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03-8-2017 4:24 pm  #1

Moore-Bick - prisoner of the establishment?

 There has been much crititicism of late of the decision to appoint Lord Justice Sir Martin Moore-Bick (retd.) to head the Grenfell Tower inquiry. Members of this forum may also be aware of his role in the notorious decision of Court of Appeal in the case ofJones and Jones, in which he concurred with the lead judgement of Lord Justice “Mumbo-Jumbo” Mummery. 

Mr and Mrs Jones had a quantity of tobacco seized ostensibly on the grounds that it was held for a commercial purpose. Their car was also seized. They issued a NOC but following legal advice they did not go on to contest their seizure in the magistrates court. The relevant passage is at [71] (5):

 In brief, the deemed effect of the [Joneses] failure to contest condemnation of the goods by the court was that the goods were being illegally imported by the [Joneses] for commercial use. 

It was this decision that gave the green light to BF to operate a “seize first ask, questions later policy” to which many members of this forum (including myself) fell victim. All an officer had to do was to record in his notebook that he was satisfied that the goods were held for commercial purpose. Unless he was prepared to embark on potentially expensive litigation, the unfortunate importer was branded a smuggler and as such liable to the loss of all his goods and sometimes his car. In addition he was also liable to be charged duty and penalties on the basis that all his goods were held for commercial purpose.

 What the “learned judges” in the Court of Appeal overlooked, was that their ruling was based on a classic “false dichotomy”. It did not follow from their conclusion that the Joneses goods must be deemed to have been illegally imported, that they were held entirely for a commercial purpose. The Joneses could still have argued in the restoration proceedings (in theory anyway) that 99.999999 …. % of the goods were for their own use and were only forfeit because they were “mixed packed or found” with goods deemed to be held for a commercial purpose.

 Further doubt was cast on the soundness of the decision in Jones & Jones when Mumbo-Jumbo's colleagues in EastEnders held that goods could be forfeited on grounds completely different to those on which they were originally seized. 

In view of this, it does seem unlikely that Moore-Bick LJ will shake the establishment to its foundations in the Grenfell Tower inquiry. 


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