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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