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Brooks Wharf And Bulls Wharf V. Goodman Brothers Notes

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FACTS The defendants were a firm of furriers who had imported from Russia a consignment of squirrel skins in August, 1934. Out of the consignment ten packages were stored by the defendants in the bonded warehouse of the plaintiffs. Whilst in the warehouse they were stolen on the night of September 7-8, 1934. The plaintiffs as bonded warehousemen were compelled by law at the demand of the Customs to pay the duties on those packages out of their own moneys. The defendants had refused to supply the plaintiffs with the necessary funds for that purpose. The plaintiffs claimed from the defendants the amount of the duties, 823l. 17s. 10d., which they had thus been called upon to pay to the Customs, on the ground that, as between themselves and the defendants, the defendants were primarily liable for the duties. HOLDING Import Duties Act - Primary liability on the Importers The plaintiffs' claim thus depends on considerations of law. Customs duties are charged on goods under the charging section, which in this case is s. 1 of the Import Duties Act, 1932. That section provides that there shall be charged on all goods imported into the United Kingdom, subject to certain exemptions, a duty of Customs equal to 10 per cent. of the value of the goods. That means, I think, that the importer is the person who is primarily liable for the duties.... The machinery embodied in the Act includes a system of bonded warehouses, of which the plaintiffs' warehouse was one. The owner of the bonded warehouse is required under s. 13 of the Act to give security by bond for the payment of the full duties chargeable on any goods warehoused with him or for the due exportation thereof. In each of these sections the phrase is used "duties due on the goods" and I think these words refer to the duties due from the importer as from the date of importation. The purpose of these provisions appears to me to be to enable the Customs to have ready recourse to the warehouseman wherever goods are improperly removed from the warehouse... the obligations so imposed on the plaintiffs as warehousemen are ancillary to and by way of security for the due payment to the Customs and do not supersede the liability of the importers, though, if the warehousemen pay the duty, the importers cannot be made by the Customs to pay it over to them a second time.... The only person from whom the duties are due in these cases must be the importer.

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