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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Customs 'victim' praises decision
Dover coastline
Colin Bishop had his car taken away at Dover
A disabled man whose new car was impounded by customs staff has welcomed a court ruling that officers were over-zealous in stopping alcohol and tobacco reaching Britain.

Colin Bishop of Bristol had his 13,000 Ford Focus impounded in September 2001, when he visited France to stock up on cigarettes.

Wednesday's ruling came after cross-Channel operator Hoverspeed and a group of day-trippers, who had their goods seized and car impounded, took their case to the high court.

Lord Justice Brooke and Mr Justice Bell ruled that Customs' methods of operating were "incompatible" with EU law.

They were not at all polite. I explained about the cigarettes and said I was registered disabled but they couldn't have cared less

Colin Bishop

They said Customs had not proved it had "reasonable grounds" for stopping the car, so "the goods in it should therefore not have been seized. Nor should the car."

Mr Bishop, who drove to France with his uncle who had recently had a replacement knee fitted, said: "This is terrific news - I am going for compensation myself.

"I am seeing my solicitor next week and he has always said we had a good case."

Mr Bishop went on the day trip to France to stock up on cigarettes prior to a hip replacement operation, in September 2001.

The registered disabled man was told he would be unable to drive for six weeks after the operation.

"We bought 10 cartons - that's just 2,000 cigs for six weeks," he said.

Colin Bishop
Colin Bishop: Estimates Customs cost him 6,500 and a lot of hassle
"As far as I am concerned customs officials stole a 13,000 Ford Focus off me.

"It was seized and left in Dover. I called the finance company and explained what had happened.

"They got the car back from customs and sold it. I've had some cash back but nowhere near the value.

"I bought it brand new in June and they seized it in the September.

"They were not at all polite. I explained about the cigarettes and said I was registered disabled but they couldn't have cared less. They were heavy-handed.

"I reckon I am at least 6,500 down at present and that is aside from the considerable hardship involved.


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31 Jan 02 | England
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