Recently a woman was filmed being arrested for alleged fare evasion in front of her son in Croydon. She is anonymous but the footage has been all over the news and social media.

Was there any legal basis for her arrest? If not what would the closest arguable legal basis for it have been?

  • 8
    In law there's no such thing as an 'arrestable offence' since s110 of Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 amended 24 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Police may arrest without warrant for any offence (subject to conditions as Rick says in the answer).
    – Lag
    Jul 25, 2023 at 16:09
  • 3
    Was there are reason you would think that bus fare evasion was not arrestable?
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 25, 2023 at 17:34
  • Very related: law.stackexchange.com/questions/89767/…
    – Trish
    Jul 25, 2023 at 17:35
  • @ohwilleke arrestable offence are or at least were a defined category, even if one that is now obsolete Jul 25, 2023 at 18:12
  • 2
    Taking the reporting at face value, prior to SOCPA 2005 the woman referred to by OP could have been arrested although the offence was not an 'arrestable offence' because some of the conditions under s25 PACE 1984 were satisfied: refused to give her name, refused to give her address.
    – Lag
    Jul 26, 2023 at 5:54

3 Answers 3


Remember the topic here is how you get arrested for fare evasion. Don't presume the fare evader is cooperating or producing ID on demand.

This is shocking in certain countries where people predominantly drive cars, and are not familiar with high-density transit (even though their city has a new light rail system lol**). But it actually makes sense.

There has been a change in transit fare collection in the last 25 years. Historically, you paid the driver or conductor, who visited every passenger to collect fares. Non-payment meant you didn't board (or on trains with roving conductors, were put off the train at the very next stop, and the schadenfreude of disrupting your journey satisfied the railroad).

However, to save labor costs, they have switched to a model called "Proof of Payment", which the rider must obtain before boarding*. There is a small chance that a Fare Inspector may come through the vehicle. That reduces labor costs because the inspector need only visit occasionally: their existence motivates people to self-pay.

When caught, a fare evader is guilty of much worse than evading one fare. It is likely they are a repeat offender, having successfully evaded 10-20 fares prior to this, depending on how often the fare inspectors come around. As such, the consequences must be more severe.

Generally, a costly citation is issued of 20-100 times the absent fare. However, some people simply do not pay these citations. They become familiar to fare inspectors... and yes, the next step on the consequence chain is arrest. That may also be an outcome if the person refuses to identify themselves so a ticket could be issued, or refuse to present proof of payment.

So it's not like "OMG someone forgot to validate, call MI5" - that is a false representation of what happened there.

Or it could be exactly that, except the forgetter had an arrest warrant from another agency. Transit police do a disproportionate amount of gathering up fugitives.

* This is done by a variety of methods: a ticket machine at the station where you buy the ticket immediately before boarding is the simplest, but is a flow constraint and maintenance headache. Sale of no-time-limit paper tickets, which can be carried indefinitely but must be time-stamped at a validation machine before boarding; valid for 2 hours after stamping. (They tried putting ticket and validation machines on the vehicle, but people congregate around them and validate only when they see an inspector.) Monthly passes, transit "credit cards" like Oyster that can be loaded with monthly passes or validations, or all sorts of things with phones and apps.

** And that gets extra super fun when they get a bit enlightened, and decide to give the Light Rail system an honest try. PoP is anything but intuitive, and not well explained, so they botch it... so where a normal company who wants their business might give them a gift basket or some swag, they get a $300 citation. That's it. You will never pry them out of the automobile for the rest of their lives.

  • 2
    Except this isn't how the newest systems work. For systems that use contactless credit cards, e.g. the Oyster system, tap-in data is not necessarily available until all stations upload data at the end of the day. Thus, a fare inspector cannot determine if a tap-in is missing. Instead the card is recorded as an audit. If, at the end of the day, the audit tap is in the correct sequence, nothing happens. If it isn't, a penalty fare is applied. There is no possibility to arrest on the spot.
    – user71659
    Jul 25, 2023 at 19:13
  • 2
    Not sure how you arrived at a TFL bus penalty charge is 50 to 100 times the evaded fare. A one-trip ticket is £1:75, and the penalty is £80 reduced to £40 if paid within 21 days. I get that to be circa 22 to 45%.
    – user35069
    Jul 25, 2023 at 19:25
  • @Rick Thanks, I'll go ahead and edit that range. I'm trying to describe how PoP systems work generally, not a particular town. Jul 25, 2023 at 20:58
  • 1
    @gnasher729 But how do they get the notice to the fare evader? Trained, skip-tracing owls who can find anyone anywhere? I think you are presuming a fare evader who behaves civilly, producing true ID when asked and being honest. What do they do with a recidivist evader who carries no ID and misleads about identity? OP's question being "is it possible to get arrested for fare evasion". Jul 26, 2023 at 18:22
  • 1
    @user71659 can you give a reference for this? Jul 27, 2023 at 8:49


On 24/07/2023, Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, a senior officer in the Metropolitan Police Service (the "Met"), released a statement giving the police's account of the incident and the "legal basis for her arrest" as requested by the OP.

It is quite lengthy but I have resisted editing or redacting it to ensure the whole statement is available to those users (like me) that would rather not follow anonymous links. I have also resisted emboldening any of the text to allow users to make up their own minds without any unconscious bias on my part.

Finally, I have left my original answer as is for posterity.

The statement in full reads as follows (with the description of what caused the arrest bolded):

“It is clear from the video that has been shared online that this incident was distressing for the woman involved and particularly for her child. We understand why it has prompted significant public concern and we want to be transparent about our position and the role of our officers.

