With one of the main themes of Easter being forgiveness (the other is chocolate, of course), I have been mulling over the topic of financial redemption. The week before last we had the story of the unnamed train fare cheat – the hedge fund manager who commuted from Stonegate for five years and exploited a loophole in the Oyster system to evade fares totalling £42,550. Multiple outrages: a wealthy man not paying his way, apparently always getting a seat on the train (this bit may be just my fevered and envious imagination) and then managing to “buy” his way out of prosecution and exposure by repaying the full amount to the rail company. And what about the “Penalty Fare” that features so thrillingly on red-lettered posters throughout my own local station and rail network? A Mr Roberts has even set up an e-petition to have the fare-dodger prosecuted – not much support so far…
I do appreciate the position of the rail company Southeastern in choosing not to prosecute (“In this case, this option has allowed us to recover the sum owed to us very quickly without incurring the additional costs or uncertainty associated with pursuing the matter through the courts”), but I wonder about their decision. It seems to me that it would have been a straightforward prosecution and conviction (the perp coughed pretty quickly), and their costs would therefore have been met by the defendant, who would also have had some punitive consequence to his actions. This outcome seems to suggest that the only thing that mattered was the money – but as the man could clearly afford the fares in the first place, that was not his motivation, and so any consequences for him should have addressed his true motivation. Was that a desire to get one over on the system? The thrill of the risk? (Bit of a worry for his clients….) Arrogance? And simply repaying the exact sum does not do that.
The arrogance of getting away with anything, because you have money, I have seen that. It’s ugly. And even worse when unpunished. Like a pat on the shoulder because he paid up. The common man who dodges a fare gets a fine that is multiple times that fare. I hope the petition will result into something. Hello from the rainy highway Penang – Singapore. I paid my bus fare 🙂
Yes, there has been a lot of debate in our UK papers about there being “one law for the rich and another for the poor”. If someone had evaded their fare on one day and been caught, they would have been given a penalty fare – which for the train company concerned is “£20 or twice the full single fare from the station where the passenger got on the train to the next station at which the train stops, whichever is the greater”. I think people are angry because this was deliberate, structured, planned and repetitive evasion – not just forgetting to buy a ticket on one journey.
“The Spectator” magazine puts another viewpoint! http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/04/who-is-the-stonegate-fare-dodger/
Best wishes from Susan
PS Safe travels!
Like the millionaire scumbag here that’s just been prosecuted for claiming income benefit for years. How can these lowlifes sleep at night?
Perhaps we have hit upon a new sentencing mechanism, Roy. For neither of these gentlemen does money appear to have been the motivation (unless they both love money above all else?). So perhaps for effective sentencing we need to pinpoint someone’s motivation, and punish them using that? So if it is indeed pure greed, take away their money. But if it’s arrogance, give them a punishment that humbles them. And if it’s risk-taking, push that to the limits – perhaps feeding the Komodo dragons at London Zoo?
Best wishes from Susan