Mary Dejevsky: Of course, fare-dodgers must pay – but £80 is out of all proportion

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

Inspectors, so the signs on the buses say, "look just like you" – in other words, ordinary. That certainly went for the inspector who boarded the 507 at Victoria one evening last week – and it was his lucky day. But his victim was not one of the street drinkers who seem to regard free bus travel as a right; nor was it one of those young men who push past the card reader as if daring the driver to stop them. No, this was quite a young woman, who blushed and whose eyes welled with tears.

The episode brought to mind – how could it not? – the girl who was raped in Nottingham after being turned off a night bus for want of 20p. More recently, the father of a 14-year-old in London kicked up a fuss after she was "humiliated" for not having enough money on her card, after mislaying her child's ID. On the 507, though, my misgiving was not that the inspector failed to exercise discretion – why should he? – but the disproportionate size of the fine.

Of course, it could be that the woman was a regular fare-dodger who deserved all she got; possible, too, that she decided to risk it just this once. But it could also be that she had simply forgotten to "touch in" when she boarded or believed her travel card had another day to run. The 507 is one of the few London buses you can enter without passing the driver. For genuine mistakes, the size of the fine – £80, which is halved for prompt payment – seems out of all proportion to the crime.

Public transport should take a leaf out of the Environment Department's book. It recently announced that local authorities were slashing the fines for what might be called "bin crimes" – putting the infernal thing out early or filling it too full – accepting that people might just make a mistake. Fines will come down from more than £100 to around £40. There will be stiffer penalties for repeated or more heinous offences.

The same principle should apply to transport. In most other countries, fines for not having a ticket generally bear some relation to the fare you should have paid and must be paid on the spot. An immediate £20 would surely be enough to deter chancers, while not bankrupting those who just made a mistake. Penalties were raised to the current level at the start of the year because, it was said, of the extent of fare-dodging. But more consistent checks, rather than higher penalties, should be the remedy. As with higher rates of income tax, less might turn out to be more.

Air-con is not just for wimps

I wouldn't mind betting that you felt scant sympathy for those Americans who fled their homes after recent storms left them without air-conditioning. Time was, when I too, would have regarded them as wimps. Even when – in the 100 degree heat and 90 per cent humidity of a Washington July – fires in underground junction boxes left our neighbourhood without power, I resolved, in time-honoured British fashion, to tough it out. As the porter in our block might have said, but refrained: "Not so fast, lady."

It was not just the dark streets, security cordons and armed National Guard patrols that made me think twice about staying. It was the impossibility of living. No working lifts meant a torchlit struggle to the seventh floor. Sodden food in the freezer; rotten food in the fridge. No power for cooking; candles and barbecues banned. Worst of all, though, was the heat and the fetid air. We escaped to a (profiteering) hotel, and stayed there until the power came back two days later.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Day In a Page

The Liberal Left should stop feeling guilty about flying the flag of St George and have no qualms about celebrating Englishness, one of Ed Miliband’s closest advisers said  

Don't sneer at the white van driving flag waving man

Stefano Hatfield
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin