On appeal from: [2018] EWCA Civ 2401.

This appeal considered whether customs duty is irrecoverable in circumstances where communication of the customs debt occurred three years after the debt was incurred, in light of the time limit imposed by the article 221(3) of the “Customs Code”.

The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal, giving judgment in favour of HMRC. Lord Briggs gave the main judgment. Lady Arden agreed the appeal should be allowed but for different reasons. Article 221(4) states that HMRC may communicate a customs debt after the expiry of the three-year period in article 221(3) if the debt results from an act which was liable to give rise to criminal court proceedings. The disapplication of the three-year time limit is the automatic result of the likelihood of criminal court proceedings. It does not require the selection by a Member State of a different time limit. The majority’s analysis gave a clear answer to the question how article 221(4) applies where there are no national provisions in force, meaning that it wasn’t unnecessary to make a reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

For judgment, please download: [2020] UKSC 1
For Court’s press summary, please download: Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII

To watch the hearing please visit: Supreme Court website: 14 October 2019 morning session and afternoon session.