Will the UK police pursue my case?
December 18, 2018 2:34 AM   Subscribe

I was caught by transit authorities in the UK without having paid a tram fare about a year and a half ago. I gave them my real address, real first name, but fake last name and birthday (I was drunk and panicked). I received a ticket in the mail and paid half of it, but due to financial constraints could not pay the other half. I ignored subsequent letters, hoping it would just go away due to being a relatively small fine.

Unfortunately today the police turned up at my door trying to issue a warrant in the fake name. My housemate told them that no one of that name lived here. I was not home at the time.

How likely is it that this will be pursued? It is connected to me through the half paid fine, since I obviously received a letter and paid it on my debit card. My only hope seems to be that they won't bother to follow this up since they were told that person doesn't live here, and is not on the electoral roll here.

Due to other circumstances I don't feel it is possibly to just own up to the whole situation and deal with it, which is what it would like to do. I'm so embarrassed about the whole thing.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You should ask UK Legal Advice.

This isn't going to go away and a warrant is a serious thing that will cause issues. Please get legal advice.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:39 AM on December 18, 2018 [19 favorites]

This could result in a charge of perverting the cause of justice (see the current Fiona Onasanya case for example) and so is taken seriously. Given you've paid some of the fine then they can be fairly confident they have the right address, so would only need to discover that someone with the same first name does live there to have a reasonable belief that you are the culprit. The debit card account would then be confirmation.

Don't do anything further to mislead or actively evade the police, but you should seek legal advice before contacting them.
posted by JonB at 3:04 AM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I agree with DarlingBri. You need legal advice right now

Yes, the police and the CPS are under-resourced at the moment, and perhaps less likely to follow up some things than they otherwise would. But that process has already been started - there is a warrant out, actual police have come to the address. The obvious next step is for the police to come looking for the person who paid half of the fine.
posted by Vortisaur at 3:04 AM on December 18, 2018

Feels like close to 100% chance that it will be pursued further, given that it's reasonably easy for them to join the remaining dots. If you'd not paid half, you might stand a tiny bit better chance of disappearing. As it is, it's just a couple of phone calls for them.

Absolutely take legal advice, if you can afford it. It's expensive compared to a tram ticket, but probably a good investment at this point.

IANAL and TINLA, obviously. But, this internet rando thinks you could be invited to accept a caution, so the police can close the case with relatively little drama at their end (no CPS, no courts). If they go down that road, think carefully & take good advice before you decide whether to accept it. Depending on your circumstances, it can still have some future impact - albeit less impact than a successful prosecution for non-payment.

If you still have the option - I'd pay the remaining half super-quick. You need to start looking like a law-abiding citizen at this point, imho (TINLA either).
posted by rd45 at 3:29 AM on December 18, 2018

It's not a lot of work for them to determine you lied to them. They will then likely add on another charge (or set of charges) and come after you in an even more heavy handed way. They have the advantage and the resources, get legal advice and try and sort it out as quick as you can.
posted by gadha at 4:32 AM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

While all the advice above is very sensible and you must at all costs avoid a conviction for perverting the course of justice (which often involves a custodial sentence) my first step would be to absolutely confirm with the people that you live with that this was the police trying to issue a warrant for your arrest, rather than bailiffs. Bailiffs trying to collect a debt will try to present as officially and aggressively as possible and it could be fairly easy to confuse them with actual police. It will certainly have been a frightening experience for whoever opened the door. If you were out, is it possible that your housemate misunderstood the situation - or exaggerated it, in frustration at having to go through that confrontation?

I ask this because I’m surprised that BTP would be involved over half an unpaid settlement. This 2015 guidance from the Association of Train Operating Companies is not legally binding and may well be out-of-date now, but suggests that out-of-court settlements are the preferred option for pursuit of fare evaders (i.e. sending you a nasty letter) and you can see in section 6.6 and the lefthand column of Appendix A that they tend to reserve referral to BTP for serious and premediated attempts to defraud (like, you’re printing fake tickets and selling them to people; or the tram fare you dodged was over £3,000). Section 6.5 suggests that they may be trying to take you to court, as you gave false details and have been ignoring reminder letters, but (as a non-lawyer) I’m still personally surprised that the police are involved at this stage. Have you previously ignored a court summons that came by letter? To be clear - BTP absolutely have the right to get involved and prosecute you themselves, even if you settle with the tram company, and perhaps a mismatch between the name of the first-time tram fare dodger and the person who paid half of the penalty fare has caused this to escalate, or the fact that you’ve been ignoring their demands to pay the remainder.

