On 27 May 2012 the HM Revenue & Customs officers detected over 4.5 kg of cocaine hidden in a Dutch-registered truck at Harwich docks. The driver was released on bail and, despite a European Arrest Warrant, has not been located. The vehicle was seized under the Customs & Excise Management Act 1979 and detained by them for over 18 months despite repeated requests for its return by the vehicle’s owner, Dutch hauliers Freightlink Europe bv. Throughout, Customs agreed that the owners were entirely innocent; in the circumstances they could not have known about the driver’s unlawful drugs importation. However, Customs also maintained that, because the vehicle had been used for unlawful purposes, they were entitled to seize and retain it.
Simon Clarke of Cartwright King Solicitors issued proceedings for the return of the truck, asserting that the continued detention of the vehicle amounted to a breach of Article 1, Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights (unreasonable interference with the owner’s right to the peaceful enjoyment of his property). That argument was accepted by the court and the vehicle was ordered to be unconditionally returned to Freightlink. The Home Office appealed against this decision to the Crown Court. That appeal was heard recently and again Simon Clarke represented Freightlink and again the court found in their favour – the vehicle was again ordered to be returned unconditionally and the Home Office was ordered to pay Freightlink’s costs for the entire case.