Upon establishment of the Irish Free State, regulations were made to adapt the existing United Kingdom’s Customs Acts to apply to the Irish Free State frontier with Northern Ireland. Since accession to the European Union, Ireland has been part of the Customs Union with the other member states. Since 1993, the internal customs frontiers with Northern Ireland were dismantled.
Until recently, the procedural and criminal aspects of customs legislation was regulated by the Customs Consolidation Act 1876, as amended on numerous occasions both before and since independence. The Customs Act, 2015 repeals and has replaced the legislation with a more modern scheme of legislation.
Customs Offences I
It is an offence to import or export any goods prohibited or restricted by customs law or related provisions. Any person who
- imports or exports any goods in contravention of legislation;
- attempts to do so;
- brings or sends goods to a place for the purpose of unlawful exportation;
- attempts to do so;
- keeps such goods for the purpose of facilitating exportation;
- aids or abets any of the above
is guilty of a customs offence.
It is an offence to move goods into or out of the State without payment of duty or in breach of any prohibition or restriction on import or export. It is an offence to evade or attempt to evade any customs duty applicable to importation or exportation of goods. It is an offence to take possession, custody or charge or to remove, transport, deposit or conceal or to otherwise deal with any goods liable to duties of customs, with an intend to default state of such duties.
Customs Offences II
It is an offence to be concerned in the importation into or exportation from the Sate of prohibited or restricted goods, without the requisite licences. It is an offence to take possession, custody or charge or to remove, transport, deposit, conceal or otherwise deal with any goods contrary to any prohibition or restriction.
There are number of customs related offences, primarily relating to non-compliance with requirements made by a customs officer in the execution of his duty, interference with customs property or equipment or adapting vehicles for smuggling purposes.
Any goods which are subject to a prohibition and restriction on either their importation or exportation are prohibited or restricted goods for the purpose of the Customs Act.
Customs Offences III
A person who—
- evades or attempts to evade duties of customs chargeable on the importation of any goods with intent to defraud the State, either directly or indirectly, of such duties,
- takes possession, custody or charge of, removes, transports, deposits, conceals, or otherwise deals with any goods in respect of which any duties of customs are for the time being payable on importation, with intent to defraud the State, either directly or indirectly, of such duties,
- imports into the State any goods contrary to any prohibition or restriction on importation of those goods, whether or not the goods are unloaded from the conveyance in which they were imported into the State,
- takes possession, custody or charge of, removes, transports, deposits, conceals, or otherwise deals with any goods contrary to any prohibition or restriction on importation of those goods, whether or not the goods are unloaded from the conveyance in which they were imported into the State,
- evades or attempts to evade any duties of customs chargeable on the export of goods with intent to defraud the State, either directly or indirectly, of such duties, or
- exports or attempts to export from the State any goods contrary to any prohibition or restriction on exportation of those goods,
commits an offence.
Customs Offences IV
A person who—
- fails without lawful and sufficient excuse to comply with any requirement imposed on him or her under any provision of Part 4,
- rescues, damages or destroys any thing liable to forfeiture or does anything calculated to prevent the procuring of evidence as to whether or not any thing is so liable to forfeiture,
- throws overboard, staves or destroys any goods in order to prevent or avoid the seizure of those goods,
- makes any signal or other communication with the intention to aid or assist the unlawful importation or unlawful exportation of goods,
- prevents the arrest of any person by an officer of customs or rescues any person so arrested,
- damages or otherwise interferes in any way with any equipment, vessel, aircraft, vehicle, communications system or other thing used, or intended for use, by an officer of customs,
- wounds, maims, abducts, kills or otherwise injures a customs dog without lawful authority or reasonable excuse,
- wilfully and prematurely removes or tampers with a seal, lock or mark that is used by an officer of customs to secure or identify any goods; The person in charge of the goods is deemed to have committed the offence, and where a seal, lock or mark has been used by an officer of customs on board a vessel or aircraft, the master or pilot-in-command is deemed to be the person in charge of the goods.
- owns or is in charge of any conveyance which is found within the State having been constructed, adapted, altered or fitted in any manner for the purpose of concealing goods in connection with their illegal importation or exportation,
- counterfeits or falsifies any seal, signature, initials or other mark of, or used by, an officer of customs for the verification of a document or for the security or identification of goods or for any other purpose in connection with any matter relating to customs, or
- attempts or endeavours to commit, or aids, abets or assists in the commission of, any of the offences mentioned in this section,
commits an offence.
Customs Offences V
A person who commits any of the above offences is liable on summary conviction, to a fine of up to €5,000 and/or six months imprisonment. He is liable on indictment to a fine of up to €125,000 or three times the duty paid value of the goods, where they are greater than €250,000, or a terms of imprisonment up to five years or both.
Where the defendant pleads guilty in the District Court to an indictable offence, the penalty applicable will be that for summary conviction.
A person convicted of an offence is liable on summary conviction to a fine of up to €5,000 or imprisonment of up to six months or both.
The above is supplemental to offences under the Taxes Consolidation Act in relation to obstructing, threatening or assaulting customs officer.
The legislation sets out criteria for whether an offence might be tried summarily or on indictment. The value of the goods are a key consideration. Where triple the duty paid exceed €1,900, the offence is to be tried on indictment. Below that threshold, the case is to be dealt with summarily.
The value of the goods is taken as the price that they would be expected to fetch in the open market. In the case of prohibited goods, the value is taken as the price which could be expected to fetch on the market for an unlawful supply or sale of such goods. Where the value placed on the goods by the customs is challenged by the defendant, the District Court judge is to determine the matter before proceeding.