Notice of Claim
National Post Seizure Unit James & Pamela Rowley
UK Border Agency The Meadows
3rd Floor Notwen Road
West Point Kirkpatrick Fleming
Ebrington Street Dumfriesshire
Plymouth DG11 3AU
PL4 9LT Tel: 07817 900556
Seizure Reference Number E4361812
Place and date of Seizure: Coquelles Tourist 6th October 2014
We, the undersigned, wish to challenge the legality of the UK Border Agency’s seizure of the thing(s) listed below. We understand that our Notice of Claim will trigger HMRC or UKBA to start court proceedings to decide if the seizure was lawful.
Mr James Rowley - 360 x 50 gramme pouches of Golden ***** *****d rolling Tobacco.
Mrs Pamela Rowley – 10.000 Embassy No1 Cigarettes.
Printed Name: Printed Name:
I am writing to you to inform you that on the 6th October 2014 whilst passing through passport control on route to boarding the Eurotunnel from France to the United kingdom I was stopped by an officer (identification no 6334)from the UK Border Agency who seized from me a quantity of hand rolling tobacco and Cigarettes. The Officers reason for seizure of the Tobacco and Cigarettes was that he believed I had purchased this Tobacco & Cigarettes for commercial purposes, namely to sell them for profit.
I did not and never have purchased Tobacco products to sell for financial gain and can categorically say that the Tobacco and Cigarettes I purchased were completely for myself and my wife’s personal use, however your officer did not believe this and proceeded to seize my lawful property.
In order to state my case honestly I am including some background information into myself and my wife’s circumstances in the hope that it helps you to understand and reconsider your Officers decision which he has totally on this occasion misjudged and is mistaken.
Myself & my wife have been married for 24 years and during the early years of our marriage were moderate smokers smoking around 15 to 20 Cigarettes a day however our lives have been greatly affected by events which have caused us great stress and as a result have especially in my case caused us to smoke a greater amount than an average smoker. Firstly my wife developed Panic Attacks, Anxiety, and Agoraphobia and suffers with very high blood pressure which has greatly restricted her ability to lead a normal life and several years ago when I was diagnosed with Diabetes it came as a great shock and caused me to experience great anxiety and as a result increased the amount I smoked. We also have my Wife’s Mother who is 88 living with us who also suffers with Anxiety and Agoraphobia and requires care so cannot be left alone hence restricting our ability to venture far from our home.
Until May 2013 we had an Au pair who was able to help look after my Mother in Law which did allow my wife to leave the house and she slowly improved as I took her out to quiet places on a regular basis and built up her confidence where she eventually learned to cope with small public places and with family help to look after my mother in law even managed a cruise in November 2013 albeit with the help of medication from our family Doctor, however once our Au pair who had been with us for 7 years returned home and other Au pairs did not work out due to the difficult situation in helping to care for my Mother in Law, as a result of this my wife found herself confined to the house looking after her Mother which then saw her slip back into depression and the return of her anxiety and agoraphobia.
About 3 months ago a new Au pair joined us from the Check Republic named Helena, her role was to help with the housework such as vacuuming, cleaning & ironing, however she showed a great deal of willingness to help with my Mother in Law and has shown to be a very responsible and a mature young woman, we therefore thought that it could be possible in time to actually be able to leave the house and leave Helena to care for my Mother in Law at the same time we also found a girl who lives in our village to come and assist her and at last their seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel.
I began again to take my wife out for short drives and to quiet places to build up her confidence and decided that we could in fact take short holidays if I purchased a Motorhome where she could feel safe and with that in mind we bought the Motorhome on 19th August 2014. Every Saturday or Sunday the Girl from the village and Helena would take turns at looking after my Mother in Law while I took my wife out in the Motorhome and park up by the Solway Firth for a few hours and let my wife become comfortable with her surroundings until such time we felt confident of taking a short break further a field and leaving her Mother in the care of Helena and the Girl from the Village, we then decided take a short break and include a day trip to Belgium to buy Tobacco for myself and Cigarettes for my wife.
On the 23rd August 2014 I proceeded to go online and book a trip from Folkestone to Calais with Eurotunnel to travel at 10.50am on Tuesday the 23rd September 2014 and return at 8.50am on Thursday 25th September 2014. Our trip would begin on Sunday 21st September staying at York then the following evening Monday 22nd at Wye in Kent before crossing the next day and on our return would stop at Harrogate overnight before travelling home. During our stay in France it was planned we would drive to Adinkerke and purchase Tobacco and Cigarettes for our own personal use to last us for 12 Months as we knew circumstances at home could change and we did not know if or when we would be able to make another trip.
