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Immigration Corner | How to retrieve seized items

Published:Tuesday | September 20, 2016 | 12:00 AMJohn Bassie

Dear Mr Bassie,

I read where you advised a reader that someone can ask customs back for their items when they are confiscated. I am hoping that you can provide me with more details on how to go about doing this.

- AB

Dear AB,

Persons can ask for their things to returned to them even if they accept that customs was right to take them. This is known as making a 'restoration request'.

If a person thinks that he/she should get his/her items back because it is believed that he/she did not break the rules, for example the person brought in alcohol for his/her own use, then the person should ask for a court hearing instead of making a restoration request.

If the request is accepted, persons can get their things back but they may have to pay a fee and any duty that is owed. Also, persons may be offered compensation if their things have already been destroyed or sold.

When persons are making a request, it is advisable that they use the example letter ' Notice of Claim' which can be found in the Notice 12 A entitled 'What you can do if things are seized by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Border Force'; or they may write their own letter.

If persons exercise their option to write his/her own, they must explain why it is thought that the things should be returned to them. For example a person may now be able to provide missing import or export documents.

When writing this letter, persons must include: the seizure reference number on the notice received from customs; name and address; a list of the things that the writer may want to retrieve - include such details, for example quantities and brands; proof of ownership - for a vehicle, this must be proof of purchase, for example a receipt; also include any import documents; and anything else that supports the request to get the things back,.

Notice 12A gives detailed guidance about making a restoration request and getting compensation. The request should be sent to the following address if Border Force seized the items:

National Post Seizure Unit

Border Force

3rd Floor

West Point

Ebrington Street

Plymouth PL4 9LT

United Kingdom

If HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) seized the things, send the request to the address on the notice or letter that was received from customs. Also, check the notice or letter received from customs if unsure as to who seized the things. It should be noted that persons can contact HMRC if they need a copy of the notice.

There is no deadline for making a restoration request. However, the items will usually be destroyed or sold: straight away if they are perishable, for example food, beer or tobacco; 45 days after they are seized if they are not perishable, for example spirits and cars.

If a restoration request is sent, non-perishable things are usually kept until the request is considered.It should be noted that persons can appoint someone, such as an attorney-at-law, to deal with their requests. However, persons would need to send an 'agent of authority' form with the request.

With respect to a decision that persons may wish to have reviewed, they can ask for the response to the request to be reviewed if: they do not get their things back or get compensation; or if they do not agree with the fee for getting their things back.

The letter from customs advising of the response will also state how to ask for a review. In addition, persons can appeal to the tax tribunal if he/she disagrees with the outcome of the review.

- John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a justice of the peace, a Supreme Court-appointed mediator, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a chartered arbitrator and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (U.K.).