Introducing the Debt Recovery and Prosecutions Unit
Welcome to the Debt Recovery and Prosecutions Unit (DRPU). If you are reading this page then it is likely you are seeking advice in relation to a fare dispute.
Northern Trains Limited (Northern) is required by the terms of its franchise to ensure that it protects revenue from ticket sales. This is a sensible requirement designed to ensure that fare paying passengers and tax payers in general do not have to subsidise the cost of travel for those who do not pay their fare. To do this we employ dedicated revenue officers to apprehend fare evaders, we have also invested in revenue protection measures such as automatic ticket barriers. In addition Northern is working tirelessly to improve upon existing retailing opportunities on the network. We take every offence of travelling without a ticket very seriously and we are also committed to preventing anti-social behaviour both on board trains and at stations to ensure our customers enjoy a safe and comfortable experience.
In order to protect its revenue and therefore provide the best possible value for money to its customers the DRPU utilise the provisions of the Regulation of Railways Act 1889,Fraud Act 2006 and the Railway Byelaws pursuant to the Transport Act 2000.
I would like to reassure you that Northern is committed to applying this legislation in a fair and consistent manner. However it is important to realise that as with any legal process early engagement is imperative to facilitate a satisfactory outcome for all.
The vast majority of matters the DRPU deal with could be resolved before the need for prosecution arises and my message is a simple one. Should you find yourself in a fare dispute, do not ignore it and contact the DRPU to resolve the matter at the earliest opportunity. After all, a disagreement or a difference of opinion may not amount to a defence in respect of impending criminal proceedings.
A Turnbull Revenue Enforcement Delivery Manager Debt Recovery and Prosecutions Unit
1.1 Northern is required by the terms of its franchise to ensure that it protects revenue from ticket sales. This is a sensible requirement designed to ensure that fare paying passengers and tax payers in general do not have to subsidise the cost of travel for those who do not pay their fare. Northern also protects revenue from its car parks as well as making sure that important safety access routes are kept clear, and that bad parking does not reduce the number of available parking spaces. Northern is also committed to preventing anti-social behaviour both on-board trains and at stations by pursuing those alleged to have behaved in any way that is unacceptable to passengers and employees.
1.2 Through its DRPU Northern actively pursues those who choose to ignore the laws and byelaws that govern rail travel, railway stations and station car parks. The vast majority of infringements are dealt with by the DRPU. In addition the DRPU works closely with the British Transport Police (BTP), Police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to pursue those who breach the wider criminal law whilst travelling by train or whilst on railway property in order to ensure the safety of passengers and employees alike.
1.3 The DRPU recognises that the decision to prosecute any individual is a serious one. Before making any such decision the individual circumstances of each case are considered and an evidential and public interest test is applied both objectively and robustly.
1.4 The National Rail Conditions of Travel set out the legal contract you have with us when you purchase a ticket and travel with Northern. You can view the Conditions of Travel here. You can also download them from nationalrail.co.uk.
2. General Principles
2.1 Northern prosecutes those alleged to have committed offences contrary to the Regulation of Railways Act 1889 and/or the Railway Byelaws made pursuant to the Transport Act 2000
2.1a These cases are heard in the Magistrates Court. Appeals in respect of sentence and/or conviction are heard before the Crown Court.
2.2 Northern prosecutes those alleged to have committed offences contrary to the Fraud Act 2006
2.2a These cases are heard initially in the Magistrates Court. However, these may be heard before the Crown Court, if elected by the defendant.
2.3 Offences relate to fare evasion, anti-social behaviour, breach of car park regulations (station car parks are regulated by the Railway Byelaws) but not usually acts of physical violence known as assaults. (See 3.1 below).
2.4 DRPU will cooperate with the BTP in respect of allegations of assault on passengers and employees. In the event that Northern are dissatisfied with a charging decision of the BTP and/or the CPS in respect of an allegation of assault upon an employee it reserves the right to seek to bring a private prosecution by way of the DRPU. (The CPS has agreed that an allegation of assault of a railway employee is not suitable for disposal by way of caution).
3. Category of Offences
3.1 Northern will prosecute the following type of offences using the provisions of the Regulation of Railways Act 1889, the Railway Byelaws or Fraud Act 2006.
