Criminal record for 90p bus fare ‘error’
Telegraph | Jun 9, 2008
By John Bingham
A bus passenger is launching a legal challenge after being handed a criminal record amid a dispute over a 90 pence fare.
Tom Usher believed he had paid the charge by swiping his Oyster travel card as he boarded the bus in December.
But a spot check by an inspector found that the payment had not been debited.
Although Mr Usher, 37, still had £1.30 on his card when challenged and maintains that he offered to pay it as soon as the oversight was discovered, he was ordered before magistrates, found guilty of failing to pay the fare and fined £90 with costs of £100.
But Mr Usher, a builder from Harlesden, north-west London, is now appealing the conviction at Kingston Crown Court.
The case echoes that of Rachel McKenzie, the secretary to the Catholic Archbishop of Southwark, who was told she was being prosecuted for a 20p shortfall in her bus fare, also when she paid by Oyster card. Transport for London (TfL) later dropped the matter.
Mr Usher said he caught the Number 18 bendy bus home from Warren Street, central London, swiping the card over the reader and took his seat.
As he neared home a ticket inspector got on, checked his card and accused him of failing to pay the fare.
“I did not really take much notice when the inspector got on because I thought I had nothing to fear,” he said.
“When he told me I had not paid for the trip, I was really surprised and said it had to be a mistake because I had swiped the card.
“I had only just started using an Oyster card for the first time, so when he insisted I had not paid I apologised and said I was still getting used to using it.
“I said to him that I was covered anyway because I had the fare on the card but he … made me get off the bus.
“He kept me off the bus for 15 minutes while everyone on it watched me and he got two police officers to help check my address.
“I felt very intimidated but I never thought it would end up with a criminal prosecution.”
He was ordered to appear before Wimbledon magistrates’ court where he represented himself and pleaded not guilty but was convicted.
He has since appeared before Kingston Crown Court ahead of an appeal due to be heard in August.
A spokeswoman for Transport for London said: “Fare evasion costs passengers using public transport millions of pounds each year.
“All passengers are required to touch in and ensure they have paid the fare when travelling on London’s buses.”