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UK Import Issue - Border force Seizure and Court Case


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1 hour ago, Paz said:

 

Alex I have a funny feeling its do with importing more than one sword in a parcel. 

Border force must have thought hes arming a militia or something.  

I got a new blade without any issues last week from UPS. Very professional and just got the job done. But what surprises me about the second confiscation is that UPS have their own custom clearances. 🤔 

 

Either way I look forward to Tony winning this case and putting the border force to shame, which will hopefully make them think twice about seizing legal antique swords.  And actually doing more homework, and not ignoring information. If they lose financially then it's a big win for all of us.

 

I'm hoping something positive will come for all UK collectors 

 

Regards 

Hi Paz, good to hear of your success with UPS, been hoping for that with those guys

 

All a mystery to me this particular issue, never seen anything as bad.

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2 hours ago, Alex A said:

Hi Paz, good to hear of your success with UPS, been hoping for that with those guys

 

All a mystery to me this particular issue, never seen anything as bad.

One thing i did mention on my recent import Alex , was on the invoice I mentioned that I was a member of the token society and linked their website (copy of membership card emailed). And that the sword was for private collection And study. 

 

I imported an iaito from tozando few years back using UPS. But sent them my BKA membership info and told them I was a martial artist.

 

I have always beleived that having the backing of an organisation or at least being part of one would help importing safely. 

 

UPS usually contact the importer first and ask them about the item, which is professional and efficient. 

I'm a quite baffled at what's happend with Tony. I'd imagined they would email him the usual import spiel, before seizing anything. 

 

Regards 

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8 hours ago, Alex A said:

Whoa, its not that bad!, most stuff gets here ok.

 

Indeed it does Alex.

 

Although its frustrating as hell (and a misunderstanding of the law by those entrusted with upholding it), the fact that no one else has reported having had anything seized suggests that Tony's situation is unique.   Pretty much all imports go smoothly, without the need for society membership cards or a pint of blood on account; we only focus here on the ones that don't go well.  Tony's misfortune is so outrageous and unique, it's got all our attention, and rightly so.

 

Paz - I don't think that multiple items in one parcel is the problem, because (IIRC) Tony's first parcel just had the one blade.

 

 

By the way although we have our problems in the UK and they annoy people, if we broaden our horizons a bit wider than swords and the ability for the public to own guns, I'm sure it'll become clear that other countries have their own problems. 

Choose where you want (or don't want) to live, but I like it here, thanks!  :thumbsup:

 

And Yes, that was a very British way of defending my country, without doing a patriotic rant, quoting my military service, or slagging-off places where other folks choose to live ..... or even using the word "quid" again! :laughing:

 

Jon

 

 

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1 hour ago, FZ1 said:

 

Indeed it does Alex.

 

Although its frustrating as hell (and a misunderstanding of the law by those entrusted with upholding it), the fact that no one else has reported having had anything seized suggests that Tony's situation is unique.   Pretty much all imports go smoothly, without the need for society membership cards or a pint of blood on account; we only focus here on the ones that don't go well.  Tony's misfortune is so outrageous and unique, it's got all our attention, and rightly so.

 

Paz - I don't think that multiple items in one parcel is the problem, because (IIRC) Tony's first parcel just had the one blade.

 

 

By the way although we have our problems in the UK and they annoy people, if we broaden our horizons a bit wider than swords and the ability for the public to own guns, I'm sure it'll become clear that other countries have their own problems. 

Choose where you want (or don't want) to live, but I like it here, thanks!  :thumbsup:

 

And Yes, that was a very British way of defending my country, without doing a patriotic rant, quoting my military service, or slagging-off places where other folks choose to live ..... or even using the word "quid" again! :laughing:

 

Jon

 

 

I totally agree with everything you said Jon. But if you read Tony's original post there were two blades. A koto and Rtj blade which was signed. Of course this situation is unique,  and I'm punching in the dark by thinking its because there's two blades in one parcel, just a speculation. 

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12 minutes ago, Paz said:

But if you read Tony's original post there were two blades.

 

My bad and my apologies Paz; I should have re-read the original post. 

 

Jon

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2 hours ago, Darkcon said:

I doubt this made any difference. From what I've read, everything was properly described when got in customs..