Failing to purchase before travel
Intending to avoid payment
Travelling beyond valid destination/requesting a short fare
Providing false details
Refusing to provide details
Claiming refunds and/or compensation not entitled to Digital Fraud
Refusing to produce a valid ticket on request
Abusive language/ behaviour
Smoking including e-cigarettes
Not displaying ticket
Causing an obstruction
Non rail user
Unauthorised use of disabled bay
Use of non-designated area
This is not an exhaustive list but provides an understanding of typical types of case undertaken.
3.2 The provisions of the Regulations of Railways Act 1889 and the Railway Byelaws made pursuant to the Transport Act 2000 can be found at www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Vict/52-53/57/contents and www.gov.uk/government/publications/railway-byelaws. The provisions of the Fraud Act 2006 can be found at www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/35/contents
4. Decision to Prosecute
4.1 The DRPU applies the same principles as the CPS when deciding whether or not to prosecute.
4.2 Each case is individually assessed to establish whether there is sufficient admissible evidence to make a conviction more likely than not. This is the evidential test. We will not prosecute a case that fails the evidential test.
4.3 If a case passes the evidential test we then apply a public interest test. We do this by assessing whether or not it is in the public interest to prosecute a case. (An example of a case that would fail the public interest test is where the individual concerned acted due to an emergency). If the case fails the public interest test we will not prosecute that case even if it has passed the evidential test.
4.4 In applying the public interest test our approach differs from that of the CPS in one important regard. A large number of the cases prosecuted by the DRPU involve relatively small amounts of money. This reflects the fares charged for travel on the network operated by Northern. However, these small amounts add up to a large sum and comprise the revenue that Northern is committed to protect. Because of this the DRPU will not regard a case as failing the public interest test just because the sum in dispute is relatively small.
Likewise in assessing allegations due to parking we remain aware of the particular issues relating to safety and access that can arise at a station car park.
4.5 If a case is judged to meet both limbs of the test and a prosecution commences that case will be assessed again should further information come to light.
5.1 We will disclose all aspects of our case ahead of trial.
5.2 If we have material in our possession that may undermine our case or assist the defence (unused material) we will disclose that material in good time ahead of trial.
5.3 Our prosecutors undertake regular training from independent senior prosecutors in all aspects of disclosure of unused material.
6. Juvenile Offenders
6.1 Where appropriate Northern will seek to divert young people away from the Criminal Justice System. However in applying this policy we will not compromise on the safety of our passengers and our employees. This aspect of a case involving a young person will form part of our consideration when applying the public interest test.
6.2 Even if we decide not to prosecute a particular case we may still provide details of the allegation to the police.
6.3 If the BTP ask for assistance in relation to the prosecution of a young person Northern will provide such assistance.
6.4 If requested Northern will attend Referral Panel Order Hearings.
7. Our Prosecutors
7.1 The DRPU has a team of experienced lay-prosecutors who undertake regular training provided by experienced independent counsel.
7.2 If an individual faces additional prosecution by other agencies (such as the CPS) DRPU prosecutors will work alongside the representatives of that agency.
7.3 In certain circumstances the DRPU will instruct independent counsel to prosecute on behalf of Northern.
8. Alternatives to Prosecution
8.1 The police may of their own motion or at the direction of the CPS offer to dispose of a criminal case by way of caution or conditional caution. That process will result in a criminal record number. Northern is not under an obligation to replicate that process and does not do so.
8.2 Northern may offer to resolve a case by way of a Fixed Penalty Notice. Resolution by this method does not result in a criminal conviction.
8.3 Northern regards court proceedings as a last resort and so reserves the right to offer to resolve matters through the use of a Fixed Penalty Notice where the circumstances of the offence and the offender are appropriate.
8.4 In order to ensure that all disposals are consistent with the franchise obligation of revenue protection Northern may seek to recover the administrative costs associated with any form of disposal.
9. Costs after Trial
9.1 In accordance with its franchise obligation to protect revenue Northern will usually seek to recover the costs of any court proceedings that result in a conviction. In cases in which counsel has been instructed an application for costs will include counsel's fee.
9.2 An indication of costs and the extent to which they will increase if proceedings are contested will be notified to a defendant in the course of the progression of the case.
10. Banning Orders
10.1 Northern may impose Banning Orders against all persons whose behaviour has caused or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to any passenger or employee.