“Officers from the Met’s Roads and Transport Policing Command were supporting TfL ticket inspectors on a pre-planned operation in Whitehorse Road, Croydon on Friday, 21 July. As buses pulled into the stop, TfL inspectors would check the tickets of those onboard and also those getting off.

“Anyone without a valid ticket is required to provide their details to a TfL inspector so a penalty fare can be issued. This is not a policing matter. Officers only become involved where details are not provided or where someone tries to leave when challenged.

“The woman involved in this incident was asked to provide her ticket as she got off the bus, but did not do so. She was spoken to by a TfL inspector, then by a PCSO and finally by a police officer. She continued to try to walk away and did not provide her ticket for inspection.

“She was arrested on suspicion of fare evasion and was handcuffed. When officers were able to take her ticket from her so that the TfL inspectors could check it, they were able to confirm it was valid. She was immediately de-arrested and her handcuffs were removed.

“Throughout the incident, the child was comforted by a PCSO who immediately recognised his distress. Anyone seeing how upset he was would be moved by this, and we regret any impact it may have on him.

“We recognise that the use of handcuffs can be a cause of concern, particularly given the context of this incident and the type of offence involved, but when a person is trying to physically leave an incident it is an option officers can consider. All uses of force must be proportionate and necessary in the circumstances.

“Ticket inspection operations of this nature are difficult. They place police officers in direct confrontation with frustrated members of the public and could escalate what would otherwise be civil matters to a different level.

“This incident raises questions about the extent to which officers are having to intervene in this way when supporting TfL in their operations. We will now work with TfL to ensure that the balance is right between officers tackling the most serious crime on the transport network and supporting their own operations to ensure revenue protection.

“An initial review of the officers’ actions did not identify any conduct matters but we will reflect on it carefully, in discussion with communities locally, to urgently identify any opportunities to do things differently.

“Given the level of community concern generated we believe it is in the public interest to voluntarily refer the matter to the Independent Office for Police Conduct to review.”



A breach of the Regulations is a summary offence. As such, a suspect may be arrested if all the relevant conditions at section 24 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 are met.

See section 67 Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981:

Penalty for breach of regulations.

Subject to section 68(1) of this Act [i.e. reasonable excuse], if a person acts in contravention of, or fails to comply with, any regulations made by the Secretary of State under this Act and contravention thereof, or failure to comply therewith, is not made an offence under any other provision of this Act, he shall for each offence be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale.

And see Paragraph 7 Public Service Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Inspectors, Conductors and Passengers) Regulations 1990:

(2) ... every passenger on a vehicle being used for the carriage of passengers at separate fares shall–

  • (a)declare, if so requested by the driver, inspector or conductor, the journey which he intends to take, is taking or has taken in the vehicle;

  • (b)where the vehicle is being operated by the driver without a conductor–

(i)save as provided in (ii) below, immediately on boarding the vehicle, pay the fare for the journey he intends to take to the driver or, where appropriate, by inserting in any fare-collection equipment provided on the vehicle the money or token required to pay that fare; or

(ii)if otherwise directed by the driver, an inspector or a notice displayed on the vehicle, shall pay the fare for his journey in accordance with the direction;

  • (c)where the vehicle is being operated by the driver with a conductor, pay the fare for the journey which he intends to take, is taking, or has taken in the vehicle to the conductor immediately on being requested to do so by the conductor or an inspector;

  • (d)accept and retain for the rest of his journey any ticket which is provided on payment of a fare in accordance with sub-paragraph (b) or (c);

  • (e)produce during his journey any ticket which has been issued to him either under sub-paragraph (d) or before he started his journey for inspection by the driver, inspector or conductor on being requested to do so by the driver, inspector or conductor; and

  • (f)as soon as he has completed the journey for which he has a ticket, either–

(i)leave the vehicle; or

(ii)pay the fare for any further journey which he intends to take on the vehicle.

Paragraph 7 covers numerous alternative scenarios and as I have not seen the video, nor know the surrounding circumstances, I have emboldened the more likely alleged breach(es). I will review this if/when more details become available.


When you are caught in the UK without a ticket, someone will ask for your identification. Give them your id, you will be sent off and receive a small fine in the mail.

You don’t have to carry id. And you can refuse to show them an id, and refuse to pay. That will get you arrested. If you don’t want to get arrested in front of your children then you should do nothing to get you arrested. Obviously the presence of your children won’t stop an arrest.

Around London you most likely have an Oyster card or you have registered your debit card or just your phone. You tap in when you go through the gates at your train station and tap out when you leave, so your fare is calculated at the end of the day. Sometimes a tap is missed, so you are seen as entering but not leaving or the other way and your fare is estimated. Once a month you can fix such an estimate on the website.

London busses you tap in once and then can stay on the bus forever or get on other buses for 60 minutes. The current record is someone getting on 26 different buses in that time.

  • How do you know about the 26 buses record? Jul 26, 2023 at 12:57
  • Wheres the answer to the question about being arrested ?
    – Heddy
    Jul 27, 2023 at 19:22
  • @Seekinganswers Some website with all kinds of records. You need to jump on a bus, travel to the closest station, jump on the next bus etc. at an average of less than 2:30 minutes. Another interesting but much harder record (both planning and physical) is visiting all London Underground stations. Since there are stations added and closed all the time and routes changed, there are several record holders. Takes about 16 hours with excellent planning and involves about 5 miles running between stations in preferably not much over half an hour, so you need to be absolutely fit.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 27, 2023 at 23:38
  • @Heddy: Second paragraph. Being without ticket doesn't get you arrested, refusing to identify yourself so you cannot get fined will. Another answer showed that the woman in question actually had a valid ticket but refused to show it and refused to identify herself, so the arrest was purely self-inflicted.
    – gnasher729
    Jul 27, 2023 at 23:41

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