The incident happened on Wednesday November 20, at the Gare Matabiau.
A commuter in his thirties entered the train station to take a train home. Before boarding a train, he visited a cash machine in the station to take out some money.
While there, he was approached by a woman with a baby in her arms, who asked him if she could buy her something to eat, according to reports by local news source France 3 Occitanie. The man said that he didn’t have any cash on him - hence his visiting the ATM - but instead checked his pockets for change. He found 70 cents.
At this moment, two members of the railway security staff approached, explaining that begging is forbidden in train stations, and that if the man gave the coins to the woman, he would be acting illegally.
The man said: “I replied [to the staff] that the woman had not directly asked me for money. He replied that if I gave her the coins that I had in my hand, I would be liable for a contravention. It was so ridiculous that I thought he could not be serious, and I dropped the 70 centimes from my hand into the woman’s hand.”
At this point, staff issued the man a fine of €100, and cited the transport legal code, which outlaws “solicitation of all kinds”. SNCF initially said: “We cannot encourage begging in the station. Begging is forbidden in all public places by law, and by several decrees.”
But after further outcry, SNCF later admitted the “clumsiness” of its staff, and said that this incident had “gone too far”.
In a statement to newspaper Le Figaro, the company said: “We are trying to contact the individual [man]. The fine will of course be cancelled.
It said: “The Gare Matabiau is a special case. There are many beggars, and we put up signs to let passengers know that they should not give money, so as to not encourage begging. Begging can also cause people to feel unsafe.
“But [in this case] the attitude of these staff and the station police was clumsy.”
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