Court of Appeal clears the way for Customs....10 December 2002

Contributed by localrags on Dec 10, 2002 - 04:54 PM

Customs and Excise have won a legal victory against cross-channel alcohol and tobacco smugglers.

The Court of Appeal today cleared the way for court orders to be sought for the destruction of goods held in limbo following an earlier High Court judgment.

A court ruling in July effectively outlawed random checks on vehicles returning from the Continent and held that, because Customs officers kept no record of their reasons for stopping and searching a vehicle, there was no proof that they had reasonable grounds for doing so.

Because the stopping was unlawful, the seizure of the goods and the vehicle was also held unlawful.

That ruling was reversed by the Court of Appeal, which held that an unlawful stop

did not invalidate the seizure, although it was still for Customs to show, if challenged, that the goods were being brought in for commercial purposes rather than for personal use.

The regulations have been changed since the July ruling, with booze cruisers now allowed to bring home larger quantities of tobacco in addition to their alcohol quota, and the onus on the Customs to prove illegality rather than shoppers having to prove their innocence.

Customs officers now keep a record of their reasons for a vehicle check.

Ordinary "booze cruisers" will be allowed to carry on shopping for Christmas.