Legalised Mugging At Exeter Airport

Dear Editor,

I am writing today in the hope that you may make fellow readers aware of the perils involved with bringing the so called "recommended limit" goods from EU countries into Exeter Airport, especially if you are a frequent flyer.

I realise that UK Border Control do a valuable and often difficult job. However, on my arrival into Exeter Airport on Tuesday, I was subjected to a humiliating 90 minute detention and subsequent interview which resulted in the confiscation of 3kg of hand rolling tobacco. The reason given for this was that they did not believe the goods to be for my own use. It is my personal opinion that the officers on duty simply wanted a "result", and whatever I said to them would have made no difference whatsoever to the outcome. The fact that I travel frequently in and out of Exeter Airport on business – proof of which I could have provided given the chance – was no doubt a major factor in why I was singled out for investigation.

We are told by HMRC that "You are particularly likely to be asked questions if you have more than 3kg of tobacco". I was well aware of this, so was careful to ensure that I did not go over this limit. Also, even given the fact that I am a heavy smoker, 60 packets would have lasted me for quite some time, so I had no need to exceed this amount.

During my detention the officer constantly made notes on an extremely small notepad and in ineligible writing before asking me to sign to say that what he had written was what I had said. Being unable to read what appeared to me to be some form of shorthand, I declined as he could have written anything. When I asked why the tape recorder above my head was not turned on, he told me that it was because this was "not a criminal investigation". When I asked if I could have a legible statement of what was written, he simply said that I could not have his notebook.

On my release I asked for, and was given a leaflet on how I might appeal against this act of theft against me. However, on reading through the information, I immediately noticed that if my appeal were not successful, I could be liable for upwards of £1,500 in court costs. Given that the tobacco cost less than £300, I am now faced with a difficult decision. Do I stand up for my rights and fight this in what might me a very expensive court case, or leave it and let them think that they were right all along?

Surely something should be done about what amounts to legalised mugging of citizens by the state.

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Bus service lets Exeter down

Dear Editor,

Being a "frequent flyer" to and from Exeter International Airport, I have become increasingly ashamed of the poor bus service afforded to visitors new to the City of Exeter, and would like to voice my concerns through your Points Of View page.

On leaving the arrivals hall at Exeter Airport, visitors who wish to travel into the city centre, or onward for connections to Exeter St Davids train station can easily spot the bus stop for this service. However, despite the rather grandiose sign which advertises a "shuttle/transfer" service (which in itself can easily be interpreted as a dedicated and complimentary service), this service is a complete embarrassment to the City. Aside from anything else, the bus stop itself is situated in an area where no vehicles except the emergency services can access, due to security restrictions.

On my return from Paris yesterday, I noticed a lot of people waiting for the bus into Exeter, and many were voicing disappointment with the frequency of the service (typically every hour). The bus timetables are extremely confusing, and the only "regular" weekday service is the 56A, which in fact is just another country service to and from Exmouth. This service bizarrely also services the entire Met Office workforce who like to travel by bus and so help the environment! Not that I have every seen anyone board at the Met Office on this strange and frankly unnecessary detour. Sundays are catered for by the 379 Sidmouth and Honiton service, which again run every hour (if you are lucky).

One might have assumed that in line with other cities such as Bristol, the "shuttle service" might run every 20 minutes and provide passengers with somewhere to put their luggage; not so in Exeter. The bus we all eventually boarded yesterday arrived 30 minutes late due to a road closure, and was already quite full. The only place for passengers to put their luggage, was a on the floor, but of course the floor space was already taken up with passengers, so it was very uncomfortable for all concerned.

As if it were not bad enough to be waiting for 90 minutes for a bus that was overcrowded, the bus also had it's heating system turned on, on what was already a very warm day! This has happened quite a lot on Stagecoach services recently, but the bus drivers simply say that they can't do anything about it, as it's a problem beyond their control. Maybe this is where Stagecoach are losing money, rather than their lame claims of losing it because of "concessionary fares", but I digress….

If Exeter wants to impress it's visitors, and Exeter Airport continues to press for expansion, perhaps the council should step in and offer visitors a service commensurate with the historic and cultural delights that they continually seek to promote.

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