Letter: How much beer is too much?

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The Independent Online
Sir: Steve Boggan ('Crime gangs branch out into sales of bootleg beer', 18 May) is not entirely correct. Mr Boggan states:

Customs officials may question drivers with more than an 'indicative limit' of 110 litres, but so long as those questioned insist their load is for personal consumption - perhaps a party or a wedding - then they must be allowed to continue. (my italics)

The practical effect of this legislation is very different. It is right to say that there are no limits on the amount of beer that can be brought into this country, so long as it is for personal consumption. However, if someone (Party 'A') is over the 'minimum indicative level' as prescribed by The Excise Duties (Personal Reliefs) Order 1992, then a presumption of commerciality can be exercised by a Customs Commissioner against that person.

Once the said presumption has been exercised, there is a burden placed on Party A to prove to the Customs Commissioner that the goods are for personal consumption. If the Customs Commissioner is not satisfied with the explanation offered, the goods are seized and, pending an unsatisfactory appeals procedure to the Customs and Excise, Party A is criminally liable and has to pay the back duty on all the goods.

The legislation goes even further than this - in the event that the appeal to the Customs and Excise is not successful, the question of commerciality is absolutely decided and at subsequent hearings in the Magistrates' Court and the Crown Court no evidence can be called for the defence on that issue.

Yours faithfully,



London, EC4

18 May