 

It's got to be something else..

 

J.

 

Yep. As Jon stated stated we dont hear about the  blades that are imported with no issue at all in the UK. 

 

But there is also something else that needs to be added to this conversation and that's sword dealers who import Chinese made blades by the hundred. These are websites such as blades uk, nine circles, oriental weaponry, ect who sell Chinese made katana  swords by the dozens at cheap 100 quid prices. And the op gets a visit by police telling him its illegal to import or own antique swords, shows how bonkers the system is. Surley these websites and businesses seem to be doing fine with replicas, yet the real stuff is getting seized. 

 

Regards 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Paz said:

 

Yep. As Jon stated stated we dont hear about the  blades that are imported with no issue at all in the UK. 

 

But there is also something else that needs to be added to this conversation and that's sword dealers who import Chinese made blades by the hundred. These are websites such as blades uk, nine circles, oriental weaponry, ect who sell Chinese made katana  swords by the dozens at cheap 100 quid prices. And the op gets a visit by police telling him its illegal to import or own antique swords, shows how bonkers the system is. Surley these websites and businesses seem to be doing fine with replicas, yet the real stuff is getting seized. 

 

Regards 

 

 

 

Agreed.

 

I once mentioned that I have been trying to convince US Customs about the same issue - no progress. It's been over 17 yrs now..

 

Still nothing 🤔

 

I'm sure they are much more concerned with other imports.. 

 

Yet, here we are.. sucks for our dear forumite or anyone that has to be subjected to extra headaches besides all the sleepless nights waiting for a blade to show up.. 🤦‍♂️🤷‍♂️🙏

 

Cheers

 

J.

 

 

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Well I've Imported parcels with multiple blades in before, sometimes 3 or 4. I tend to get multiple as it's more cost effective in shipping. No issues until this happened. In fact many of my packages before have been Opened by borderforce and released. I know this because the packaging is opened and re sealed with borderforce packing tape.

 

Ups didn't contact me this time. They have done before. But not always. Ups usually sails through. This time though it got seized instantly the minute it hit the UK.

 

Was potentially unwise to import another package since the first issue was not resolved but since I'm not doing anything wrong and it is legal then it shouldn't have mattered. I also don't want to put my life on hold for a year while I await a court date. 

 

Sadly though the situation is a bit too much and I will have to now. The cost difference in the UK market compared to the USA is large.

--

 

I went all-in this time with the description of the items.

I included signature in Japanese and a translation into english. I included age. I included original invoice. A supplementary document that had the measurements of the blade and a description of each one. I included use case as a collector. I included my to-ken membership. They are all traditionally made blades of course.

 

I have the correct tarrif codes. I included vat code I included a description of the tarrif code I was using.

 

I chose ups because they have their own clearing even though it cost me £500 to ship and insure with them. Hopefully to avoid issues. Here we are though.

 

I'm wondering even after this is dealt with by the court if I will have to repeat this process in the future over and over

 

 

 

 

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Understand about the shipping cost saving Tony, but perhaps in future just one blade at a time. Maybe too much for them to get their heads around  it.

 

Only takes one narrow minded individual down at customs to put a spanner in the works. Whilst some, like us guys enjoy old antique arms, there are those that find it unacceptable or strange in this "modern" age and may get a kick out being a pain and feeling all important. Either that or just inadequate with work skills, which dont surprise me as lately with cost cutting in all lines of work, seems to be the norm.

 

Only yesterday got a tiny reminder, this hobby aint for everyone,

 

Good luck with your swords.

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I'm sorry to hear this Tony, maybe it is because you were flagged as previous have mentioned. I just sent a tanto (quite expensive one) 2 weeks ago and it seemed to have cleared quite fast. Isn't Pablo in the UK, I'm sure he brings a reasonable amount, maybe you should reach out to him or just pay him a fee to import them?

