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International Transport Roth GmbH v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2002] EWCA Civ 158

Challenged whether penalty rules: amounted to criminal proceedings, were unfair, and restricted the free market.

Facts

The defendant, the Home Secretary, had introduced rules regarding the liability of HGV drivers entering the United Kingdom with illegal persons on board their vehicles. Sizable fixed penalties were imposed on guilty parties, who could then attempt to appeal. The claimants, International Transport Roth, requested a judicial review of the Home Secretary’s right to do so contending that, whilst the Home Office purported such rules and penalties to be civil law, they in fact amounted to criminal law. Further, the claimant submitted that the rules violated EU laws providing for the free movement of goods and services.

Issue

Whether the Home Office’s rules were fundamentally civil or criminal in nature, whether the appeals process for them was fair, and whether they restricted the EU’s open market.

Held

The Court of Appeal found for the claimants with a 2-1 split decision, agreeing that the nature and character of the penalties imposed were criminal, and thus beyond the scope of the Home Office to introduce. Moreover, it was found that there had been insufficient opportunities for the claimant to assert a defence and receive a fair trial, which violated their human rights as per Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. As the new rules from the Home Office were irreconcilable with the provisions of the ECHR, the Court issued a declaration of incompatibility. However, the Court disagreed with the claimant’s submission that the rules amounted to an unjust restriction on the free movement of goods.

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