Case study Merseyrail s approach to enforcement
Most people sensibly recognise that trespassing on the railway is incredibly dangerous and disruptive, and have no intention of ever straying on to the tracks.
But in addition to the impact on the safety of themselves and others, the minority who trespass on the railway are also breaking the law.
There are a number of laws which may be relevant, depending on the situation, the motive and actions of the people involved, and the extent of any harm and damage.
Generally, trespass is prosecuted under the Railway Regulation Act 1840, section 16. However, there are other laws that cover damage to trains and endangering the safety of passengers. There are also Railway Byelaws which cover trespass.
Whatever particular law or byelaw is broken, the route that a trespass prosecution takes is broadly the same as with any other offence on the railway.
For Merseyrail, in one case, a male was stopped by a Byelaw Enforcement Officer for trespassing on the track at Bootle New Strand station.
The details of the offender were taken by the Byelaw Enforcement Officer. A report was then submitted to the Prosecution Team at Merseyrail, who in turn generated the relevant court paperwork.
This is then laid with the prosecuting court for approval. Upon approval the defendant was summoned to appear at Sefton Magistrates Court on a specific date (in this case 13 April 2016). The defendant failed to appear in court, therefore the prosecution went ahead in the defendant’s absence.
The result in this case was as follows:
- Fine £500
- Costs £150
- Victim Surcharge £50
- Compensation £0
Although no compensation was awarded on this occasion, this can be applied for by the train operator where relevant. For example, if the trespass incident caused train cancellations and delays which the train operating company is then penalised for, then an application for compensation can be made with relevant documentation to prove it. The level of compensation awarded is at the discretion of the magistrates on the day, as is the case with the fine and costs. Out of what is awarded the train operator receives the costs and compensation, with the fine and victim surcharge going to the court.
It is worth stressing that the potential penalties for people who trespass on the railway include fines and imprisonment – depending on the situation and crimes committed – but of course, the biggest benefit of staying off the tracks is staying out of harm’s way.