Da Costa and Co (a Firm) and Collins v Thames Magistrates Court and H M Commissioners of Customs and Excise: QBD 25 Jan 2002

The claimant sought to challenge search warrants issued by the respondents. The warrants were criticised as being too widely drawn, and in breach of the 1984 Act. Criticism was also made of the implementation of the searches, in the use of excess numbers of officers, and the taking of images of hard disks, thus acquiring privileged information about other clients of the accountant claimants.
Held: The imaging of the disks was less intrusive, and no different in principal from the seizure of a ledger book. The officers also questioned staff members using a pre-prepared questionnaire. The use of that should have been raised with the judge issuing the warrant. However no remedy was to be granted save for another admittedly unlawful search.
The Commissioners’ power to seize ‘documents’ when entering with a warrant under paragraph 10(3)(b) of Schedule 11 to the Value Added Tax Act 1994 could extend to the physical removal of computers. ‘Documents’ were defined in section 96(1) of that Act as ‘anything in which information is recorded’, a very similar definition to that in section 114(2) of the Finance Act 2008. The court accepted a submission that: ‘A computer hard disk is a single storage entity which falls within the definition of a ‘document’ in section 96(1) of the 1994 Act because it is something ‘in which information of any kind is recorded’.
Lord Justice Kennedy, and Mrs Justice Hallett
[2002] EWHC 40 (Admin), [2002] STC 267, [2003] BVC 3, [2002] BTC 5605, [2002] STI 112, [2002] Crim LR 504
Vallue Added Tax Act 1994 72, Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 15(6)(b
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedH, Regina (on the Application of) v Commissioners of Inland Revenue Admn 23-Oct-2002
The appellant sought judicial review of the seizure by the respondents of computers found on its premises in the course of executing warrants under the Act, even though the computers might contain other matters not relevant to any investigation.
CitedGlenn and Co (Essex) Ltd), Regina (on The Application of) v HM Revenue and Customs Admn 18-Jun-2010
The company objected to the search of its offices and removal by the defendant of its computers, the officers having entered without any warrant purporting to use powers under the 1989 Act.
Held: The request for judicial review failed. The . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 15 March 2021; Ref: scu.167465