Seizure and Forfeiture Applications under s49 and 139 Customs and Excise Act 1979 by Border Force

Seizure and Forfeiture Applications under s49 and 139 Customs and Excise Act 1979 by Border Force

A vast range of goods are imported to and exported from the UK under the supervision of the UK Border Force and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Many businesses remain unaware of the powers of seizure and forfeiture that are open to the authorities when there are suspicions that duty on goods has not been properly paid, or where restrictions or bans exist in relation to the sale of these goods in Britain and the EU.

If you find yourself subject to seizure and confiscation proceedings, the consequences for your business can be significant, often resulting in the collapse of customer relationships as the transfer of goods is delayed. In serious cases, criminal prosecutions may follow. The Criminal Defence Solicitors at Wilford Smith have the required skills, knowledge and determination to ruthlessly develop a top-level strategy on your behalf, and have many years experience challenging these applications and helping recover seized goods. Call our specialist Criminal Defence Team today to find out how we can help.

What happens when UK Border Force seizes goods?

If you are present when the goods are seized, HMRC or Border Force must explain to you the reasons for the seizure. Agents will also provide you with a “seizure information notice”, which will detail a full list of the items that have been seized. If you are not present at the time of the seizure, you will receive a “notice of seizure” by post providing you with a range of information. This will include details on who carried out the seizure and why this has happened, the legal grounds for this being carried out and a full list of seized items.

What can I do following a seizure of goods?

If you are the owner of the goods and you do not accept that there is a legal basis for their seizure, there are three options open to you:

  1. You can challenge the legality of the seizure by sending a Notice of Claim to HMRC or Border Force explaining why there are no grounds for the goods being seized.
  2. You can ask that the goods be returned to you, known as “restoration”, even if you accept that there are in fact legal grounds for the goods being seized.
  3. You can make both arguments in the same notice.

The Magistrates’ Court in condemnation proceedings makes a decision regarding whether the goods have been legally seized. A decision on whether to restore goods will be made by HMRC or Border Force, and a decision to restore may be accompanied by certain conditions. If you are unhappy with a decision not to restore, or if you object to any restoration conditions, you can request that a more senior officer review the matter. Any subsequent decision can then be appealed to an independent tribunal if you are still unhappy.

Do I need to be represented by a solicitor to challenge the seizure of goods by HMRC or Border Force?

If you are based outside the UK, you will be required to provide HMRC or Border Force with contact details for a solicitor in the UK, as well as the authority for them to act on your behalf if you wish to challenge the seizure of goods. For those living or conducting business from the UK, there is no obligation to instruct a solicitor, but doing so can be vital in ensuring the safe return of your goods.

Negotiating the relevant legal processes and time limits can be complex, while the high value of many goods seized means that successfully challenging a seizure can be of huge importance to a business. If there exists the chance that criminal allegations may arise from the seizure of goods, getting access to legal advice at the earliest stage will give you the best possible chance of conducting a robust defence to any charges made against you.

Contact our Seizure and Confiscation of Goods Solicitors in England and Wales Today

The Criminal Defence Team at Wilford Smith is committed to providing quality advice and representation to ensure the best possible outcome for you in relation to the seizure or confiscation of goods by HMRC or Border Force. When instructing our solicitors, you can be certain you will receive clear, straightforward advice as part of our highly personal service.

Our specialist Criminal Defence Solicitors are based in London, Sheffield and Manchester and serve clients throughout England and Wales. Contact us today on 0808 168 5813 to find out how we can help.

Latest News Posts

Most, if not all, businesses will at some point find themselves presented with a grievance by an employee. It is […]

Sometimes businesses face an unexpected disruption or temporary downturn in work.  Whilst no-one wants this to happen it is often […]

It is inevitable that every business from time-to-time will be required to undertake a disciplinary procedure.  Whilst most staff are […]

Sign up for our monthly newsletters for the latest news & articles
At Wilford Smith we are invested in your success. Our team will get to know you, your family, your business, and your market sector. To us, you and needs are unique. You can be confident that by instructing us, we will take care of all your legal matters throughout your lifetime, providing creative solutions and protecting your best interests.



  • Meadowhall Business Park
  • S9 2EQ
  • Tel: 0808 164 4106
  • Fax: 0844 225 0572


  • Smithy House 22 Westgate,
  • Rotherham S60 1AP
  • Tel: 0808 164 4106
  • Fax: 0844 225 0572


  • 20 Old Bailey
  • LondonEC4M 7AN
  • By appointment only
Copyright ©2024 Wilford Smith, All rights reserved.
2024 Wilford Smith is the trading name of WS Strategic Ltd. a limited company registered in England and Wales, registration number 07777022. Registered office – Meadowhall Business Park, Sheffield S9 2EQ. We are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. SRA Registration Number 640898.