Duress

Tile World Ltd & 2 Ors v The Commissioner Customs (HCCS NO. 434 OF 2009) [2017] UGCOMMC 83 (22 February 2017);

Flynote: 

Headnote and Holding: 

The matter arose from a dispute about the detention of goods belonging to the second plaintiff by the defendant. 

The first issue was whether the detention was lawful. Section 214 of the East African Community Customs Act required notice of detention to owners when known. As ownership was not clear, the court observed that notice was not necessary. It also further reasoned that the conduct of the defendant did not amount to seizure as the goods were already in their hands with the knowledge of owners before they were impounded. The court thus held lack of notice did not breach the legislation and therefore not unlawful. 

On whether the goods were wrongfully detained, the court reasoned that the act of holding out representation of title by the second plaintiff and the allegations of fraud was cause for investigation by the defendants and consequent detention pending investigation of ownership. Further, the defendant was legally obliged to hold on to the goods as a lien pending the demand of payment of tax. The detention was therefore lawful. 

Lastly, the court considered whether the MoU entered into by the plaintiffs and defendant was entered into by duress. Citing Pao On v Lau [1979] 3 ALL ER 65 for factors to prove duress, the court noted that the plaintiffs protested and denied indebtedness arising from the memorandum of understanding (MoU) but did not necessarily repudiate immediately or seek redress. It thus reasoned that the actions of the plaintiff did not show duress and therefore held the MoU was entered without duress.
 

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