On 22 March 2015, The Daily Mail ran this story about a London commuter who had been caught dodging his rail fare – or at least part of it.
Well, in essence, Dr Peter Barnett travelled daily from his home in Thame, Oxfordshire, to London Marylebone. The fare, so we understand, should have been in the order of £20. However, Barnett got on at Thame without purchasing a ticket. He then “tapped out” using his Oyster card when he arrived at London Marylebone. Because the oyster card had not been used to start a journey, the system automatically charges the maximum fare – currently £7.60.
No doubt many readers will recall the case last year of Jonathan Burrows who employed the same rouse from his home in Stonegate, East Sussex. Burrows – who had not paid the correct fare since 2008 – offered to pay back the sum (£43,000) on the understanding that in doing so he would not be prosecuted. We covered that story here, and raised the question whether or not he should be prosecuted. (He was however “banned” from working in the City and so he didn’t really get away lightly.)
Barnett has not been so lucky. Having been caught out by a ticket inspector, he was referred to the “excess fares” window at the station, however when the member of staff had turned their back, Barnett ran off. He subsequently had an attack of conscience and returned, admitting what he had done. It is understood that Barnett avoided paying the correct fare for around two and a half years.
Barnett was charged and brought to court in respect of six counts of fraud by false representation.
The Fraud Act 2006 s.2:
(1) A person is in breach of this section if he—
(a) dishonestly makes a false representation, and
(b) intends, by making the representation—
(i) to make a gain for himself or another, or
(ii) to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.
(2) A representation is false if—
(a) it is untrue or misleading, and
(b) the person making it knows that it is, or might be, untrue or misleading.
We understand that Barnett admitted the offences. The prosecution also claimed that Barnett had altered a photo card to assist in the avoidance of paying the correct fare. We are unaware of the details, however that fact would no doubt increase the seriousness of the offences as it shows they were planned and somewhat more sophisticated than merely not purchasing a ticket.
There appears to be a dispute as to the amount of money gained by Barnett; the prosecution say it is £23,000 whereas the defence say it is £7,500. Sentencing has been adjourned to April.
So, what next?
Well, it will be necessary for the amount gained (i.e. the amount Barnett avoided paying) to be determined. This will either be through agreement between the prosecution and defence, or the judge will make a determination based on the evidence. There is the normal criminal standard of proof for facts adverse to the defendant (i.e. beyond reasonable doubt) and a civil standard for matters raised by the defendant.
It is necessary to determine the amount gained for two reasons: first it gives a clear indicator of the seriousness of the offence and is necessary in order to apply the fraud guidelines (see page 5 onwards) and second it is necessary in order to make a compensation order (which can only be made in simple cases and where the amount is known).
Barnett will be sentenced in April and we’ll be keeping an eye out to see what happens. It’s likely he’ll receive a custodial sentence. Stone gate fare dodger Mr Burrows, on the other hand, is a lucky man.