10.2 We will provide information in support of applications by our partner agencies to obtain injunctive orders to prevent anti-social behaviour.
11. Appeals against conviction and/or sentence
11.1 In the event of an accused person seeking to appeal against his conviction and/or sentence DRPU will be represented at the Crown Court by counsel. Any application for costs in the event of an appeal being dismissed will reflect this.
11.2 Once an appeal is lodged Northern will consider any new material supplied by the appellant and will forward the same to counsel instructed. Counsel will be asked to advise on the merits of the appeal as lodged.
12. Policy Ownership
12.1 Queries in relation to this policy should be made in writing to the DRPU Manager, Northern Trains Limited, FREEPOST NEA 3188, Bradford BD1 1BR.
12.2 Northern Trains Limited and DRPU reserve the right to update and amend this policy.
12.3 This policy document will be published on the website of Northern Trains Limited
If you are travelling from a station that has the facility to purchase tickets it is a legal requirement that a ticket is purchased prior to travel. Railway Byelaw 18(1).
The DRPU deal with people accused of failing to pay their fare. The DRPU has a number of ways of dealing with passengers who have travelled without buying a ticket. The particular method will depend on the circumstances of each individual case. If you are suspected of fare evasion and an authorised member of Northern’s Revenue Enforcement Team stops you and issues a notice to you it will be one of the following:
13. Unpaid Fare Notice
This is a request that payment of the unpaid fare is made within 21 days of the date of the notice. It may be issued when someone has travelled from a station without having bought a ticket and is genuinely unable to do so. Failure to respond to the notice within 21 days will result in the case being referred for prosecution.
14. Penalty Fares Notice
A Penalty Fare Notice may be issued if a passenger gets on a train without a ticket or Promise to Pay Notice at a station where ticket buying facilities are available. The Penalty is the greater of £20 or twice the full single fare from the station where they got on the train to the next station at which the train stops. If the passenger wants to travel beyond the next station they must also pay the relevant fare from that station to their final destination.
How to Pay
We accept all major credit and debit cards. Online payments can be made at www.northernrailway.co.uk/paymynotice
Automated telephone payments can be made by calling 0844 409 2717. Calls to this number cost 5p per minute plus your network access charge.
The Penalty Fare Notice may also be paid by Postal Order (please quote your reference number on the reverse of the Postal Order) made payable to Northern Trains Limited and sent to the following address:
Northern Trains Limited
Debt Recovery & Prosecutions Unit
FREEPOST NEA 3188
Bradford, BD1 1BR
Appealing against the Penalty Fare Notice
If you believe we have made a mistake you may wish to appeal against the issue of the Penalty Fare Notice. To appeal you should visit www.penaltyservices.co.uk or write to:
PO Box 1258
If you are unhappy with the outcome of your appeal then you have the right to appeal that decision on two further occasions.
For further information regarding Penalty Fares please follow the below link https://www.northernrailway.co.uk/penalty-fares
If the employee who stops you does not issue a notice but takes your details for an incident report we will consider that report and then write to you. If we are proceeding with the incident we will offer to deal with the matter in one of the following ways. Either, a letter requesting the payment of the outstanding fare; a letter requesting an explanation or a fixed penalty. In the case of a fixed penalty you must respond within 14 days of our letter. If you do not reply within the appropriate timescale the case will be referred for prosecution.
We may also decide to offer to deal with the case by way of a fixed penalty after a case has been referred for prosecution. In any case involving a fixed penalty it allows the matter to be disposed of by the payment of a fixed amount of £90 providing the payment together with any outstanding fare is paid within 14 days of the date of our letter. Failure to respond to the offer of a fixed penalty is likely to result in the case being taken to court. Whether we choose to offer the option of a fixed penalty will depend on the circumstances of the incident.
Prosecutions in relation to fares, anti-social behaviour and car parking are brought in accordance with the provisions of the Regulation of Railways Act 1889 and the Railway Byelaws that were made pursuant to the Transport Act 2000.
16. Car Parking
Northern also protects revenue from its car parks as well as making sure that important safety access routes are kept clear, and that inappropriate parking does not reduce the number of available parking spaces.