On Saturday 13th September 2014 my Mother in Law suffered a Stroke and was taken to hospital by Ambulance but later that day discharged however after she deteriorated overnight she was re admitted to Dumfries & Galloway Royal Infirmary where she remained until the 7th October 2014 when she was transferred to Annan Hospital while home carers are put in place. Needless to say due to these circumstances we had no option but to cancel the trip and when I contacted Eurotunnel to do this they told me the ticket was open for 12 months and issued me with a new ticket for Thursday 23rd October 2014 which they told me could be changed at any time.
The medical team looking after my Mother in Law at the Hospital told us that due to her age the stroke had affected her health further and she would require full time care and are currently in the process of trying to arrange professional carers to come to our home 4 times a day as some of the care she requires cannot be done by any of the current family members as we are not qualified however they will only visit 4 times a day for about 20 minutes which means my wife will now have to do most of the day to day care herself which now restricts her ability to leave the house for any long period of time and with this in mind we decided while her Mother was in Hospital receiving care we should make the trip before she comes home but make it shorter so we could be back as quickly as possible.
On the 30th September 2014 I contacted Eurotunnel and re scheduled the trip for the 5th of October 2014 departing Folkestone at 10.20am and returning the following day Monday 6th October at 10.50am. On Saturday 4th October myself, wife and a family friend travelled to Stanford North in Ashford and stayed at the The Drum Inn caravan park and the following morning travelled to Folkestone to board the train to Calais, we were early and boarded the earlier train and when we disembarked we drove straight to Adinkerke to purchase the Tobacco and Cigarettes, we decided prior to leaving home that as it was unlikely we would be able to make this trip again in the foreseeable future due to my Mother in Law’s care needs so we should bring back as much Tobacco and Cigarettes as we could afford to last us I therefore decided to withdraw from my bank account £5000.00 to cover the purchase of the Tobacco, Cigarettes, fuel and other expenses.
On arrival at Adinkerke we then purchased 10,000 Embassy No 1 which is the brand my wife smokes and 360 pouches of Golden Virginia which is the brand of Tobacco I smoke. I did a number of years ago smoke Cigarettes however as I started to smoke more I found this to be expensive which is why I changed to Tobacco but I did also treat myself to 1000 Fortuna which I would smoke some of them while on this trip and the rest I would keep for Christmas. Our family friend is also a smoker but could only afford about 600 as I recall. I paid for the Tobacco & Cigarettes in cash a total of £4407.00, this was the cheapest way to purchase them.
We then proceeded to a campsite in Licques, France to stay for the night as it was close to Calais and handy for the Eurotunnel the next morning.
On Monday 6th October we departed the campsite on route to the Eurotunnel and stopped on the way at a supermarket and bought some cheese, ham, bread and 6 bottles of red wine to give as a gift to my 2 daughters before arriving at the Eurotunnel Terminal, again we arrived early and when I tried to check in I had a problem with the check in machine due to the fact that I forgot to first visit pet control and have our dogs checked, this was the first time we had taken our dogs out of the United kingdom and I thought we had to check in first before reporting to pet control hence the error however an assistant via the speaker on the check in helped me and it was promptly resolved. I then checked in and drove to passport control, showed our passports and was then told to drive to one of the garages and wait which I duly did. After about a 10 minute wait due to another vehicle in front of me a UK Border Agency Officer (identification no 6334) approached my vehicle on the driver’s side and asked me the following questions to which I gave the following answers to the best of my recollection although not necessarily in the order I have written them.
UK Border Agency Officer asks marked as Q: James Rowley replies marked as A:
Q: Are you carrying any explosives, drugs or firearms ?
A: No nothing like that.
Q: What is the purpose of your visit ?
A: A Visit to buy Tobacco & Cigarettes.
Q: Where did you buy the Tobacco ?
A: Adinkerke, Begium.
Q: What quantity of Tobacco & Cigarettes have you bought ?
A: 10.000 Embassy No 1, 360 pouches of Golden Virginia and 1000 Fortuna
Q: Who does the Tobacco belong too ?
A: The Embassy No 1 are my wife’s and the Golden Virginia & Fortuna’s are mine and our friend Carol also has about 600 Fortuna.
Q: That seems to be a lot, how long will that last you ?
A: About a year.
Q: How many roll ups do you smoke a day ?
A: I am a heavy smoker and smoke about 100 roll ups a day.
Q: Where in the vehicle is the Tobacco & Cigarettes ?
A: In the Garage at the rear of the vehicle.
Q: Do you have a receipt for them ?
A: After looking for it I could not find it and told him this.
Q: Where did you stay last night ?
A: I could not remember the name of the campsite so could only tell him it was in Licques, France about 35 minutes away.
At this point as I recall he walked over to another Officer who was female and had a conversation before returning and informing me they were going to search the vehicle which was no problem until they told me everyone should get out of the vehicle and we should take our 2 Chihuahua dogs with us, I then became concerned about my wife’s state of mind due to her medical condition but was afraid to say anything in case I provoked him.
