VengeanceFilter: What's the legal status of RPAs on UK trains?
December 1, 2006 9:18 AM   Subscribe

What is the legal status of Revenue Protection staff on British railways?

So, I had an annoyingly painful encounter with a Revenue Protection dude at a train station the other day. I am now indulging in the great British pastime of writing grumpy letters about it.

One of the things that struck me as unusual is (after much interrogation, and general ass-hattery) that he "cautioned" me and "read me my rights" (You have the right to remain blah blah etc...) which I'm pretty sure he doesn't have the power to do. To clarify, he was working for South West Trains and in their uniform (he wasn't a policeman) and as far as I have been able to work out, he could ask me to leave, or ask for my name and address, but that's about it.

So my questions to you are:

1) Do revenue enforcement people on British railways (South West Trains in particular) have the authority to caution and/or detain people - particularly people who've repeatedly offered to pay their fare?

2) Isn't pretending you can do this when you can't a bit wrong? Does it have an associated offence or scary legal term that I can namecheck?

Help me deliver a well-informed and authorative smackdown! Thanks!
posted by so_necessary to Law & Government (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
So he definitely wasn't a member of the the British Transport Police?
posted by gi_wrighty at 9:50 AM on December 1, 2006


Not a definitive answer, but the on the South West Trains Website, the job description for an RPA makes no mention of issuing pre-arrest type cautions, nor detaining travellers. The job description mentions a "Rail Settlement Plan/Ticketing and Settlement Agreements" which, if you can get hold of a copy for SWT may have the information you need.

As far as I know it's only the London Transport Police who are able to detain and arrest a traveller.
posted by Arqa at 10:01 AM on December 1, 2006


He definitely wasn't a member of the BTP. I know police officers with the BTP are essentially the same as police officers elsewhere (they even wear the same uniforms) but are just part of a different agency (like the Metropolitan Police, or Merseyside Police.)
posted by so_necessary at 10:11 AM on December 1, 2006


Depressingly enough the SWT Penalty Fare FAQ page mentions "warnings" in the answer to the first question. The wording makes it look like it's only Guards who can issue warnings, not RPAs. Inconveniently enough their National Rail Conditions of Carriage pages gives a 404 error.
posted by Arqa at 10:17 AM on December 1, 2006


that he "cautioned" me and "read me my rights" (You have the right to remain blah blah etc...) which I'm pretty sure he doesn't have the power to do

Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 s 34(4) includes "questioning by persons (other than constables) charged with the duty of investigating offences or charging offenders" so it appears would include this revenue protection person, and he can question you under caution. I think it is very unlikely indeed that this person is a Revenue Protection "Assistant" as described by Arqa's job advert. More likely he is a manager-level investigator. He doesn't need to be BTP.

Do revenue enforcement people on British railways (South West Trains in particular) have the authority to caution and/or detain people

As far as detaining goes, if he had a reasonable suspicion that you were committing theft (and this can be considered theft, even if they usually charge it under something more innocuous), then they can detain or arrest you just like any other citizen.

people who've repeatedly offered to pay their fare?

That means you didn't pay the fare, and railway employees take a dim view of this, whatever the reason. Don't expect a fawning apology from SWT.

Coincidentally, I've been told on uk.railway, that preemptively offering to pay one's fare when caught is one of the ways that railway staff identify people who were trying it on, and that therefore is the worst way to respond when stopped by revenue protection. Don't ask me to defend the sense of this.

As a more practical matter, if this guy didn't indicate that he was letting you off, his department might be preparing to prosecute you instead. You haven't told us everything that happened, so you might know that this won't happen. If it's a possibility, you might prepare for that instead. They will have to prove that you intended to avoid paying the fare, although this is easier than you think.

You're lucky you weren't on a bus—I found out the other day that in England and Wales it is an offence to travel on a bus without having paid the fare, even if you had no intention to avoid paying! I think that's nuts.

IANAL.
posted by grouse at 10:30 AM on December 1, 2006


Bugger - not quite the answer I was hoping for, but a very reasonable and useful one. Drat! FWIW he eventually "gave me a break" with a Penalty Fare and doesn't have my details, so I find it unlikely that they'd be preparing to prosecute me.

He was still a total wankstain about it, though.

Thanks again, begrudgingly! :-)
posted by so_necessary at 12:29 PM on December 1, 2006


Yeah, sorry I couldn't give you the answer you wanted. Be glad you got off with a penalty fare (you avoid the hassle of dealing with the prosecution, whether you committed an offence or not).

If you did have a really good excuse I guess you could always appeal the PF.
posted by grouse at 2:55 PM on December 1, 2006


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