When a convicted murderer is released early from his/her sentence owing to doubts about his/her guilt we all read about the sorry story in the papers or see the newly freed haggard individual at a hastily assembled press conference making the first statements of what freedom is all about.

But wrongful convictions are happening all the time albeit at a lower level of criminality or supposed criminality. Thousands are walking about London unaware that by having been fined at a Magistrates` Court for non payment of their fare on a London bus they have aquired a criminal record;not necessarily one that appears on the Police National Computer but one that in some circumstances should be declared eg for application to the higher professions. Sometimes this can be the result of a fares Inspector not offering the suspected "fare dodger" the opportunity of paying a penalty fare or following up a perfectly genuine reason for not having a valid oyster card when boarding a bus. A perfect example of the latter is when a passenger with no previous history of fare dodging has boarded a bus, for some reason has not "pinged" his/her oyster card and when asked to produce it by an inspector discovers that it has been forgotten. By offering the explanation that a valid oyster card has been mistakenly eg left at home, in another jacket or one of many reasons we forget things etc an inspector should note the explanation and after taking a name and address offer 21 days for the valid card to be sent to Transport for London as proof of legal right to have travelled that day. That offer should be followed up by a letter from TFL again offering the non payer the opportunity to explain the reasons and provide proof of a genuine error. Often that proceedure is not properly followed.

So if you are an honest person never having been involved in fare dodging on London buses and you are threatened with court action despite offering your explanation that you were at the time of ticket inspection under the impression that your valid card was on your person stand your ground and request that you be given the opportunity to produce said card and/or be offered a penalty notice. Make your voice heard within the time limits or you might be sorry later.