Condemnation Proceedings. We'd come onboard late to help Mr and Mrs "Donny" fight their case. They had already been given the date of the court case when they contacted us so we didn't have a lot of time for preparation. We thought we had a little more time when Mr Donny fell ill and applied for an adjournment to the court but it was refused! Research shows judges do this when they think you have no chance of winning the case. So our outlook was gloomy to say the least. Added pressure is the official stats that show less than 1% win against the UKBA. We also had no legal representation as Mr and Mrs Donny could not afford such a luxury as a barrister. The odds were indeed stacked against us.
We have to add here our admiration and respect of Mr and Mrs Donny. They had so much courage in taking UKBA to court. Despite facing the loss of £2500 worth of cigarettes and being liable for another £2500+ of UKBA legal costs, their resolve to fight the UKBA never wavered. They are respectable, honest to a fault, working class people who have worked all their lives, never been in trouble with the law and are shortly to reach the age of retirement. They are now in the position of enjoying the fruits of their working lives. One of these 'fruits' is to be able to afford holidays abroad 2 or 3 times a year. Another is to be able to purchase their cigarettes abroad in a quantity that saves them a great deal of money. Who could possibly object to them doing so? .... well, UKBA Officer Alistair Graham Fields ... that's who!
This Officer Fields deserves a post outing him for what he is ... and he shall get it, but not yet as this post is about the case.
We were definitely running out of time to prepare. The case was on Mon 30th Jan and we were away 27, 28 & 29th of Jan at Skegness Rock n Blues Festival. So, we took everything with us including computers and printers. Zaphod worked Sat 28th afternoon and on the Sun 29th afternoon we arranged for Mr and Mrs Donny to come down to us. Mr Donny had recovered enough by then to travel. We spent that Sunday afternoon going through as much as we could. lt meant us missing a few gigs from the afternoon sessions ... but 'needs must' as the say. Mr and Mrs Donny then went home. We'd like to apologise to Patsy here because she was our guest and we'd have liked to have spent more time with her.
We got up at 5.30am in order to get to Doncaster Court in time. When we arrived at the court we met Mr and Mrs Donny and put our battle plan into action. Courts are a game albeit a serious one ... a sort of theatre in essence where you are to all intents and purposes on stage. We added to that theatre by being able to conjure up a couple of 'professionals' to attend and observe the whole performance. l won't tell you who these 'professionals' were or indeed their profession as the enemy (UKBA) read this blog and we aim to keep them guessing. Upon arriving at the court, they enquired as to the name of the judge hearing the case and the name of the prosecuting barrister. These afore mentioned two 'professionals' were in dark suits, carried brief cases and took notes throughout the case. One would leave at a number of intervals to make phone calls and upon their return, their professional colleague would pass their notes over to bring the other up to speed. They would also pass notes to each other during the case.
Neither the judge nor the prosecuting barrister has a right to ask who these 'professionals' were even though they knew their own actions were being observed and recorded. They still don't know and we shall decide whether or not to use what information and conclusions these 'professionals' have at a later date.
The case opened with Mr Donny requesting Zaphod as a McKenzie Friend ... which was accepted by the judge but Mr Donny's request for Zaphod to be granted audience (to be able to speak for the Donnys) was not. Mr Donny was still not well and in obvious pain despite his medication. The prosecution barrister began the case with an opening statement saying the UKBA believed the Donnys brought in 14,200 cigarettes from Rhodes May 2011 and they were for a commercial purpose. She then called her first witness ... UKBA Officer Graham Fields who interviewed Mr Donny at time of seizure. They went through the notebook as this is the only documented 'evidence' of the seizure and reasons for the seizure. Then came the cross-examination from our side. Mr Donny did very well despite being in a such difficult, alien circumstances. Mr Donny asked Officer Fields about his training, National Operational Standards, targets set by UKBA for the number of seizures per year and the dubious documented policies internally implemented by UKBA in order to reach these targets. Officer Fields reluctantly admitted to targets but denied they had any influence on how he treated suspects. He also said he adhered to all the standards set.
Officer Fields also admitted his transcript of his notebook was incorrect. He'd added and omitted words and complete sentences. Officer Fields put these down to errors and apologised to the judge. What came next is what the whole case hung on. Firstly was that because Officer Fields believed his notebook was signed as a 'true and factual account of the interview' that it should should be viewed as a confession. Mr Donny went on at length to say that he was pressurised and bullied into signing the notebook which of course Fields denied. The next was even more important ... Officer Fields had added 2 more trips abroad where he said the Donnys had gone and purchased cigarettes. He had also increased the number of cigarettes that the Donnys had said they had bought previously. When Fields was asked where he got this information from he said the UKBA database. Mr Donny asked him where this evidence was because he did not have a copy of this evidence in the bundle sent to him.
Officer Fields stated that the court or the Donnys could not have it because it was confidential operational intelligence and was not in the public interest to make it available! ln other words, we had to accept what the UKBA said.
Mr Donny then went over the 3 reasons for seizure.
1. The amounts of cigarettes brought in
2. Frequency of travel and did not believe they did not purchase any cigarettes in Spain Feb 2011
3. Mr Donny was on benefits.
1. Mr Donny went over the amounts he actually purchased but Officer Fields stuck to his own increased amounts and added trips abroad.
