Appeals Against Seizure of Your Tobacco by Border Force ... the Process

Border Force (BF) will try to intimidate you into not appealing against the seizure of your goods. They do this by saying that you will face costs of £1500 plus if you take your case to court and lose. However, HMRCs recent tactic makes these Border Force threats totally irrelevant. HMRC wait till the time lapses that you can appeal (1 calendar month)  and the Condemnation Proceedings are rubber stamped and THEN they hit you with a Duty Bill of £164.11 per kg! This surely removes any doubts you had about appealing :)

When you have your goods seized by Border Force, the first thing you must do is send for a Subject Access Request (SAR) to get a copy of the seizing officer's notebook. This is because you won't get a copy of it at the time of the seizure. The SAR will take up to 40 days ... 10 days longer than you have to appeal.

Even if you audio recorded the whole interview, you still need a copy of said notebook to compare it's contents to the transcript of the audio recording you made. Hopefully you did not sign the officer's notebook as being a "true and factual account" of the interview.

For those of you that didn't record the interview and also signed the officer's notebook ... all is not necessarily lost.

The next thing you have to do is appeal against the seizure. You have 30 days to do this. you should also have been given a 156 notice that states what Border Force seized off you and the ID of the officer that seized them. Also on here should be a reference number and an address that you send your appeal to. Unfortunately this is often missing so the address to send the appeal (recorded delivery) to is:-

National Post Seizure Unit
Border Force
3rd Floor West Point
Ebrington Street

Tel  01752 765817
Fax 01752 765816

Photocopy the 156 notice and send it with your appeal (keep a copy of your appeal for your records). Also send a copy of your appeal to your MP.

We now come to the appeal itself. The advice given on HMRC's website is confusing to say the least. Because you are appealing against the seizure of your excise goods that were for personal (and gifts), that means you have to put in a Notice of Claim (NOC) this is your Appeal Against Seizure. There is no need to be nice, be forceful (not abusive).

Many people mistakenly take the other option which is 'Restoration'. The reason is, as stated by HMRC themselves :-

You will not be given a decision on restoration if your reason for that request is that things were not legally seized or, in the case of excise goods, they were imported for your 'own use'.

We like to head the appeal letter with Appeal Against Seizure (Notice Of Claim) followed by Urgent Assessment Requested. We used to put 'Review' but now put 'Assessment' because of the internal language used by the National Post Seizure Unit (NPSU).

NPSU do not use the word 'review' when dealing with Notice of Claim appeals. The word 'review' is only used when dealing with 'Restoration' claims. What NPSU carry out is a Pre-Condemnation Assessment' (PCA) and then they send you their findings in a 'Pre- Condemnation Assessment Letter' (PCAL).

No, don't ask ... HM Customs used to be perfectly happy calling them reviews. There is the likelihood that NPSU could refuse a request for a review because you didn't ask for an assessment. Don't laugh, it has just happened to someone!

So, make it clear for the NPSU PCA Officer :)

You can just put in an NOC and wait for the court case but your aim should be to get this resolved at this stage so to as not go to court. To do this you have to show that the reasons the BF officer gave when they seized your goods are wrong so you'll have to address each reason in detail. Supply NPSU with documents and facts to prove your case. Go further than this and throw everything at them including the kitchen sink. Write it in such a way that others like the magistrates (should it end up in court) can see that you did everything possible to avoid your NOC going to court. The inference being that NPSU's decision to take it to court was totally unreasonable. The contents of your transcript of your audio recording should give you plenty to work with. Pick up on every minor detail no matter how small.

For those of you that didn't record the interview and signed the officer's notebook, try and remember everything you can and write it down as early as possible. lf you feel you were pressurised or intimidated into signing this notebook ... put it into your NOC. The officer will state that you read the contents of their notebook. Did you? Could you read it? Did you understand it? ... if not, put it into your NOC.

When NPSU receive your NOC then all you have to do is wait for the reply. lf in the meantime your SAR turns up and you find things in it that support your case ... write them down and send it to the NPSU.

When you get your reply (the PCAL) from NPSU you'll invariably find that not only has the PCA Officer rejected your evidence in favour of the seizing officer but they've probably added a few other spurious reasons for seizure. DON'T BE FAZED by this, it's common practice in our experience. We call it a reply by the 'coffee machine'.

Write back and tell them to look at it again ... and to read it this time. If they've added spurious reasons, address these too but be forceful. Keep on at them by phone, fax, e-mail, letter ... and keep at them. By this time you should definitely have your SAR, so use anything in it that you can.

We've seen lately that the NPSU seem to be using another tactic and that is to press on with taking your NOC to court regardless ... and then just as your case date is very near ... they give in! This in our view is another variation of their Maximum Disruption policy to cause you as much inconvenience as possible. No doubt hoping that you won't cross-border shop again because of the recent experiences inflicted on you. lt should however prove to be the exact opposite ... because you WON!

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  1. And remember-

    If you audio-record the interview, (yes, you can!) and don't sign the notebook; you probably won't get your goods seized.

    Otherwise, you probably will.

    We've built up considerable statistics that prove this. It really is a magic formula.

    It's also vital to not contradict yourself in the interview. That's surprisingly easy to do under pressure. The statement of truth, (SOT), takes care of it nicely.