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There are a few factors to take into consideration now. If the item flys into Stansted airport (used by FedEx etc) then there always seems to be issues due to the lack of training by border force. They also now want a date of manufacture rather than “over 100 years” and this is for their form. Always put the correct amount and description as some people in the past have written car parts, golf clubs etc. This over time has made them extra cautious, at the end of the day, they just want the VAT. Letting them know in advance will greatly help and keeping your cool when something goes tits up in paramount, as they don’t respond well to anger. There are several Token society committee members here and asking advice before you ship is also a good idea as we send swords for shinsa etc. There are less frequent problems when receiving a sword from Japan than the USA, as they are unsure of edged weapons being sold there, especially from eBay. Please don’t shoot the messenger, I’m just stating what I have learned over many years of helping people bring swords in and none have had a problem so far.

 

Ian

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Gentlemen,

This is really a terrible story and unfortunately not unique. But it is very rare. I agree with Ian, while Chairman of the Token of GB I was contacted on several occasions and asked to verify whether a blade was authentic and legal to import or not. However this is not common and usually occurs when there is a question over paperwork or if an individual at customs gets it wrong. It rarely results in court (I am aware of only one case in 6 years) and usually settled promptly. I have no idea how many swords pass through our borders but based on what we see at various meetings I believe it to be a significant number and that the vast majority of these pass through without issue.

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Managed to speak to a borderforce offficer on the phone today who confirmed that after one seizure of items then items after that point will be under more scrutiny from border force and most likely will be stopped. so the black list idea is the case. wasn't a stretch of the imagination as I imagined that would be the issue

 

No resolution as the guy on the phone has no power to do anything and since their phone line is only open for 1 hour a day just was told to wait for replies to the communication. The guy did say that he felt the system was broken and could be solved by a permit system.

 

The second set of items were bought from a Japanese and korean art auction, I've sent a communication about it and will await and see.


well stiff upper lip and we will see what happens!

 

 

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Quote

since their phone line is only open for 1 hour a day

 

Is this a Monty Python sketch.....one singular hour a day to be able to talk to someone? This is a government department, correct? Your tax dollars are going to this madness.....ONE HOUR A DAY! Something is criminally wrong there, at this point I would be going to the press with this nonsense to raise awareness of how utterly inept these jokers are at taxpayers expense. If you are not already apoplectic over this whole miscarriage of justice then I will have to pick up the slack for you.

 

One bloody hour a day!

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Update for everyone.

Finally received a reply from borderforce on request for restoration of the items which has been declined.

 

they stated that a private collection or collecting of swords is not a valid defence for importing swords based on Home Office policy.....

 

Guess i'll email Igor or someone to write a letter confirming I am a member of To-Ken ? then appeal

 

 

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So now freedom of association is a thing of the past in the UK?
You HAVE to be a member of a sword society to import swords? I didn't see that in any of the legal documents regarding sword importation into the UK. Now they are just making $^&$ up.
 

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If what you say is accurate, I think that there are a couple of things to say about this: Home Office policy (or some desk jockey’s interpretation of it) isn’t what determines the legality or otherwise of sword ownership - that’s enshrined in statute. Have you been given a reference for this policy that is being quoted? 

 

Furthermore, the ownership or collecting of certain classes of blades is perfectly legal, so they are going beyond enforcing the law. 

 

Have you been offered the opportunity to obtain a certificate of the age etc of these blades? You’re allowed to do so under the law (though at your expense) and this should be conclusive of their age etc. 
 

Further still, have you thought about contacting your MP over this as it seems like Border Force are making up the law to suit their own ends. 

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I received the letter today and am still going over it and thinking about my next step

They have offered the chance to appeal the decision so I will be thinking about what to include in that.

Originally I supplied a large swathe of documentation even references from books when they were first seized to prove the age and that they are traditional etc, this was quite detailed information! they even say they have looked at this but then ask for further dates and proof they are traditional again. I said that I was a member of the To-ken society but they want more proof of this even though it is irrelevant and now asking for information that I have provided swords to them in the past???, I'm happy to provide what i can but i've provided a lot of information already so may have to go the certificate route as John has said.

I guess I did show @Ian at the Birmingham arms fair my Gassan Handachi  and Sent @paulb images of it last year to look at.
will write that I guess but this is far outside the scope of the law and very invasive if you ask me. Not Sure why they even want this information it's not part of the law on importing the items.

