I’ve just returned from Lewes Magistrates Court, and I’m tremendously relieved this ridiculous episode is finally over, with a perfect result. A prosecution was brought against me by Thameslink rail, they’re one of several English passenger train companies, for travelling without a ticket and giving false details .. which I unfortunately did, after some old fashioned abuse of authority. The fine could be up to 1000 pounds, or 3 months in jail, and 100 pounds cost to the prosecution.
In January, it seems they were conducting a big fare evasion sting operation at Brighton Station (at the Court, there were 15 other cases from the same evening). Thameslink is not a friendly train company, their trains have posters representing passengers as criminals behind bars — I’ll need to take a photo of one of those next chance. We arrived at Brighton Station on our way to London, to purchase tickets since our local station office was closed. We’ve done this several times, and had been told it was perfectly fine. We weren’t exactly treated as valued customers on arrival, and they demanded large penalty fares, in a situation evolved to stupid proportions. Penalty fare officers are not exactly reasonable people.
My personal penalty fare officer was a large, snotty nosed, and probably failed cop named Richard Crane. A search for Richard Crane on the web turns up some of his other work, including charging a disabled woman sitting in first class on an overcrowded train. He, and everyone else from the fare collector, to the prosecutor, seemed to get tremendous pleasure from their job, which is good otherwise these sadists would be wandering the streets. Anna and I were somehow seperated into two seperate discussions after we refused to pay the penalty fare. Really it was interrogations. Mr. Crane questioned me in detail on the layout of London Road Station (my local) and completely mocked my answers. Meanwhile, Anna had started crying as two penalty fare officers layed into her. Richie used his bulk to prevent me from even approaching her. I kinda lost it over that. So I gave the false details. Michael Baron was my genius plan to find some justice in the situation. Yea I know, really stupid. Not surprisingly, I was booked, to Crane’s obvious pleasure.
Well today was finally my day in court. Magistrates Courts see minor offenses, something but not exactly like misdemeanors in the US. This court had no wigs, or ancient hearing rooms built on top of torture chambers. The prosecuter was a weasel with smirking smug mustache, and again obvious enjoyment. Outside the court room, he remarked to a baliff that he was there “to get paid”.
The court room was super bright, and cold. Three magistrates sat above the court, and I was directed to stand on a little platform, with a small shelf at about knee height, which perfectly added to my bubbling nerves. I made my statement. The magistrates were authoratative, but not intimidating, asked a couple questions and looked at the prosecutor inquisitively at some of the key points. They left the room for an eternal 10 minutes, and came back with the sentence. Guilty of course. But no fine and no court costs. Yes yes yes on the inside, polite thank you externally. This was perfect.
Understand, I’m a great believer in public transit, it’s one of the benefits of living in England .. even with the cliche’d complaints on service, it’s infinitely better than the US. Hopefully the dismissal of the penalties in this case will send a message to Thameslink prosecution and their penalty fare officers. I’m just relieved this is over.