SEIZURE OF GOODS AND CONDEMNATION PROCEEDINGS
We have substantial experience of dealing with seizures and condemnation of assets. Early legal advice and representation is essential in these matters and the value of expert input is high.
We take the initiative from the onset and work towards urgent return of your assets.
Our service aims to restore your peace of mind and reduce losses for your business by helping you get back to normal operations.
You must therefore be careful of what you say at the early stages, just in case the review of the seizure decision by a Senior UK Border Force officer confirms the seizure and your matter has to go a Tribunal or Magistrates Court.
Contact our Property & Cash Seizures Team for quality advice and effective representation.
Many individuals are not aware of the wide powers of seizure that UK Border Force and Customs Officers can exercise.
These powers allow authorities to auction seized goods and to destroy some types of goods.
For the person who is subject to seizure, loss of asset in this way can adversely affect business and trading capital.
Seizures can also interrupt supply of goods to your customers and affect your contractual obligations which can cause you to fact some commercial disputes with your customers.
Our quality and effective legal advice will focus on preventing the above consequences by pursing urgent return of your property.
If your goods have been wrongly seized, you may also be entitled to full compensation for the value of your goods.
Moreover, we can help you to make a claim for further compensation for any business losses arising from the interruption of your supplies.
Please note that your letters and all documents that you send to the authorities in an effort to get your goods returned could become evidence that can be used against you.
List of Documents Usually Attached to a Review Decision from UK Border
Annex A: Summary of Applicable Legislation.
Annex B: How likely is it that Border Force will have disposed of the seized things [Summary of Notice 12A].
Annex C: Summary of procedure for the movement of excise goods from another European Union (EU) country into the UK.
Annex D: Note about the Convention for the International Carriage of Goods by Road (CMR).
Annex E: Reasonable checks to be undertaken by operators/drivers to prevent smuggling in the load.
Annex F: Indicators that suggest an operator has taken reasonable steps to prevent drivers smuggling.
- Submission of your formal request for a Review of the Decision to Seize your property or cash.
- Preparation and submission of legally compliant written representations explaining your position.
- Applying for restoration of your property or cash.
- Selection of which supporting documents to attach to your representations as evidence that the Reviewing Officer must consider.
- Advice and assistance with understanding and considering the Review Decision received from UK Border Force or Customs.
- Advice on the meaning and implications of the various documents attached to the Review Decision.
- Advice on answering a Summons to Magistrates Court received for Condemnation Proceedings.
- Legal Representation before the Magistrates Court on the day of Condemnation Proceedings.
- Advice on Civil Legal Challenge of a Decision to Seize Property or Cash.
- Preparation and Delivery of a ‘Notice of Claim’ to HMRC or Border Force explaining why you think they had no power to seize the goods.
It is legally possible to request the HMRC to return your goods even after you accept that they had power to seize your goods in the first place.
This process is called ‘Restoration’.
In Restoration applications, HMRC or Border Force will have a choice and will decide on whether or not to restore your goods. If it decide that Restoration should take place, this may be done with some conditions. The conditions may be imposed on your future behaviour or for you to do something in compliance immediately.
On your instructions, we can object to a decision not to restore. We can also object to the imposition of restoration onerous conditions by asking for the restoration decision and conditions to be reviewed by a more senior officer. If not satisfied with the Review Decision of a Senior Officer the law permits us to make an application to an independent tribunal.
Applications to the Tribunal must be submitted within set a time limit. Please note that an application to the Tribunal can lead to two separate sets of proceedings running simultaneously or one after the other. The best option will depend on how much time we have and on cost constraints.
Any unfavourable outcome at the Magistrate court can be appealed to the to the Crown Court. We may also appeal to the High Court if the Magistrates Court has not followed some court rules.
It may be that the HMRC or Border Force did not have legal basis for seizure of your goods or cash for example:
- Your goods were properly described and all the items were from another EU country and all the items were not subject to any excise duty under EU Law or UK Law.
- You actually paid the appropriate Duty on any UK excise goods.
- The officers did not comply with legally required procedure and with their obligations during the process of seizure.
- The seizure was for some other reason not carried out by a method that is consistent with the procedures for seizure.
- The goods were not prohibited or restricted goods.
- You had complied with your obligations in relation to prevention of smuggling and you did not know that the goods were in your vehicle (for seizure of vehicles).
- You had complied with your obligations in relation to prevention of smuggling and you did not know that the goods were in your consignment (for seizure of containers).
Any of these defence arguments may lead to a court hearing at the Magistrates Court.
At court the HMRC or Border Force will have to prove that the seizure was properly and legally carried out.
Any person may challenge the legality of a seizure.
Where the goods are sent in another person’s name or the goods are part of a larger consignment (and there is nothing on the goods to establish your ownership) it will be necessary for you to swear an oath in a solicitor’s office to confirm that you owned the goods at the time of seizure.
If you are abroad, you as an owner is permitted to ask someone including your solicitor in the UK to act on your behalf.
Every owner must send a Notice of Claim to HMRC or Border Force within one month from the date of the notice.
Please take a detailed look at the time limit set in your Notice of Seizure document.
In most cases, this one-month limit runs from the date of seizure and it may not be possible to extend this time limit.
Challenges to legality of seizures are a civil process and generally results in civil remedies. You should not be too concerned that the venue is a Magistrates Court.
If the Court decides that the authorities were correct in law to seize your goods this is not a criminal conviction.
Please, note that in some cases other offences might arise from, that are auxiliary to the circumstances that resulted in the seizure.
If you have been served with a S167 Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 Notice ‘untrue declaration’ you should let us know without delay.
Section 167 convictions following prosecution for offences in the 1979 Act do carry a maximum penalty of 6 months’ imprisonment if heard and concluded at the Magistrates Court. Section 167 convictions can attract up to 2 years’ imprisonment if heard at the Crown Court.
Our solicitors can advise you on how your goods can be ‘purchased’ from UK Border Force or HMRC pending a decision by the authorities on whether your goods should be restored to you.
This a good option if for example your goods are required to keep your supply chain running or if your goods are perishable/hazardous.
Perishable and Hazardous goods are usually sold or destroyed by the authorities very shortly after seizure.
You do not have to appoint a solicitor, but it is far better to receive advice and or instruct a solicitor to represent you.
Many owners of seized goods who are not present in the UK prefer to instruct us to represent them and they provide our contact details to UK Border Force or HMRC who must then engage with us on the seizure matter.
If you wish for our firm to represent you, we need a letter of authority from you stating that we are appointed to act on your behalf.
We will also need to some identity and address document from you.
For legal advice and effective professional representation in matters related to seizure of goods or cash by the Police, the UK Border Force or the HMRC, do not hesitate to contact our Mr Obinna Baranta.