I handed the keys for the vehicle to the female officer who then proceeded to open the garage door with me present and I pointed them towards the Tobacco & Cigarettes. While this was happening more officers arrived and my wife and family friend were told to put the dogs on leads and take them over to a grassed area about 100 yards from the vehicle. Officers then removed the Tobacco & Cigarettes from the Garage and then put on protective gloves and went inside the vehicle to search it, I at this point approached the vehicle to tell the officers where there were locker areas under the bed and that the pill box above the cab in the docket were my medication.
Once they completed the search we were allowed back inside our vehicle but my wife was shaking and very upset, while walking with the dogs to the grassed area she had a panic attack. We waited in our vehicle for about an hour before the officer who was dealing with us returned with the female officer and informed us that they now wanted us to go to one of their garages for a discussion to which my wife became very anxious and at this point I had to tell the female officer of her medical condition to which she replied that was no problem and she would speak to my wife in the Motorhome which I thought was very understanding of the female officer.
Myself and family friend Carol then followed the officer (6334) to one of the garages where he returned Carols Cigarettes and handed her a leaflet titled Travelling to the UK, he then took out his notebook and showed me some pages which he had written detailing the events, he then asked me to read them but I was unable to as I did not have my reading glasses he therefore told me what he had written and told me if I agreed it to which I said yes I should then write at the bottom that I agreed they were true and add the date, time and then sign it. At this point I believed everything was correct and we would be able to continue with our journey and our Tobacco & Cigarettes, I was then asked to return to my vehicle and wait and told I would soon be on my way.
While waiting for further instructions I found the receipt for the Tobacco & Cigarettes and the details of the campsite I stayed in the previous night and so handed them to one of the officers who was involved in the search thinking that this would help.
About an hour later the Officer (6334) returned with the female officer and told us we could do a further interview which would help him come to a decision as to whether or not I was telling the truth which I had no hesitation in agreeing to, I therefore followed him to an office where we sat down and he asked me a series of questions from a printed card, as I understand it the female officer did another interview with my wife in the Motorhome. I cannot make any comment on the questions the female officer asked my wife as I was not present at the time so I will stick to the interview that was conducted with myself by the male officer (6334).
I was led to an office and told that I was not under arrest and was free to go at any time but I was not going to do this as I had done nothing wrong or illegal and wanted back my Tobacco & my wife’s Cigarettes returned so I was therefore more than happy to co-operate. The officer had with him a card with which he used to ask me a number of questions to which I answered everyone honestly, if I did not understand the question I would ask him to clarify it, for example I remember one of the questions being do I know anyone who sells tobacco, as I know the owner of the local shop in our village who sells Tobacco products then the answer should be yes but when I asked him if this was relevant he said no so my answer was no. There were so many questions that I cannot remember all of them but I have requested the Subject Access Request (SAR) in the event that I will need it.
Again at the end of the interview I was asked to confirm by writing at the bottom that I agreed with his written notes and that they were true and I accepted and dated at the bottom accordingly however again I was unable to read it but trusted the officer that he had written my answers correctly. I do recall at some point he asked me how long the Tobacco would last me and during the time I spent waiting I had thought about this and realised that as I had previously bought 240 pouches in April/May 2013 which lasted me just under 12 months and topped this up with about 30-40 pouches that I obtained on a cruise in November 2013 and not September 2013 which I told the officer I therefore calculated that what I had should last me about 18 months and that I had about 15 pouches left at home, however at the same time I had purchased my Tobacco in April/May I also purchased 10.000 Cigarettes for my wife and again topped that up with additional Cartons on the Cruise in November however her Cigarettes ran out on or around the 25th September 2014 I therefore purchased 400 Embassy No 1 from Bookers cash & carry whom I have an account with to which I have included a copy of the invoice.
I was then told by the officer to wait again in my vehicle and after about 45 minutes he returned with the female officer and asked me to accompany him to the garage which I duly did, we then sat down and he told me he was seizing my Tobacco and Cigarettes and my vehicle to which I was astonished as I had not broken any laws or committed any offence and had been totally honest in every way with him, he then informed me that he was returning my vehicle free of charge based on both my own and wife’s medical condition. I asked him why he was seizing my goods and he replied he did not believe I and my wife smoked that many per day and although he believed that some of the Tobacco and Cigarettes were for personal use a proportion of it was to sell or in his words commercial use. I did ask if I was allowed to keep what he considered was for personal use to be released but he refused and I even asked if I could pay the duty but he said that was not possible although I am pleased that was the case as I believe I have been wrongly treated.
May I say at this point your officers conducted themselves in a very courteous way and at no time applied any pressure however it seems from the onset that the seizing officer (6334) had already made his decision due to the fact the Tobacco and Cigarettes were removed from the vehicle almost instantly. No matter what I said he was not interested in any explanation I gave and the fact I had been completely honest with him at all times. I never complained about the amount of time we were held approximately 4 hours & 30 minutes and the stress and pain this has caused myself and especially my wife. If I was trying to import Tobacco and Cigarettes to sell or for commercial use why would I do the following.
