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T&T High Court orders return of seized sex toys

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — A High Court judge Friday ordered the state to return a box of adult novelty goods that had been seized by the Comptroller of Customs in 2017.

But Justice Ricky Rahim has given the state a two-week stay on the execution of the order made in favour of sexologist Dr Raj Ramnanan who had filed a judicial review claim last October challenging the decision of the Customs Department.

The three boxes were seized on August 29 and November 15, 2017 on the basis that the items were considered to be offensive in nature and prohibited from importation under the Customs Act.

But in his claim, Ramnanan, who was seeking to have the High Court declare that the Comptroller’s failure to institute forfeiture proceedings within a reasonable time at the Magistrates’ Court was unlawful, argued that this failure was made in breach of natural justice and his right to protection of the law.

His attorneys claimed that the forfeiture proceedings would have afforded him the opportunity to be heard in relation to the comptroller’s decision to seize the goods.

While Justice Rahim made the declarations in relation to the first box, the judge dismissed the claim with regard to the other two boxes indicating that under Section 220 of the Customs Act, when goods are seized, the owner of the goods must be notified of the seizure in writing.

The owner of the goods then has one week within which to give notice to the comptroller that he claims the items, whereupon proceedings shall be taken for the forfeiture and condemnation thereof.

The Court heard that Ramnanan was notified of the seizures and he had in fact issued notice to the Comptroller of Customs with regards to the first box of items within the stipulated time-frame. However, in relation to the other two boxes, his lawyers argued that an email was issued to Zaid Mohammed, the supervisor of the preventative branch of Customs, in December 2017, which they said, qualified as a notice of ownership.

But Mohammed said he never received that email.

The High Court also ruled that it was not satisfied that Ramnanan had fulfilled his obligations with regard to the two boxes of adult toys.

With regards to the first box having to be returned, damages inclusive of exemplary damages is to be awarded to Ramnanan. The amount to be awarded is to be assessed by a High Court Master, while the State has also been ordered to pay 75 per cent of the legal cost incurred by him in bringing the claim.