Take legal advice before pursuing an appeal against Customs seizure

Paul was instructed by ‘Customs’ in a Crown Court appeal following a condemnation hearing in the Magistrates’ Court.

An individual travelling with three others brought in 16 kilos of hand rolling tobacco. 5 kilos were claimed by the other travellers who did not pursue their appeal against the seizure. The individual claimed that 5 kilos of ‘his’ tobacco was for him (and, possibly, his family), and the other 6 kilos were for people who had done some work for him.

Regulation 13(4) of the Excise Goods (Holding, Movement and Duty Point) Regulations 2010 sets out 10 criteria to be considered when deciding whether goods are intended for ‘own use’ by a person, including the quantity (since 1st October 2011, 1 kilo of hand rolling tobacco), the person’s conduct, including a refusal to answer questions when intercepted (or at Court) and the person’s reasons for having the goods.

Regulation 13(5)(b) states that ‘own use … does not include the transfer of the goods to another person for money or money’s worth’ e.g. as ‘payment’ or a ‘gift’ in return for services rendered.

The Court found that the goods were not intended for ‘own use’ and were properly condemned. The the magistrates’ decision was upheld. The individual lost his tobacco (worth about £1,400), had to pay costs in excess of £3,000 and further received a tax bill of £2,000 payable for importing the tobacco.

Before pursuing an appeal against the seizure of excise goods it is best to get independent professional advice as to the law and the chances of the appeal succeeding; an initial conference with a barrister to establish the likely position is a lot cheaper than pursuing a hopeless case.