. £380 therefore we think that they will only accept an decent offer i.e. £150/200 - I presume if this goes to court and he is found guilty he will then have a criminal record - if this is the case we want to avoid this at all costs - the whole think seems a bit bizarre
Expert:  Alice H replied 2 years ago.
Yes it is a criminal offence. But the purpose of this exercise is not for the company to earn a profit. Nevertheless, to avoid this matter ending up in court there is no harm in making an offer that reflects legal costs - the court would usually award £85 for a simple matter but railway companies use private lawyers so I think a figure of £200 for costs is certainly reasonable. Sadly there is no published table or formula but having seen similar cases I think £200 is a reasonable offer for the costs element.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
What shall we do then - offer £200 to cover costs plus the difference in the ticket approx. £200 - what if they refuse this and it goes to court - would the fact that you have made an offer and apologies be taken in to account?
Expert:  Alice H replied 2 years ago.
Why was he travelling in First Class?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Who knows! Because he is stupid - he says he was feeling unwell - the train was packed etc etc.
Expert:  Alice H replied 2 years ago.
That's no defence under the Railway Byelaws as you may have gathered already. I wouldn't recommend he makes any admission in the letter but there is nothing wrong with accepting liability and making the offer. So something along these lines:I acknowledge receipt of your letter dated ....I do not have a criminal record and a prosecution for this matter would be seriously detrimental for me. The reason I was travelling in first class was because the train was packed and I was feeling unwell; if there was a seat in the standard carriage I would have taken it. Nonetheless, to save time and money I am willing to make an offer, without any admission, to style this matter without the need for prosecution. I wish to offer the sum of X which is the difference in the fare between standard and first class and the sum of X for your costs. Please confirm that you are willing to accept my offer and on receipt of payment no further action will be taken against me. You can of course elaborate on this and add further information about the circumstances. I suggest the letter is sent by recorded delivery and if the offer is accepted you should make the payment without delay.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Ok many thanks - we still need to establish how much to offer - I realise it is 'how long is a piece of string' - If it goes to court what does the rail operator get out of it - what are their costs to date etc.
Do you think £200 + should do it - I realise you can't say for sure - however we can't take any chances!!!!
Expert:  Alice H replied 2 years ago.
It's an impossible question to answer - it really depends on how much time is spent on preparing the case but £200 for their costs is a very reasonable sum in my opinion because this is still at such an early stage of the proceedings. If the matter went to court and he pleaded guilty the costs could be as much as £600 because of the extra work involved and possibly as high as £800 -£1,000 if the matter went to trial.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Many thanks Alice - one last thing! I have just spoken to my son to get the full facts - I don't think this will change anything however:
He was stopped in first class and was given the opportunity to pay the fare difference (somebody else was also given this option and simply paid the difference) - my som only has cash on him which he needed to pay for a taxi - so he said that he didn't have the money to pay) -he thought he would simply be asked to pay the difference - i.e. they would write to him -
I guess none of this changes anything.
In your draft letter you say 'to style this matter' is that correct?
Thanks for your help.
Expert:  Alice H replied 2 years ago.
No that doesn't change anything I'm afraid. The word 'style' should read 'settle' - the computer predictive typing is woe thing I need to get used to :)
Expert:  Alice H replied 2 years ago.
Good morning. Can I assist yiu any further with this matter? If not please remember to rate my answer otherwise I will not be paid for my time. Thanks.