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Customs Seizure in the UK

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 by Customs?

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. Both of these Custom Seizure letters will tell how to apply for the goods back.

How to apply for your goods back after a Customs Seizure

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. This is 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 from 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. From there 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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Transport Solicitor

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

Chris Powell
Associate Transport Solicitor

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Posted 27/01/2020

"Impressive group with expertise in both matrimonial finance cases and children matters. A strong childcare team handles cases involving physical and emotional abuse, as well as fatalities. Well versed in matters with international aspects, Hague Convention cases, as well as adoption and guardianship issues.

Chambers UK, 2018

Posted 27/01/2020

Anton Balkitis frequently represents the operators of both goods and passenger vehicles in court proceedings. Clients remark: "He has a commercial understanding of real-life issues and will always provide a balanced view

Chambers UK, 2019

Posted 27/01/2020

Impressive group with expertise in both matrimonial finance cases and children matters. A strong childcare team handles cases involving physical and emotional abuse, as well as fatalities. Well versed in matters with international aspects, Hague Convention cases, as well as adoption and guardianship issues.

Chambers UK, 2018

Posted 02/06/2020

Chris Powell at Rotheras was recommended to us by a trusted associate within the Transport Industry; without doubt we wouldn’t have had the excellent outcome we did without his and his team’s involvement. The level of professionalism, expert advice and assistance was faultless; we felt reassured and well informed throughout the whole process. It was a pleasure to do business with him and would highly recommend his services!

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The team at Rotheras, and Mr Powell in particular, have provided us with an outstanding service. We are extremely grateful for the help and support they gave us in dealing with issues relating to our transport operations and our goods vehicle operators licence. Mr Powell was professional, knowledgable, efficient and effective. He quickly understood our business and the problem we had. He responded with sensible advice and acted quickly on our behalf to resolve the matter. I cannot thank him enough for his help and I would recommend Mr Powell, and the Rotheras team, without hesitation. I am extremely grateful for the help they gave us.

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Posted 30/09/2020

We are in the middle of launching our own packaging agency and contacted Rotheras for some professional legal advice with regards to contracts. After an initial call with Billy, he made it clear what we needed and asked plenty of questions to understand what it was we needed. He was very responsive to our questions, whether it be over the phone or via emails and made the process really simple. We had little experience in this area so it was fantastic to work with Billy, who explained everything concisely. We were also really pleased with the quick turnaround and great value offered. Would thoroughly recommend working with Rotheras.

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Anton has substantial experience acting for commercial goods hauliers and other transport operators. He advises on a range of contentious issues including operator licence, maintenance and tachograph matters, with a wealth of experience acting in public inquiries before Traffic Commissioners."Anton is a highly informed and personable lawyer.

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Chambers UK, 2020

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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.

Natalie Abbott

Natalie Abbott

Natalie is an Employment Law specialist with over 10 years’ experience representing both businesses and individuals across a range of employment services including settlement agreements, discrimination, dismissals and redundancy.

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 a senior associate solicitor at Rotheras, specialising in road transport law and motorist defence. He advises and represents haulage and PSV operator licence holders, Transport Managers and drivers on all road transport regulatory matters.

Lindsey Richmond

Lindsey Richmond

Lindsey is a Chartered Legal Executive and Paralegal based in our transport and motorist offence department.

Joanne Derbyshire

Joanne Derbyshire

Joanne Derbyshire is a Trainee Solicitor currently in the transport and motorist offence department.

Billy Shaw

Billy Shaw

Billy advises businesses on a range of commercial and corporate issues and is happy to assist you with buying or selling businesses, corporate mergers and shareholder agreements

Hardeep Chumber

Hardeep Chumber

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

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