RMIT researcher Adrian Dyer, who will contest his myki fine in Melbourne Magistrates Court. Photo: Justin McManus
A Department of Transport prosecutor approaches Mr Dyer, asking how he intends to plead when challenging his $200 Myki fine.
"Not guilty," is the answer. Mr Dyer says he believed he'd touched on at his home station, that there was no way to know either way because the reader's screen was impaired, and that he has a note from the station master attesting to this.
When he went to touch off at Melbourne Central Station, the readers wouldn't accept his card, he asked for help and was led through the gates to an authorised officer, but once on the other side he was fined, he says.
But it's an absolute liability offence, which means in the eyes of the law there is no distinction to be made between a person who deliberately or unintentionally finds themself in a designated area without a valid ticket.
"In our view the charge is proven because the charge is not having a valid ticket," the prosecutor tells Mr Dyer, her tone suggesting it's not the first time she's had to explain this, leaving Mr Dyer to decide his course of action.
All the others contesting their fines will also maintain they'd done nothing wrong - that the card readers didn't work, they had money on their cards, they thought they'd touched on, they couldn't understand how to use the system - blaming a flawed and confusing ticketing system.
But when offered the chance of having their fine dismissed without a penalty all but one of them will plead guilty.
Almost half of the 109 myki matters heard in the Magistrates Court of Victoria since January 1, 2013 have involved a person pleading guilty and then their fine being dismissed. Only six people who bothered to appear in court had their fines upheld, while another 17 had to pay their fines after failing to appear.
Anna Radonic, Youthlaw's principal solicitor, said those who contest their fines in court are likely to have a better outcome than those paying on the spot, but they risk having a criminal conviction recorded against their name.
The woman with the baby is getting restless waiting for her turn and wanders over.
"It wasn't on purpose," she tells Mr Dyer after listening in on the conversation.
"To waste taxpayers money like this is just ridiculous."
Inside the courtroom, the bloke in the hoodie is the first of this small group called to the bench, like most people on the list he doesn't have a lawyer.
"So you want to come back another day do you?" the judicial registrar asks him.
"Well, I think so because I haven't done anything wrong," he says. He'd touched on at Bacchus Marsh station and had his myki card checked by a conductor earlier in his trip with no issues, he said. It was only when he got to Melbourne Central that the readers didn't like his card.
"What I'd be looking at doing is probably dismissing it as a warning today if you pleaded guilty to the charge," the judicial registrar says. "Then I'd plead guilty," the man in the hoodie responds.
The next man, like Mr Dyer, thought he'd touched on at his local station and was surprised when he got to Melbourne Central and couldn't get out of the gates. He pleaded guilty and was let off with another warning.
A businessman steps up to the bench, he uses the tram to travel between meetings, when he bought his myki card he was told by the attendant that he only had to touch on in the morning. Another guilty plea for a warning and the fine dismissed.
The young mother is up, she's irritated, its been a long wait, she's seen the others all get their fines wiped after pleading guilty.
"Not guilty, I would say, but I will plead guilty," she tells the court.
"As far as I know I touched on, I put my card on the machine. There's so many people that are here that have gone through the exact same thing."
The judicial registrar disregards her comments as having "no evidentiary basis whatsoever".
Does she want to come back at a later date and have her day in court?
"I plead guilty," she says.
Like the others before her, the judicial registrar says she can walk away with a warning, but only if there's no objection from the prosecution and she has no priors. The prosecutor is silent, a warning it is.
Earlier, she'd told Fairfax Media it was her third time before the court contesting myki fines and every time she'd been let off. It is a strange theatre.
Another former employee of the Department of Transport said concerns about the prosecution of myki fines in court had influenced a move by Public Transport Victoria to give fare evaders the option of cheaper $75 on-the-spot fines.
Ryan Heath, who was fined in January 2013 while working as a supervisor on the myki roll-out to the public, says even those trained to teacher Melbourne commuters to use the system were often confused about "one thing or another".
The technology for "touching on" to public transport was too slow, readers frequently shut down, people who "topped up" online were getting fined due to delays with the balance appearing on their cards and many were being overcharged, Mr Heath said.
"I'm there trying to help myki with all these problems and I'm getting fined, the whole thing was ridiculous," he said.
He said he'd seen many cases like Mr Dyer's, where commuters had a problem with some aspect of the myki system and reached out for help, only to be fined once they've been led across the train station barriers.
The government has recently committed $13 million to find a more efficient and user-friendly operating system for myki.
My Dyer is preparing to contest his fine next year.