A 14-year-old girl has been fined after ticket inspectors accused her of being an adult – despite wearing a school uniform at the time.
Leila Sanger said she broke down in tears after being accused by two male train guards of lying about her age in order to be able to travel on a child’s ticket.
Despite wearing her uniform and wearing a student tie around her neck, the student was fined just over £104 because inspectors believed she was elderly and therefore ineligible for the child fare.
But Miss Sanger said she wore her uniform with a student lanyard and even carried a Southeast ID card.
She was stopped on May 25 while changing trains in Strood, Kent, to get to her home in nearby Snodland.
The teenager regularly uses the service to go to and from school in Gravesend, Kent, but is now afraid to return to the station for fear of seeing the two men again.
Mum Naomi Sanger, 43, said: “She wore a school uniform, carried a student lanyard and held Southeastern ID.”
“Two male officers told her she was a liar, gave her a fine of £104.40 and then asked her to contact me on her mobile phone.
“She tried to call me but I couldn’t answer as I was in a meeting.
“Instead, they were scrolling through their phones and looking at their messages – an invasion of their privacy.”
“They gas lit her and explained that she had previously said she was 15, which she had not done. She was upset and had tears in her eyes when she got home.’
The next day, Leila didn’t want to take the train to school.
Ms Sanger said: “I ended up taking time off work to take her to school and back.”
The mother complained to the railway operator and the fine was lifted.
However, she was not given an apology for the way her daughter was treated, nor any assurances that inspectors would not behave like this again, she added.
The project planner added, “Leila actually looks older than she is, a lot of girls look older these days.”
“But there is a way to ask her her age and even fine her if you still don’t believe her, that doesn’t involve that level of intimidation.”
“Leila was carrying a school ID card that said she was in 9th grade, which should have shown she was only 13 or 14.”
“Now she’s scared of traveling by train and I’m not sure how to get her to school now.”
Siobhan Bradshaw, Southeastern’s general manager for enforcement, said, “We can confirm that a fine has been waived, but we do not routinely comment on ongoing investigations.”
“We expect our colleagues to be professional and courteous at all times.
“But we also believe it makes sense to require proof of age if a younger customer looks older than 15 and is requesting a child fare.”
“In cases where they can’t afford it, they may have to pay the adult rate.”
“To avoid unnecessary confusion, we recommend that you carry official proof of age such as a Citizen Card or Validate UK Card.”
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