Power to use force to search a vehicle or vessel (CIP6/2018)

Find out about changes to section 163 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) 1979 that clarifies an officer can use force to enter a vehicle or vessel.


Customs Information Paper 66 (2016) sets out the proposal to introduce legislation to clarify the powers that allows an officer to use force to gain access to a locked vehicle or vessel, when stopping and searching it.

Previously section 163 of the CEMA 1979 did not explicitly state that an officer had the power to use force to gain entry to a vehicle or vessel.


Section 163 of the CEMA, introduced in the Finance Act 2018, has been amended to clarify that force can be used where officers suspect that a vehicle or vessel contains goods liable to forfeiture, for example goods which customs or excise duties have not been paid, or items which are prohibited or restricted.

The ability to access vehicles or vessels which contain goods liable to forfeiture is necessary to keep pace with today’s challenges in combating fraud and protecting legitimate trade.

There are safeguards in place to make sure officers’ use of the power will be proportionate and necessary using the Powers of Entry: code of practice.


For further information please contact Marilyn Seago:

You can also write to:

Excise and Customs Law Team
7th Floor SW
Alexander House
21 Victoria Avenue
Southend on Sea
SS99 1AA

Issued on 3 May 2018 by Customer Strategy and Tax Design, Customs Directorate, HMRC.

• support: (t) 01784 240400 (e) helpdesk@asm.org.uk
• sales: (t) 01784 242200 (e) sales@asm.org.uk