1 When your officer first stopped me and asked me the purpose of our visit why would I tell him for a visit and to buy Cigarettes?
2 When your officer asked me the quantity I had bought why would I tell him the truth about the amount I had ?
3 When your officer asked me who owned the Tobacco & Cigarettes why would I tell him me and my wife were the sole owners when I could have lied and said some of it belonged to Carol our family friend, this would then have made our quantities per person look much less?
The fact is your officer got his decision very badly wrong and has subjected me and my family to unnecessary stress and severe financial loss and I demand that you overturn his decision and return my Tobacco and Cigarettes to their lawful owners being myself and my wife.
Your officer had no evidence that I was importing Tobacco or Cigarettes to sell or for commercial use other than his opinion, he has never met me or my wife before and he does not know us or our smoking habits. He stated to me that the sums did not add up as to the number of Cigarettes my wife smoked, in my wife’s interview with the female officer she was asked how many cigarettes she smoked per day which she replied 25 – 40 a day depending on circumstances and by my calculations if we averaged that out at 30 per day she would then smoke over 365 days 10,950 per year which is more than we had in cigarettes in our vehicle. Your officer also stated that the number of roll ups I smoke per day did not add up to the quantity of Tobacco I told him should last me 18 months and he calculated this on the information I had given him which you can see below.
During the interview I was asked how many roll ups I would get from 1 x 50g pouch to which I replied approx. 150 roll ups as there are 50 papers in a packet and I would use 3 packets of papers approximately to roll a 50g pouch, therefore my calculations are as follows.
As I smoke approximately 100 roll ups a day which means I smoke 700 roll ups a week and 700 divided by 150 equals around 4.66 pouches per week. 4.66 pouches per week multiplied by 78 weeks (18 Months) equals 363.48 Pouches, which is 3 more pouches than I had in my possession.
I believe your officer has based his calculations on 12 months usage for the tobacco which I initially told him mistakenly but did clarify in a later interview.
Clearly your officer did not believe me and no matter what I said to him he refused to accept that I could smoke this amount but I can assure you I do and I am enclosing with this letter my evidence to support my claim.
1. I enclose the invoice/receipt from Bookers cash & carry which clearly shows I purchased 400 Embassy No 1 on the 27th September 2014 for my wife due to the fact she had none left from our last trip. If we were buying Cigarettes in Belgium to sell in the UK why would we not retain a sufficient quantity to ensure we did not have to buy them at UK prices, No one in their right mind would buy Tobacco or Cigarettes, sell it cheap then pay full price for them to use themselves.
2. I am enclosing Invoices from an online company where I buy most of my filter tips & Cigarette papers in bulk and you will see from the dates between January 2013 and August 2014 which is 20 months I purchased a total of 27,500 filter tips and 35,000 Cigarette papers. I also added to this from their eBay shop as well as normally purchasing papers when I go for my Tobacco & my wife’s Cigarettes. Also enclosed with this is an email I sent my supplier and a copy of his reply confirming my purchases and the number of roll ups I would smoke based on the number of tips/and papers I have purchased from him. May I also draw your attention to the fact that I have also bought in this time period 8 rolling machines which all come with a spare rolling canvas making a total of 16, I wear out a machine very quickly due to the number of roll ups I make & smoke.
3 .I am also enclosing the booking confirmations with Eurotunnel which confirms my original travel plans.
4 If need be, I can provide witnesses in a court of law who will testify to the fact that I am a very heavy smoker and that to their knowledge have never approached or sold Tobacco or Cigarettes for commercial gain.
I understand The UK Border Agency must have a very difficult job protecting our borders against all kinds of unscrupulous people who try to enter or bring in goods illegally to the UK. I would see why given the amount of Tobacco & Cigarettes I had in my possession your officer (6334) would query the reason I had that amount, however I was completely honest with him from the very onset of this unfortunate incident and he should have given me more opportunities to convince him by way of providing evidence to support my claim. Your officer (6334) decided I was guilty from the very beginning and no matter what I said he was not interested. I would be interested to see the training manual for The UK Border Agency to see if your officer (6334) had followed procedures and code of practices correctly as once I had given my answers to his questions during my interview anyone would see I was telling the truth. This matter has caused me great financial loss and putting me a position of worrying how I can afford to carry on smoking.
I again demand the return of the goods your officer (6334) has seized from me and my wife namely 10.000 Embassy No 1 & 360 x 50g Golden ***** *****d rolling Tobacco. I further request that you issue me and my wife a written apology for the inconvenience and stress your officer (6334) and your department has caused in the wrongful seizing of our property.
James & Pamela Rowley