April 2007 Archives

Is this any way for the National Express staff at Victoria Coach Station to treat any customer, let alone a frail pensioner ?

Is this really the best that the Metropolitan Police can do about an incident literally across the road from Belgravia Police Station ?

Subject: threatening behaviour.

Yesterday, 11 April 07 I was transiting London en route from Cambridge to Southampton. Because there were engineering works on the railway at Basingstoke, and all trains were being diverted via Guildford, Havant, Fareham, I opted to travel by coach, changing at Victoria Coach Station. I did not have a through ticket, and had to book onwards on arrival at Victoria.

I am a pensioner and entitled to book a concessionary fare for the over 60's. Unusually, the booking clerk required proof of entitlement, and I produced my senior citizen's free bus pass issued by my own local authority, and a current Senior Citizen's Railcard. Although neither show a date of birth, neither can be obtained without providing proof of entitlement at the time of issue. These cards do not show a date of birth for the very good reason that bus drivers and counter clerks are not usually suitably vetted to have access to their passenger's personal data.

The Victoria Coach Station employee rejected both. I then asked to see a supervisor. The employee resisted. He required me to state my reasons for asking to speak with his supervisor. I responded that I intended to complain both about his flawed decision and his bad attitude. The employee took my bus pass and disappeared for some time, perhaps 5-10 minutes. When he returned with the supervisor, she merely stonewalled, would not accept either the bus pass or railcard as proof of entitlement. Nevertheless, after some discussion, and noting my statement of intention to write to her CEO and the MD of National Express on return home, she relented and issued me a ticket. I left the ticket hall and went to the boarding area.

Some time later, I noted the presence in the boarding area of the VCS ticket counter employee. He moved around the area holding discussions with various other staff, who appeared to be coach drivers. His conduct included some finger-pointing in my direction, and it became obvious that he was identifying me to others as a troublemaker. Someone who had the temerity to complain. When he approached the driver of my intended coach, the 032 service identified in the photograph.

I took out my camera and photographed him and the coach from some distance away.

A National Express official identified in the second photograph was sitting in the driver's seat at the time. That official, with her two burly helpers, the VCS employee and the coach driver then approached me from a distance of some 50m. The three surrounded me on all sides, standing so close that they brushed against me, and so close I could smell their body odour. Their demeanour was aggressive and menacing, and two, the NX official and the VCS counter clerk demanded that I hand over my film and my camera. I replied with a firm refusal. Their demands were unlawful. I was going about my lawful business of travelling through London. If I chose to photograph events en route that was no business of theirs. Furthermore, if they had nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear.

They were aware that I was frail, and not in a position to defend myself, and I sincerely feared for my safety. So when the NX official broke away to make a mobile phone call I pointed out to the VCS counter clerk that his presence so close was menacing, and being not at his usual place of work his behaviour could be described as harassment, for which he could be arrested. The coach driver took the hint and moved him away. I seized my opportunity to move away also. I left the coach station and walked the short distance to Belgravia Police Station where I lodged a complaint. And by that time, the stress levels were sufficient to induce a severe attack of angina that your Belgravia desk officer was aware of.

The desk officer at Belgravia Police Station took note of what I had to say and viewed the image on the camera, but declined to take any action, while endorsing my decision to move away from a face-to-face confrontation.

Although I had a valid ticket I feared for my safety at Victoria Coach Station, so I made my way on foot and by tube to Waterloo Station and returned home by rail.

Why have the Metropolitan Police not "seized" the CCTV surveillance camera footage , of which there must be plenty of at Victoria Coach Station ?

coach_300.jpg


supervisor_300.jpg

N.B we have pixellated the faces in these images. The annotations are by the pensioner himself. The much higher quality images were attached to the email sent by the aggrieved pensioner to the Metropolitan Police.

Sousveillance by members of the public who now commonly carry digital cameras or mobile phone cameras for stills or video shots, directed against petty bureaucrats and jobsworth officials, is still quite rare.

To quote the Corporal Jones character from the Dad's Army comedies: "They don't like it up 'em!"

See the full text of the email:

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