 

What I really can't seem to get across to them is that the items are legal to import and the argument they keep making is. It isn't a legal item then I need a valid reason to own it.  They never have once refuted my evidence but only my reason for owning.

 
These are two separate things as the law clearly states the exceptions and also there is no restriction on possession and ownership.

 

I feel ....bullied

 

 

decision.jpg

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I'm not going to even comment. They have made me so angry and I would be offending a lot of people.
I wouldn't settle for winning. I would be going after this &^$@ with a personal costs order and making his life so miserable, he will never try this &^$% again.
I suspect the US members will understand this. The UK, Au and European members a little less so.

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The defences that already exist under section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 also apply to their simple possession. This includes that the weapon in question is:

  • of historical importance
  • to be used for historical re-enactments
  • to be used for sporting activities
  • for use in film and theatre
  • possessed on behalf of a museum or gallery, or lent or hired by a museum or gallery for cultural, artistic or educational purposes
  • possessed for religious reasons

 

 

Antique weapons, over 100 years old, are exempted from section 141 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988[footnote 18]. This exemption now also applies to the offence of possessing such antique weapons.

There is also an exemption for swords with curved blades of 50cm or longer made before 1954 or those made at any time by traditional methods by hand.

Swords with a curved blade of 50cm or more may be imported where the weapon:

  • was made before 1954
  • was made by traditional methods of making swords by hand
  • is only available for the purposes of use in religious ceremonies or for martial arts
  • is for use in a historical re-enactments or sporting activity for example a martial arts demonstration for which public liability insurance is held
     

this is an extract from the offensive weapons act 
What seems to me to be the issue is they are following this first section which are valid reasons to import an offensive weapons (section 141)


What they are not doing is following the second section which makes the items exempt from section 141 and makes simple possession legal.

 

the minimum proof needed is one of these poitns as stated here. the easiest is that the items were made before 1954. well they are ww2 gunto one with the surrender tag still on. all this has been told to them with reference photos from books etc so they easily meet this case. since the war was well over by 1954 in Japan.


They are traditionally made, i did my best to provide proof on this but it is a harder case to make of course. 

 

one of them is over 100 years old which i proved by comparing signatures with reference, the age also means it has to be traditionally made. because that's the definition of traditionally made...

maybe by the end of this they will both be over 100 years old :p

 

(I provided many pages of information, this is just a summary)

 

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If what they are saying is the case, imagine how many tens of thousands of antique arms would be needed to be handed in:crazy:

 

Your dealing with someone that does not know the law and has fenced themself in behind their own ignorance and stupidity.

 

I would see a solicitor and do what Brian says.

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This is getting ridiculous. I can't get my head around how they don't follow on from the policy points. This is definitely the ignorance and plain right stupidity of one individual. I do feel as if you are being bullied, as many others have imported without any issue and providing token cards as proof of membership. 

 

I would come to conclude that whoever received your documents didn't bother to read them properly at all. 

 

I would definitely go to your local MP, if that helps at all. 

 

The sword law  is soo ridiculous that having a curved sword for religious purposes is perfectly fine, and can even be carried in public. The sword law in the UK is specifically banning samurai swords of the cheap fake type, even though you can get a curved stainless steel sword over 50 cm if it's indian or Persian. 

 

To be fair there's no outcry from Japanese sword owners or community for them to change it. Unlike other communities such as the Sikhs, who can carry curved swords for religious purposes, and would have a voice. 

 

Regards 

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Put them in touch with all illegal arms dealers we have in UK, they will have a field day :laughing:

 

No seriously, put them in touch with places like Lanes Armouries etc, broaden their horizons,

 

Antique arms is a big attraction here, not just coin collecting and train spotting.

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The Token Society will be ready to assist in enquiries and help members deal with law enforcement and clarify the regulatory framework. In fact, the Society committee is intending to summarise the regulatory statements and interpretations as a brief non-binding guidance & tips document. 

Ownership of an exempt antique should not be an offence. Theoretically, almost any antique could be used as a weapon, so emphasis here needs to be given to the nature of the item, its age, its purpose, its manufacture and its physical dimensions and characteristics (with regard to the exempted items in law) and evidence all of the aforementioned with third-party documentation. 

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