Myki is one of the most fraught and criticized public transport systems in Australia. It is notorious for its payment issues, system failures and for cards that suddenly stop working.
Even members of our office have had the unfortunate experience of topping up their Mykis, just to get to the other end and find out that the money hasn’t gone to their card, that when they thought they had “touched on” it hadn’t been affected and, then, to get interrogated by uniform clad public transport officers or protective services officers who pounce on you as if you had just committed the Great Bookie Robbery.
So here are the key things to know:
What are the relevant offences under the legislation?
- A ticket offence under the regulations – i.e. riding without a valid ticket
- Offence to dishonestly obtain a ticket
- Offence to claim exemption or concession if not entitled
- Offence to provide false or misleading information
- Offence to assault or obstruct officer
Who are the officers empower to issue an on-the-spot infringement or detain me?
An authorized officer is anyone who is empowered by the Secretary under the Act. In practice, they are ticket inspectors, Myki inspectors and protective services officers. In empowering them, the Secretary must be satisfied that the individual is competent and is of ‘good repute’. They are empowered to –
- Request a person to state his or her name and address if they believe that the person has committed or is about to commit an offence (section 218B). The officer must inform the person in sufficient detail of the offences they are suspected of committing (or were about to commit) and, must state their own name and produce proof that they are an authorized officer.
- Arrest a person, without a warrant, if they believe on reasonable grounds that it –
- it is necessary to ensure the appearance of the person in Court;
- preserve public order;
- prevent the continuation or repetition of the offence or the commission of a further offence; or
- for the safety and welfare of members of the public.
[NB: The arrest can only last as long as the reason for the arrest exists. For example, if a person is arrested in order to preserve public order, then once the reason for the disorder has ceased, the person must be released or delivered into Police custody. Officers can only use reasonable force.]
- Remove the offender from the premises;
- Issue an on-the-spot penalty.
Always get and keep your receipt!
Myki machines are curious beasts. You can pay for a pass or top up your myki and it doesn’t register on your card. Keep your receipt so that if this happens to you, you can show that you paid and it is a myki error. Authorised officers carry machines, which appear to be eftpos machines, and can look up the history of your card. They will use these to see whether or not payment has been affected. However, if the money has not gone on to your card, it may not show up on their record. Therefore, keeping your receipt until the money has been used or the pass expired, is vital.
Remain calm and ask for all of the relevant details
If you are intercepted by an authorised officer and are accused of an offence, ask for the name of the authorized officer and ask for proof that they are an authorized officer. They must provide these details to you.
Ask them why you have been penalized (ie if you have been accused of fare evasion etc) and, if you have the presence of mind, tell the officer that you would like to record the conversation on your mobile phone and when it is recording confirm that they are aware that this conversation is being recorded. This is important as it is against the law to covertly record someone without a warrant. If you do not record it, as soon as you can, write out an account of what occurred, date it and sign it.
Do not pay an on-the-spot fine
If you believe that you have been unfairly accused of an offence, such as fare evasion, do not pay the fine. An infringement or Court summons can be issued upon you and you can appeal it to the Magistrates’ Court. By paying the fine, you may be accused of accepting responsibility for the offence. If you believe that your Myki is defective, disembark the train, tram or bus, and purchase a new Myki. Keep the defective Myki as evidence, along with your receipts and the details of the officer.
Immediately take advantage of complaints processes
Go to the Public Transport Victoria Website and instigate an internal complaint and if that gets you nowhere, complain to the Public Transport Advocate and, then, the Public Transport Ombudsman. You may be pleasantly surprised as to how quickly an infringement is withdrawn after intervention from these bodies. If you are complaining about the conduct of an individual authorized officer, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation can hold an inquiry into the conduct of an officer, suspend the officer and discipline him or her. If a Court Summons has been issued, you must write to the prosecuting body included in the summons and ask them to produce the service records for the machine where you paid for the Myki or tapped on, and any CCTV footage from the station you departed from at the relevant time.
Don’t be afraid to appear in court
The idea of going to Court can be very frightening for people. However, remember that Magistrates are people just like you and they are aware of the flaws in the public transport system. When you are legally represented, they must treat you fairly and explain the process to you. If you believe that your Myki was defective or that you did touch on but it did not register, you can go to Court and give evidence on oath of your belief. More often than not, you will be believed, particularly if you are of good character and have not been penalized or found guilty of fare evasion before.
Obviously, even for the most minor of matters, when you go before the Courts you are entitled to legal representation so, if you are concerned about appearing in Court,contact our experienced team of criminal lawyers.