You’re certainly in a tricky spot, as you paid half of the settlement instead of sticking to your lie and returning their letters with a “not known at this address”. And if it is the police that are involved, then you’ll definitely need a solicitor (and you may well need one even if it isn’t the police). But I would still make sure that you fully understand the situation and the threat that you face, as that will help you resolve it. Did the people who came to the house leave any paperwork behind for your alter-ego? Do you still have the previous letters relating to this issue, even if you haven’t opened them yet?

Best of luck.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 6:13 AM on December 18, 2018 [12 favorites]

Yep. Definitely check it was the police. I could be wrong but I think that it is much more likely to be some official looking enforcement officers, than actual police. In which case this is being dealt with as a civil matter rather than a legal one.
posted by RandomInconsistencies at 6:40 AM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Can you get the mods to update how much a "relatively small fine" is? Maybe it can get paid and they'll leave you be and never find you gave any fake info.
posted by bwonder2 at 8:35 AM on December 18, 2018

.Maybe it can get paid and they'll leave you be and never find you gave any fake info.

No that will definitely not happen. The fine will be larger now (probably much larger), due to late fees, interest, noncompliance etc. The full amount will have to be paid for it to go away.
posted by smoke at 12:16 PM on December 18, 2018

Yeah, I'm not in the UK so I was hesitating to say anything, but I was shocked to hear of the police turning up with an arrest warrant for what is presumably a relatively small amount of money. Certainly here various flavors of official and unofficial debt collector will overstate their authority to scare you out of the money.

But get legal advice!!!
posted by praemunire at 12:43 PM on December 18, 2018

today the police turned up at my door trying to issue a warrant

It seems pretty clear that they are pursuing it. I would absolutely take this seriously and seek legal advice. You really don't want to mess around with arrest warrants.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 1:54 PM on December 18, 2018

It might be relevant here that there isn't really such a thing under UK law as your single "real" name. Any name that you go by is a real name for you, and it's generally quite legitimate to have more than one, or to go by another name when you choose.

Of course, if it could be proved that the name you gave the authorities is a name you have never used anywhere else, then that could tend to suggest that this was not really another name of yours, and that your intent was to deceive. But on the other hand, you gave the correct address, you responded to a letter sent to that name, and made a payment - all of which suggests you recognised the name as your own, and speaks against deception being your intent.

I also don't necessarily see that a mismatch with the name attached to a payment would give any cause for suspicion, especially since you used your usual first name, and it's not uncommon or illicit for people to change their surnames for various reasons. Or indeed to have a friend or family member make a payment on their behalf.

As others have noted, you need to confirm if this was actually the police that came to your door, or bailiffs - people often confuse them. If it is the police, then you definitely need legal advice.

If it's just bailiffs chasing you however, then they are only interested in collecting the money. In that case it may be best to just follow up with them to settle whatever is now owed. If the name difference even comes up - e.g. as to why your housemate said nobody of that name lived there, well, it was an old name you don't use anymore that your housemate didn't know was yours.
posted by automatronic at 5:18 PM on December 18, 2018

For the sake of thoroughness, I feel it also needs to be asked: How much do you believe/trust your housemate?
posted by dancing leaves at 5:48 AM on December 19, 2018

Yeah, I'm not in the UK so I was hesitating to say anything, but I was shocked to hear of the police turning up with an arrest warrant for what is presumably a relatively small amount of money.

I recall once long ago in the one of the United States when a police officer came to my house to serve a warrant on me for an unpaid parking ticket. We were both slightly embarrassed because I worked for the police department. He just didn't realize it was the same person. Thanks to the double standard of the time, I just went in later and paid it. But warrants for small parking violations definitely happen outside the UK.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:45 PM on December 20, 2018

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