Rail Companies Misuse Courts in Fare Evasion Cases

Rail Companies Misuse Courts in Fare Evasion Cases
credit: alettashaw

London (Parliament News) – Rail companies misapplied courts, sentencing thousands for fare evasion in secret fast-track hearings. Train companies used a single justice procedure improperly, prompting calls for reform after uncovering systematic legal misuse.

Rail companies have been accused of misapplying the courts after it was exposed that tens of thousands of people have been sentenced for fare evasion in criminal fast-track court hearings taking place behind closed doors.

Are Rail Companies Abusing the Single Justice Procedure?

Ministers permitted in 2016 for train companies to seek alleged fare dodgers in the single justice procedure (SJP), a process where judges convict and sentence defendants in secret hearings based on written evidence. The fast-track courts are entitled to deal with breaches of railway bylaws by passengers charged with not having a ticket or failing to spend the correct fare for a journey. It has been discovered that vast numbers of criminal cases were brought against alleged fare loafers under the Regulation of Railways Act 1889 — which is not permitted in the SJP.

Should Fare Evasion Cases Be Tried Behind Closed Doors?

Northern Rail, which has been government-owned since 2020, is one of a keeper of rail firms which has carried criminal cases in this way, and it revealed this week that more than 29,000 cases have moved through the secret court operation from March 2020 to January this year. It is understood leaders put an end to the practice in the wake of the Post Office Horizon IT scandal when criminal prosecutions brought by private parties were under an intense spotlight.

Are Rail Firms Illegally Prosecuting Fare Dodgers in Secret?

The news comes as both Labour and the Conservatives signalled a readiness to reform the procedure in the next parliament after a campaign revealed injustices in the system. Christian Waters, 46, from Leeds, contested a penalty he was given on a Northern service in 2022 when the ticket device at the start of his journey was ruined. He became a campaigner after obtaining a notice in the post and staining the legal discrepancies.

He was halted by an inspector as he went to buy a ticket from a functional machine at the end of his journey. He provided his name and address, lost an appeal against the initial fine fare, and stated he was “shocked” to then face an illegal case, rather than civil proceedings, over the unpaid fare.

Is the Justice System Failing in Fare Evasion Cases?

“I have followed the Post Office story quite closely for five years and I thought ‘this is a similar thing’”, he stated: “It offends me that you have got a private company misusing the criminal courts. I’m quite happy to fight, to try to hold them accountable. It’s not a mistake, they have done this thousands of times, it’s a systematic policy.” Northern eventually dropped the case with Mr Waters for £3.50, after previously insisting £135 to end the criminal case and stripping there was a legal problem.

DfT OLR Holdings Ltd (DOHL), which operates Northern, acknowledged in answer to Mr Waters’ complaint that he had increased “potential procedural problems with the prosecution process”. When reached, it said: “We halted bringing new cases under the single justice approach for offences under the Regulation of Railways Act 1889 in January and are reviewing its previous use.”

Daniele Naddei

Daniele Naddei is a journalist at Parliament News covering European affairs, was born in Naples on April 8, 1991. He also serves as the Director of the CentroSud24 newspaper. During the period from 2010 to 2013, Naddei completed an internship at the esteemed local radio station Radio Club 91. Subsequently, he became the author of a weekly magazine published by the Italian Volleyball Federation of Campania (FIPAV Campania), which led to his registration in the professional order of Journalists of Campania in early 2014, listed under publicists. From 2013 to 2018, he worked as a freelance photojournalist and cameraman for external services for Rai and various local entities, including TeleCapri, CapriEvent, and TLA. Additionally, between 2014 and 2017, Naddei collaborated full-time with various newspapers in Campania, both in print and online. During this period, he also resumed his role as Editor-in-Chief at Radio Club 91.
Naddei is actively involved as a press officer for several companies and is responsible for editing cultural and social events in the city through his association with the Medea Fattoria Sociale. This experience continued until 2021. Throughout these years, he hosted or collaborated on football sports programs for various local broadcasters, including TLA, TvLuna, TeleCapri, Radio Stonata, Radio Amore, and Radio Antenna Uno.
From 2016 to 2018, Naddei was employed as an editor at newspapers of national interest within the Il24.it circuit, including Internazionale24, Salute24, and OggiScuola. Since 2019, Naddei has been one of the creators of the Rabona television program "Calcio è Passione," which has been broadcast on TeleCapri Sport since 2023.