Royds Withy King wins case on behalf of international ferry operator DFDS
Law firm Royds Withy King has won an unusual court case in favour of international freight and passenger ferry operator DFDS.
Royds Withy King represented the Danish company at the magistrates’ court hearing earlier this month after they were taken to court by the UK Border Force (UKBF).
Following a two-day trial, District Judge Daniel Curtis dismissed the claim which saw 85,000 cigarettes unlawfully destroyed by UKBF. And in a rare move, he ruled that all costs and expert fees were to be paid by UKBF. The judge also declined to sign a certificate that the Border officers had acted reasonably.
Speaking after the case concluded, Stephen Welfare, Partner at Royds Withy King’s London office, said:
“We’re thrilled to have won this condemnation case with a complete vindication of our client.”
The case highlighted the UKBF’s reliance on a declaration form which had been discontinued nearly two years before the cargo was seized.
Proceedings centred upon a DFDS freight ferry which entered the UK port of Immingham from Gothenburg in August 2017.
Due to the number of cigarettes it was carrying – purchased by the operator and held in store for sale to crew and passengers – UKBF officers boarded the ship to check the quantity. The declaration form was designed to guard against goods such as cigarettes entering the UK without the appropriate customs duty being paid but had been found to be unworkable. When UKBF discovered a discrepancy of 20,000 they seized the ship’s entire stock, with disregard to the actual explanation.
DFDS contested the seizure and, through its consultants Khayyam Associates, wrote to UKBF. The declaration relied upon had in effect no longer been required since 1 November 2015.
UKBF pursued the case, and then applied to the magistrates’ court for the items to be condemned.
DFDS sought legal advice and Royds Withy King was instructed to contest the case in court.
Stephen Welfare continued: “The change in policy regarding the declaration form becoming obsolete was never agreed between Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs and its enforcement agency, the UKBF. Our work has exposed that. The new policy which should have been introduced in its place has dragged on for years.
“UKBF was criticised and of course the cigarettes have since been destroyed unlawfully.
“The key point in the case was that UKBF said the ship’s captain had acted recklessly by not counting the cigarettes himself to check the amount was correct before signing the declaration. They ignored the fact that he was concentrating on navigating a 38,000 tonne vessel into a busy container port in the middle of the night. He relied upon his staff and was not reckless at all. Having that on the record could have had serious consequences for his professional standing, and the reputation of DFDS.
“We pointed out all along to UKBF and the Home Office lawyers that the form they relied upon was obsolete.”
“This is an excellent result for our client which vindicates its staff and is an endorsement of our expertise. In addition to recovery of its legal costs DFDS are to be compensated for the goods destroyed. Our client is obviously delighted with the outcome and the service it has received from Royds Withy King and counsel, Simon Reevell.”
For more information please contact Stephen Welfare, or alternatively you can contact our media team on
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