R v. Woodward

In Admiralty Practice on (Updated )

Précis: The B.C. Provincial Court found the accused guilty of a vessel importation offence.

Facts: The accused took delivery of the m/v Angelique (the “Vessel”) in 2007 in Seattle and moored it in Port Angeles thereafter. The Vessel was registered in New Zealand. Between 2007 to 2012 the Vessel was moored in Port Angeles but never moved beyond the port. American customs officials became aware of the Vessel and, in the absence of U.S. registration or a cruising licence, informed the accused on 9 October 2012 he had to leave the United States with the Vessel. The next day, the accused left the United States with the Vessel and headed north for Canada, eventually arriving in Sooke, British Columbia. The accused did not report to Canadian Customs upon arrival into Canada with the Vessel, or any other day thereafter. The accused was charged with two offences under the federal Customs Act, namely the offence of willfully evading the payment of duties (s.153(c)) and having in his possession an imported good in respect of which the provisions of the Customs Act have been contravened (s.155).

Decision: The accused was not guilty of the s.153(c) offence but was found guilty of the s.155 offence.

Held: On the first count, the Court could not come to the conclusion that the accused intended to evade the payment of duties. The accused testified that it was his intention to report the Vessel to customs, although he never managed to do so. In his testimony, he answered “definitely no” when asked if he was trying to evade, avoid or not pay duties on the Vessel.

On the second count, the Court found that the accused imported the Vessel into Canada on 10 October 2012, and did so by examining the definition of “import” under the Customs Act. The Court held that the accused had a duty to report the import of the Vessel and failed to do so in contravention of the Customs Act. Lastly, the Court found that the accused was at all times in possession of the Vessel, having practical control over it and having the Vessel moored up on his property.