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Having your imported goods seized at UK customs can be highly damaging for any business. Not only can it be very costly and stressful, but it can also undermine your reputation among your customers, suppliers and carriers. 

At Rotheras our transport team can help you to get your seized goods back. We act for clients involved at any stage of the supply chain including:

  • Carriers, freight forwarders and customs agents
  • Consignors, consignees and warehousekeepers
  • Owners of imported / export goods
  • Insurers, finance houses and leasing companies
  • Interested third parties

We understand that time is of the essence and that any seizure can have a knock on impact on your future shipments and wider supply chain.

Why have my goods been seized?

HMRC or the UK Border Force can seize and detain any imported goods if they consider them to be “liable to forfeiture”. There are many reasons why your goods may be considered liable to forfeiture. For example:

  • The goods are excise goods (usually alcohol or cigarettes) and the correct duty has not been paid or a duty-suspension system has not been used properly.
  • It is alleged that the goods are indecent or obscene.
  • Any import declaration or paperwork has been completed properly.
  • The valuation of the goods is disputed.
  • Any licences or certificates are missing.

The Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 also gives customs the power to seize any vehicle, container or ship used to transport goods liable to forfeiture.

At the point the goods are seized you should have been issued with both a Notice of Seizure and a Seizure Information Notice 12A. This will tell how to apply for the goods back.

How to apply for your goods back

There are two main ways to apply for your detained goods to be returned to you:

Route 1: By challenging the lawfulness of the seizure

If you believe that the goods were seized unlawfully you can lodge a Notice of Claim and start condemnation proceedings. A hearing will take place usually at the Magistrates Court and the Border Force or HMRC will have to prove that the seizure was lawful. You will be able to give your own evidence setting out why the goods should not have been seized.

After hearing from both sides the Magistrates will reach a decision on whether the seizure was lawful or not. If you do not agree with the decision you can appeal it to Crown Court.

You should always take legal advice before starting condemnation proceedings because if you are unsuccessful you will usually have to pay the legal costs of the Border Force.  

You may want to challenge the lawfulness of a seizure if:

  • The goods are excise goods (for example alcohol or tobacco) and you can show that the correct duty was paid or a duty suspension system was properly used.
  • You can show that the goods were not prohibited or restricted.
  • You are able to show that any valuation or licence needed was valid and in force.
  • The goods were for your personal use and not for commercial purposes.

Strict time limits apply to when you can challenge the lawfulness of a seizure. You only have one calendar month from the date of the seizure after which legal ownership will automatically pass to HMRC or the Border Force.

Route 2: By applying for restoration

You can apply for restoration whether or not you think the Border Force acted unlawfully in seizing your goods. The restoration process is separate to condemnation proceedings and involves the following steps:

  1. Sending a written request for restoration to either HMRC or the Border Force. This should set out why you think the goods should be returned to you, along with any supporting evidence.
  2. If successful, the goods will be restored to you although you may be asked to pay a fee.
  3. If unsuccessful, or if you want to challenge the fee, you can apply for the decision to be reviewed by a reviewing officer.
  4. If you are not happy with the outcome of the review, you can appeal to the First Tier Tax Tribunal on the grounds that the review officer’s decision was unreasonable.

What Rotheras Transport team will do:

At Rotheras we will quickly assess why your goods have been seized and we will enter into urgent correspondence with HMRC or the Border Force. We will then advise you how best to reclaim your goods and any further evidence needed to challenge the seizure.

Depending on the outcome of our investigation we can then either:

  • Formally apply for the return of the goods through the Restoration Process
  • Lodge a Notice of Claim to start condemnation proceedings
  • Do both of the above

We can arrange for you to be expertly represented either at the Magistrates Court or the First Tier Tax Tribunal. If successful we will always apply for your costs to be paid.

For a free initial consultation with one of our transport lawyers you can email us on: or call  +44 (0) 115 910 6210.

Contact our Transport Team

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Chris Powell

“Our experienced and specialist team represent clients nationally on a day-to-day basis”

Chris Powell
Associate Transport Solicitor

If you’re happy then we’re happy too.

4.8 193 reviews

Posted 01/27/2020

This was my first experience using a solicitor, something I felt quite daunted about. Rotheras (Greg and Petra) put me at ease and were very helpful.

Mollie Fish

Posted 01/27/2020

Last year I experienced a car accident, as a front seat passenger. I put forward a personal injury claim with Rotheras. From start to finish, my claim has been dealt with efficiently and professionally, and I have always felt my best interests were considered. All communications were made via letter or email to inform me of all further updates. My claim has now come to an end and I am very happy with the overall outcome. I would recommend Rotheras for their service.

Samya Green

Posted 02/04/2020

We cannot recommend Chris Powell of Rotheras more highly. Mr Powell demonstrated the upmost professionalism with a high level of knowledge of the area for which he was representing us. Anyone needing representation/advice regarding the area of haulage will find that Chris Powell and Rotheras are the best choice.

Karen Walker

Posted 02/04/2020

Claim dealt with efficiently and to a satisfactory conclusion. Wayne Vickers visited me at home initially and explained everything thoroughly. Professional service throughout. Recommended

Clare Stevens

Contact our Transport Team
Transport Team
Anton Balkitis

Anton Balkitis

Anton Balkitis leads the Transport Law team and is a nationally recognised Transport and Motoring Law specialist at Nottingham-based law firm Rotheras Solicitors.

Olivia Maginn

Olivia Maginn

Olivia Maginn is a transport and motoring law specialist at Nottingham based law firm Rotheras Solicitors.

Transport Solicitor

Chris Powell

Chris Powell is an associate solicitor at Rotheras, specialising in road transport law and motorist defence. He advises and represents haulage and PSV operator licence holders and drivers on all road transport regulatory matters.

Hardeep Chumber

Hardeep Chumber

Hardeep Chumber is a paralegal in Rotheras Motoring and Transport department and is based at our Lace Market office.

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth Shaw is a paralegal in Rotheras Transport department and is based at our Lace Market office.

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