Monday 4 September 2017

The case of the abusive co-passenger

A short and eventful journey
On the 18th of December, last year, I was returning from a vanity trip to Paris to keep up my loyalty status with KLM/AirFrance. On arrival at Manchester Airport, I boarded the train for a 17-minute journey to Manchester Piccadilly Station. It was more eventful than I expected.
The coach I boarded was closest to the top of the platform and as the train was about to leave, it meant people were rushing onto the train through our coach. I could not put my bags away as other passengers were trying to get by. It meant, I had to lean over my seat, opposite me across the aisle, another passenger was leaning over his seat for the same reason.
It took a while for everyone to get through, but they all eventually did. It was at that point that my co-passenger on the other side accosted me and literally shouted in my face asking whether I would allow him to put his bags away. I ignored him because there was no reason to shout at me, but he continued being an irritant.
The abuse was a torrent
Then I answered him back, “If you want to address me, you do not shout at me.” He repeated what I said to ridicule me and then as he sat down he launched into a tirade of abuse. None of which I answered to until he got to say, “This is England,” and something along the lines that I needed to return to where I came from.
To which I responded, “I am English too.” Then another passenger adjured him to stop all that racist nonsense. Without pausing, he laid into the other passenger with torrents of unspeakable abuse. Meanwhile, someone else on the train had called the police and informed them of the ensuing altercation.
The train conductor came through, checked our tickets and then called me aside to ask about the fracas and whether I wanted to involve the police. The episode did not affect me that much, but I thought the man should not get away with such unwarranted and abusive behaviour, I acquiesced to having the police involved in the matter.
The goodly police acted well
When we arrived at Manchester Piccadilly Station, the police boarded the train, they invited me to state my case and got the offending passenger off the train, he was both shocked and surprised as they handcuffed him and took him away. I was taken to the police station where I was made comfortable, served tea and invited to give a statement.
Other passengers as we disembarked offered their names and addresses as witnesses to the episode, I felt buoyed by the support of all the other people who felt scandalised by the event. Going through the formalities, I was asked if I needed victim support, therapy and all sorts of help. I did not feel a victim even if I was shaken by the encounter and soon I was on my way home.
Charged and convicted
The man was kept in custody for the night and consequently charged with the offence of 'Racially / religiously aggravated harassment/alarm / distress by words/writing'. Apparently, as the case was being prepared, he committed another similar offence having not learnt the error of his ways.
The British Transport Police kept me informed of the developments through a liaison office, I was even invited to give a witness impact statement which I declined. Over months, a date was set for a court appeared and adjourned twice until it was completely resolved at the end of August.
The man pleaded guilty to the charges and he was fined £600 plus £100 legal costs, a chance encounter of unnecessarily boorish behaviour that he probably had gotten away with many times before had caught up with him and I am glad that I decided to allow the police to intervene, not so much for my sake, but to hopefully teach the man a lesson, that abusing strangers on a train may come with grave consequences and you never know which of those strangers could cause you avoidable grief.
That, I believe is the end of the matter, I will call the Witness & Case Officer later in the week to thank her for her help and support.

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