first_imgCUSTOMS officers must issue a warning when they first detect a car which hasn’t had VRT paid on it and aren’t allowed to seize it, a landmark ruling says.A report from the Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, following the seizure of a vehicle by Customs in Dublin has been welcomed by Donegal’s ‘Abolish VRT’ campaigners.Campaigners believe that the findings in the report will have a significant impact on how Customs deal with the public in the future, seized vehicles being returned to their owners, and may even result in compensation being offered to those who have had vehicles seized over the past few years. In the Dublin case the person who took the complaint received more than €5k.Donegal campaigner, Ryan Stewart said, “This judgement is of huge importance in Donegal, and has vindicated my stance since I began this campaign.“It is no secret that I have been critical of how Customs officers have handled themselves, and critical of how they enforce the law relating to VRT in Donegal, in particular.“The only consistent approach to VRT enforcement in Donegal is that it has in some cases been contrary to the Customs’ own enforcement manuals, which this report has now clarified. I have always agreed that Customs officers have a job to do, but they have continually failed to do it right in some cases in my opinion.”The Inishowen man went on: “The case reported has been in train since 2008, so the difficulty in pursuing a case against the Customs is clear for all to see, however in the end, justice was served.“The Ombudsman’s findings, that a warning should have been issued as this was a first offence has huge importance. I am regularly contacted by people who have had vehicles seized on a first offence, or where delays were experienced in paying VRT. This report clearly shows that in the majority of cases, seizure for a first offence is not warranted.“Secondly, the Ombudsman also made it abundantly clear that randomly challenging vehicles is not permitted under the procedures. In the last three years, Customs have consistently breached their own procedures by holding checkpoints, and randomly stopping any vehicle with a yellow plate, without reasonable cause. The findings should also not come as any surprise to the Customs’ top-brass either.“In June 2010, I held a meeting in Donegal Town with several local councillors and senior Revenue officials, including those who were co-ordinating the ‘blitz’ VRT operation in Donegal, where all of these concerns were outlined, yet still very little has changed. The instructions seem to be coming from the top down, and if they are not, then action should be taken to discipline, or at least retrain officers who consistently break their own rules.”In her findings in this particular case, the Ombudsman has been critical of Customs lack of consistency and adherence to it’s own procedures, poor and incomplete record keeping, and that the seizure was ‘contrary to fair or sound administration,’ and also that Customs should not engage in random stops, which would also include checkpoints, as they would not have sufficient evidence or time to correctly profile ‘offenders.’ The complainants in the case, who were fined €3699, were also reimbursed by the Revenue Commissioners, in the amount of €5300.When asked what this could mean for those who have had their vehicles seized in the past, Mr Stewart confirmed that he has already been in contact with the office of the Ombudsman.“I have explained to the Ombudsman’s office, the regularity these actions have occurred across Donegal. Since that conversation, I am in the process of preparing a number of complaints on behalf of others for the Ombudsman to examine. It would be my expectation in most of these cases that the Ombudsman will see an identical pattern emerging to the case on which this decision has been ascertained,” he said.“This report may also have an impact on any cases which Customs are trying to prosecute through the courts, as the seizures may have been incorrectly executed. I would also like to see some form of compensation from the Revenue Commissioners where procedures were not followed, similar to the case upon which this report was issued. Given the similarities, I anticipate that subsequent investigations of complaints will be much more quickly. I want people who have had their cars seized in the past few years to get in touch with me, so that we can move this process forward. However, I have quite a few people looking to put their complaints forward already.”Mr Stewart said that the campaign against VRT is not about confrontation with Customs Officers, but that this was only part of the solution.“Hopefully this case will see a marked change in how VRT is enforced, and that it can now be done in a reasonable manner, treating people with dignity. This is progress, but we are still continuing to press government that this tax should be abolished, from a economic point of view – car sales are still falling, yet the government increased VRT in the budget. This is costing jobs in the Irish motor industry and forcing dealers to close, and also damaging the VAT intake from the car industry.“I am also still pressing the overall legality of the tax at European level. Three judgements have been made against Ireland in the last year regarding it’s VRT regime, yet the government has still not implemented the instructed changes required to comply with EU law. There is further to go and a lot more to do, but the campaign will continue.”OMBUDSMAN TELLS CUSTOMS OFFICIALS: ‘VRT-DODGING SUSPECTS MUST GET WARNING ON FIRST DETECTION’ was last modified: February 25th, 2013 by BrendaShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:OMBUDSMAN RULES CUSTOMS OFFICIALS VRT-DODGING SUSPECTS MUST GET WARNING ON FIRST DETECTIONlast_img


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