2. Mr Donny then explained that they had not bought any cigarettes in Spain Feb 2011 because Spain had greatly increased the price of cigarettes in Dec 2010 by a whopping 28% and they had already booked to go to Rhodes in May 2011 where the cigarettes were over 4 Euros a sleeve cheaper. They saved about 300 Euros by doing this. Officer Fields stuck to his belief the Donnys bought cigarettes in Spain 2011.
3. Mr Donny explained that he was on permanent sickness benefit due to ill health (he signs off benefits to go on holiday) and he has a substantial amount in personal savings (Mrs Donny has a larger amount in savings).The actual figures were quoted in court along with evidence to back the figures up. Officer Fields stuck to his belief that Mr Donny could not afford to purchase large amounts of cigarettes because he was on benefits.
Prosecution barrister then re-examined Fields and again stated the increased amounts of cigarettes and trips abroad were fact along with the 'signing of the notebook as a true and factual account of the interview'
Next prosecution witness was UKBA Officer Steven Blake who had interviewed Mrs Donny at time of seizure. ln truth, his evidence was very little and did nothing to back up Officer Fields. He stated that he interviewed Mrs Donny but made no conclusions or reasons for seizure because Officer Fields did all that. He did also admit to 'errors' in his transcript statement of the contents of his notebook.
Next up were Mr and Mrs Donny as defence witnesses. Mr Donny was questioned by the judge and then Mrs Donny (with aid of Zaphod). The prosecution barrister cross-examined Mr Donny and then Mrs Donny re-examined. Mr Donny does not have a good memory and easily gets confused with dates and figures but this wasn't a negative in all honesty. He came across as truthful witness who was easily confused. Prosecution barrister tried her utmost to get him to contradict himself but he kept saying he didn't understand, or was confused or couldn't remember ... that is to say, the truth. lt's worth stating here that the prosecution barrister kept bringing up again that Mr and Mrs Donny had signed the notebooks as a 'true and factual account of the interviews'. ln essence she said they had signed a confession. She also continued with the added amounts of cigarettes and added trips abroad as fact.
The judge then broke for lunch. They had only allowed an hour for this case so it shows they thought it would be a rubber stamp job. During the break, everyone used the snack bar in the court including the 2 UKBA officers although both parties did sit as far apart as possible. During this period our 'professionals' came over to talk to us but then retired for a little privacy to a table in between us and the UKBA officers. The break lasted for an hour and then it was back to court.
Next up as a witness was Mrs Donny. She was nervous but when the judge questioned her she was precise and factual. She never wavered at all. When it came to the prosecution barristers questioning, Mrs Donny not only held up well ... she was bloody brilliant! The prosecution barrister was downright nasty at times but Mrs Donny kept her calm and stuck to the facts ... and adding a few more into the bargain. Again the prosecution barrister kept saying they signed a 'confession' and the added amounts of cigarettes and added trips abroad were fact. Mr Donny then re-examined Mrs Donny with questioning that amounted to denials of everything UKBA had accused them of.
The judge was then about to give his judgement but Mr Donny wanted to make an end statement. The judge happily granted Mr Donny his request. Mr Donny started off by saying he just wanted to make something clear. He said that the UKBA had stated that all these extra amounts of cigarettes and extra trips abroad were on the UKBA database but they couldn't print them off because of security, intelligence and not in the publics interest. Mr Donny then said that this is categorically not true. He directed the judge to part of the defences bundle. lt was a Subject Access Request from a certain 'Smoking Hot' (judge had my real details of course) where not only was every flight there in detail in and out of the country for the past 3 years but even UKBA stop and searches with reference numbers and dates along with any results from these stop and searches. These results showed whether l had any excise goods on my possession at the time of the stop and search and if l had, it detailed the amount l had brought in. These were from the UKBA database!
The judge agreed with Mr Donny and added that he had already noted that and would have thought if there was any such evidence on UKBA's database concerning Mr and Mrs Donny that the prosecution would have used the lunch period to have acquired it. They had not done so. He then started to give his judgement but was interrupted by the prosecution barrister who wanted to add something. He told her in no uncertain terms that he had heard enough from her.
He totally dismissed every accusation (and l do mean every) that UKBA had brought against Mr amd Mrs Donny. He then ordered UKBA to restore Mr and Mrs Donny's goods.forthwith along with what costs Mr and Mrs Donny can legally claim.
This was a day the good guys won. ln my honest opinion l believe UKBA Officer Fields is a liar, falsified evidence and committed perjury.
The judge, l cannot complain about. Whether he acted that way because of our 'professionals' in attendance l cannot say but l'm more than willing to give him praise for the way he conducted the case. l'd also like to praise a certain gentleman called Bobi who also turned up to support Mr and Mrs Donny. He did it out of his own violation and expense.
Final praise goes to Mr and Mrs Donny who had the courage and determination to fight an agency that is unfit for purpose ... the UKBA!
Note:- this is the edited version as the case went on for 4 hrs or so. We shall upload the full transcript for those that wish to download and read it. This will take a while to do though so please be patient :)
RECORD ALL UKBA INTERVIEWS