    1. Is it best to inform them that the interview is being recorded?

    2. Yes, JJ.

      If they don't know, they're more likely to get themselves in trouble, admittedly.

      But if they do know, you're much more likely to walk away with your goods. That's what matters. And they'll probably give you something to get them into trouble with anyway, if you want to. They can't adapt, and don't know how to follow the rules, even when they know it's recorded.

      It doesn't make sense, but our statistics are clear.

    3. My own personal preference is to have 2 recorders. l set one (covert) going as soon as l disembark and the other (overt) l use in case l am stopped.

      l then tell them l am recording the interview and produce the overt recorder so if any argument ensues l'll get it on my covert recorder. Also by having the covert one running from disembarkation, it means if l'm stopped that l get everything from the beginning.

      Since using the Tunnel and running into ossifer 4604, l'll now record when l'm embarking too!

  2. You guys are amazing. Thx

  3. Just found out a vert interesting fact yesterday from my legal team.
    (A) Firms of solicitors tender for HMRC WORK, WHICH MEANS THEY RUN THE COURT CASE NO MATER WHAT, Even if it's obvious the case is weak the solicitors have been paid up front, so HMRC instruct the the solicitors to carry on in the hope that the defender either gives up or is caught out in a point of law, Like not sticking to the rules of the court.
    So really nothing to do with if the property was for own use or not, but more to do with causing maximum inconvienience and expense to the victim
    (B) The costs awarded to the victim in case of them winning will be small, about 1/50th of the solicitors costs if the victim loses, so such costs are paid by the pursuants solicitor out of the money they have allready banked from the initial HMRC/TAXPAYERS PAYOUT..


    The UKBA/ HMRC Wont give up no mater how much inconvienience of anxiety it causes the individual, No one will be held accountable, This Department is without a heart. Revenue is their master

  4. Having spoken to the lady solicitor in my own case I felt she would have prefered to bin the lot very early on, and I found it difficult to see why she carried on in face of customs liars and him not conducting the interview as he was instructed by CEMA and UKBA procedures and Guidelines, REASON NOW IS OBVIOUS, SHE WAS UNDER CONTRACTURAL OBLIGATION TO DO SO, AND HAD NO ATHORITY TO ABANDON THE PROCEEDINGS, Her best chance of winning was to catch me out on a point of law or a failure to observe proper court proceedure. She tried fifteen times to do that. I won them all.
    Remember Scottish law talks in the language of Henry the first, they dont ask, they crave---- they Pledge, ------they condesent in averments
    And a lot of latin as well,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, Thank God for Google

  5. The fore runner to the previous comment seems to have evaporated. What I was explaining was the solicitors working for the UKBA/HMRC tender for the work, So have no choice but to run even weak no hope cases where the victim will almost certainly win due to the Goonies making a balls up. Therefore hoping the victim gives up, fails to follow court rules or DROPS DEAD.

    1. George, the Spam Monster particularly likes your posts and therefore grabs them. Don't know why that is as l tag your posts 'non-spam' but the monster still grabs them. :)

      Got the post back from the monster now. :)

    2. Hi there ... can you please tell me how exactly can a take my goods back ? Thei seized me 55 cartons tabacco. I dont understend exactly the steps that i should folow ... Thx a lot !!

  6. I wonder if causal readers of this site realise just how big a break through this guide is. Its been sorely missing from the internet and will ,I'm sure, start more and more people appealing.

    The only other such guide is the UKBA's own 'What To Do After A Seizure'-which for the UKBA is surprisingly clearly written. However by its sheer nature it can't hold a candle to this one from SH because it is at best merely a statement of the 'law' and not designed to actually HELP shoppers who've been robbed.

    SH, this might prove to the single most important thing you have posted after the 'FOI Says We Can Record' post (or whatever its title was now).

    People you need to print out this guide, 'colourize' it in gold and hang it on your wall.

  7. Excellent, as usual. Text saved to a document.

  8. Hi there, hope this blog is still on ... my tabacco was seized at Luton Airport ... can you please tell me exactly what can y do to take them back ? Thx a lot

  9. Hello.. someone help me..
    I was stopped for first time returning from my caravan in.spain with 6kg of tobacco that myself and my wife had decided to invest my tax rebate and holiday pay into to save us money for the following year.
    I was interviewed for almost 5 hours.. evey question the guy seemed go into back room and leave me standing for 20 mins then come.back amd ask another... i could not believe they after 5 hours advised me they were ceizing my goods.. i only then put on audio recording on as tney told me at the start i wasnt allowed to video..
    They also pressured me into signing book that HE read out to me.. well the next day i had a heart attack.. i firmly lame them for thqt


"In the eyes of the Tribunal the review letter contained several preconceptions, prejudgments and non-sequiturs"

"the absurdity of this reason is demonstrated by simply stating it"

"We therefore find that Mr Sked misdirected himself as to the Policy in carrying out the review and his decision is therefore one that no reasonable review officer could have arrived at."

... commonly known here at N2D as 'Skeds' ... that is to say these are Judges comments regarding UKBA Review Officer Ian Sked's reasons for rejecting peoples appeals against seizures.

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