Drivers who do not park in accordance with the rules displayed in our car parks will be issued with a Penalty Parking Notice. The penalty is £50 and this must be paid within 28 days of the date of the Notice. If we do not receive a response within 28 days the amount outstanding will increase to £90, if this amount is not settled the case will be referred for prosecution. In those circumstances the details of the registered keeper of the vehicle will be obtained from the DVLA.
Northern Trains Limited has an objective disputes and appeal process that will consider any aspect of an individual case. We will consider any matter arising in a case up to and including the day of trial. We will also consider any additional matter raised as part of an appeal post-conviction be it in relation to conviction or sentence. So that we can consider things properly anything that you would like us to consider must be sent to us in writing. We cannot consider representations over the telephone.
- Representations regarding Unpaid Fare Notices must be made within 21 days of issue.
Please make sure that you include your details and the reference number from our notice and post your representations to: DRPU, Northern Trains Limited, FREEPOST NEA 3188, Bradford, BD1 1BR or alternatively Email: [email protected]
- Representations regarding a Fixed Penalty Notice must be made within 14 days of the date of our letter making the offer of a Fixed Penalty Notice. They must be made in writing but can be sent by post or email. Please make sure that you include your details and the reference number from the notice.
Email: [email protected]
Post: DRPU, Northern Trains Limited, FREEPOST NEA 3188, Bradford, BD1 1BR
- Representations regarding a Penalty Parking Notice must be made within 14 days of the date of the notice. They must be made in writing but can be sent by post or email. Please make sure that you include your details and the reference number from the notice.
Email: [email protected]
Post: DRPU, Northern Trains Limited, FREEPOST NEA 3188, Bradford, BD1 1BR
Complaints should be directed to: [email protected]
To make a payment
Q. Why am I being taken to court?
A. Because it is alleged that you have committed the offence described on the summons and you have previously declined our offer to deal with the case without it having to go court or you have ignored correspondence from us about the matter.
Q. Do I have to attend court?
A. It depends. You can come to court to plead guilty but if you would prefer to plead guilty by post you can complete the form provided with the summons and return it to the court along with the form that asks for details of your financial circumstances.
If you are pleading not guilty you can fill in the form with the summons or attend. If you do not fill in the form or attend your view on things like the date of the trial will not be known. If you do not attend court for the trial itself the case may proceed without you and so the court will not hear your evidence.
Q. If I have a trial will I be able to challenge Northern's witnesses?
A. Yes. You will be able to put your questions to all of the witnesses.
Q. Can I just pay Northern's costs and have the case withdrawn?
A. No. The court has issued the summons and you should respond to the summons.
Q. If I attend court will I be able to get 'legal aid' for a lawyer to represent me?
A. Please contact the court for information about this.
Q. If I plead guilty or if I am convicted after a trial will I get a criminal record?
A. If you are convicted of an offence or if you plead guilty you may get a criminal record. As with most convictions it will eventually become 'spent'. How long it takes to become spent will depend on the nature of the sentence that is imposed by the court.
Q. “They won’t prosecute for a matter as small as my fare will they?”
A. It is estimated that fare evasion costs the rail industry over £200 million a year. A large number of the cases prosecuted by the DRPU involve relatively small amounts of money. This reflects the fares charged for travel on the network operated by Northern. However, these small amounts add up to a large sum and comprise the revenue that Northern is committed to protect. Because of this the DRPU will not regard a case as failing the public interest test just because the sum in dispute is relatively small.
Q. “Isn’t this a civil matter? I shouldn’t take too much notice!”
A. No, these are not civil matters. Northern prosecutes under the provisions of the Regulation of Railways Act 1889 and the Railway Byelaws made pursuant to the Transport Act 2000, these can be found at www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Vict/52-53/57/contents and www.gov.uk/government/publications/railway-byelaws
Q. “Is it an offence to board a train without having first bought a ticket? I didn’t realise”
A. Yes, where there is an opportunity to do so, a ticket must be purchased prior to travel.
Railway Byelaw 18(1). This is known as an offence of strict liability, i.e. there is no need to prove intention beyond the act itself.
Q. “There’s not sufficient machines to buy tickets, they can’t prosecute can they?”
A. Northern is committed to improving the customer experience and is investing heavily in its future retailing strategy. Each case will turn on its own merits, however it is important to note that frustration or a difference of opinion may not amount to a defence where evidence of an offence exists.
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