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10-1-2018 7:34 pm  #1


Withdrawing from condemnation proceedings

 There have been a few cases on the forum recently of people issuing a Notice of Claim, but deciding to withdraw before the case comes to court usually because they are afraid of the potential costs. Hoping that they have heard the last of it, it comes as a dismal shock when they discover that not only have they lost all their goods, they are duly presented with a bill from HMRC for duty and penalties.

However, as some people have discovered, UKBF themselves sometimes offer to drop proceedings often at the very last minute. Almost invariably, the goods are destroyed and the importer offered the price paid abroad. Their power to do this derives from Section 152(a) of CEMA which states as follows:

Power of Commissioners to mitigate penalties, etc. 

The Commissioners may, as they see fit— (a) stay, sist or compound any proceedings for an offence or for the condemnation of any thing as being forfeited under the customs and excise Acts  ...

(The words “stay, sist or” are now obsolete, I believe - “compound” in this context means basically to “settle out of court”) 

The above  provision appears to have escaped the notice of many a “learned judge” (whether tribunal. High Court or Court of Appeal). Exercise of the power to compound proceedings  does not require that the BF accept that their seizure was unlawful.

 It seems to me therefore, if people really cannot face the thought of condemnation proceedings and are prepared to forfeit their goods, the correct approach would be to send a letter to BF along these lines.

 WITHOUT PREJUDICE

 I refer to my Notice of Claim issued xx/xx/xxxx. reference xxxxx. In view of the potential  costs of bringing this claim which I consider to be out of all proportion to the value of the seized goods, I request that the condemnation proceedings be compounded according to the provisions of Section 152(a) of the Customs and Management Act 1979, and accordingly that the Border Force assume legal title to the said goods with immediate effect.

 Please note that this offer is made without prejudice to my previous claim that the goods were imported legally as being entirely for my own use. I would be grateful if you would advise as to whether you are prepared to accept this offer as soon as possible

 Whether this will actually work is another matter of course!      

 

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