White-Collar Crime

Lawyer who dodged train fare will pay restitution based on discounted weekly pass rate

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A British lawyer who cut the cost of commuting to London by pretending to travel from a station much closer to the city’s center would have had to—over a period of more than 2½ years— pay tens of thousands of pounds in train fare at the daily rate.

But a judge agreed to value the cost of the train trips taken by barrister Peter Barnett at a discounted rate, as if he had purchased a weekly pass for travel to and from the correct station near his Oxfordshire home, the Daily Mail reports.

That means Barnett, 44, who pleaded guilty to fraud counts earlier this year and has agreed to pay restitution, owes only a little under 6,000 pounds for his transportation between April 2012 and November 2014, rather than the nearly 20,000 pounds sought by the prosecution.

It also apparently helped him avoid time behind bars, despite a 2010 caution for a similar offense: Barnett was given a 16-week suspended sentence and 12 months of supervision. He is also required to perform 200 hours of community service.

Concerning the value of the train fares Barnett didn’t initially pay, his lawyer, Angus Bunyan, argued that Barnett had purchased weekly passes for the shorter trip, rather than paying higher daily fare rates, and said reimbursement at a higher rate for the correct trip would be a windfall for the train company, the Guardian reports.

“No commuter, if they were going from Haddenham & Thame to London, would buy a full single, then have his day in London, and buy another full single back,” Bunyan said.

In imposing the sentence, district judge Olalekan Omotosho cited the need to deter others as well as to punish Barnett.

“It is a shame, really, because you had it all. It remains unclear why you acted so badly,” the judge said. “You let yourself down and your family down, particularly in light of your profession as a lawyer.”

The BBC News also has a story about the City of London Magistrates’ Court case.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Lawyer says his restitution for dodging thousands in train fares should reflect weekly pass rate”

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