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Drug offences


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Butler vs. United Kingdom

Fact Summary

The applicant is a heavy gambler on horses and often held large sums of money in cash for this purpose. Apart from his winnings, the applicant also inherited a large sum in cash from his father in 1990 and in 1992 realized a substantial profit on the sale of a house which he bought and had refurbished. The applicant states that he has never been convicted of any drugs related offences and maintains that he was wrongly prosecuted and convicted in relation to the handling of cash stolen from a post office in 1985. He was given a five-year prison sentence and was released in 1988. In July 1994, and in order to avoid off-course betting duty, the applicant decided to open an account under a pseudonym with a specialist bookmaker who conducted business inside racetracks. The applicant on occasions attended race meetings carrying large sums of money. According to the applicant, in July 1994 he had, mainly through his winnings, over GBP 600,000 available to him for betting. The applicant also used his bookmaker’s account for placing bets over the telephone. Such bets were deemed to be off-course bets and were thus subject to tax. Having ascertained that he could avoid tax on off-course betting by gambling off-shore as a non-resident, the applicant decided to buy property in Spain and contacted a lawyer in Spain to this end. The applicant arranged a meeting with the lawyer in Spain for 23 September 1996. After the meeting the applicant intended to go to a race meeting in Paris. Having discovered that his partner’s brother, H, was intending to take a holiday in Spain, and being nervous about taking the money himself, the applicant enlisted H’s help in taking GBP 240,000 to Spain as a favor. According to the applicant, he wanted to look at properties in southern Spain in the price range GBP 40,000 to GBP 150,000 and required the rest for the race meeting in Paris. The applicant arranged to meet H in Spain. On 17 June 1996 H, who was driving a hired car, was stopped at Portsmouth by a Customs and Excise Officer. When asked how much cash he was carrying, H replied GBP 500. A subsequent search of the boot of the car revealed GBP 240,000 in a green hold-all. H stated that the sum in question belonged to a friend who was meeting him in Spain. H was subsequently questioned about the money by Customs and Excise officials. H stated that the money belonged to the applicant, that he was taking it out of the country for the applicant, that the latter wanted to use it to buy an apartment in Spain and that he was travelling to Madrid and Barcelona. The money seized was sent for forensic testing and the sum of GBP 239,010 was deposited with the Midland Bank on 20 September 1996. The applicant contacted the Customs and Excise authorities to reclaim the money and attended voluntarily for interview on 4 October 1996 together with his solicitor. On that occasion the applicant was told that he was not under arrest. He answered the questions put to him and gave permission to examine his bank accounts as well as his account with his bookmaker. An order for the detention of the applicant’s money was granted by Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court on 19 September 1996 on application of the Customs and Excise authorities pursuant to section 42(2) of the Drug Trafficking Act 1994. A further order was made on 17 October 1996. In February 1997 the Customs and Excise authorities made an application under section 43(1) of the Drug Trafficking Act 1994 for the forfeiture of GBP 239,010 seized from the applicant on the grounds that its officers believed that the money was directly or indirectly the proceeds of drugs trafficking and/or was intended for use in drug trafficking.

Sentence Date:

Procedural Information

Latest Court Ruling:
International Court / Treaty Body
Type of Proceeding:

The Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court made an order for the confiscation of the sum in question and ordered the applicant to pay the costs of the hearing. The applicant’s appeal was heard before Portsmouth Crown Court on 2 and 3 October 1997. The court upheld the forfeiture order and made an order that the applicant pay a further amount towards costs.The Court has already noted that the proceedings before Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court and the Crown Court afforded the applicant ample opportunity to contest the evidence against him and to dispute the making of a forfeiture order. It considers that the manner in which these proceedings was conducted guaranteed the applicant an effective remedy in respect of his complaint under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1. It follows that this complaint is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 and 4 of the Convention. Therefore, the Court by a majority, had declared the application inadmissible.



European Court of Human Rights