Although the theft of tobacco products will often mean that some incidental revenue offences will have been committed, the prime motive of the thief will not necessarily have been to defraud the Crown of the duty. It follows that it will not always be appropriate to take proceedings for the revenue offences in parallel with police proceedings for the theft. Every case should be considered on its own merits. In deciding your action you should take the following factors into account.
The Department’s attitude towards petty theft is that the
trader is responsible for the safe custody of his goods and for the
duty. He is therefore expected to deal with each case by
disciplinary action, which often involves dismissal and prosecution
for theft. If you are satisfied that the trader has taken action
which will effectively deal with the case and deter other potential
offenders, official action can be confined to recovery of the duty
from the trader and/or issue of a warning letter if the trader has
failed properly to secure and account for the products.
Petty theft, in this context, means isolated abstractions of a few retail packs of tobacco products for personal use. Systematic abstraction of products in larger quantity for gain or commercial resale should not be regarded as petty theft and more stringent action should be considered, especially if the thief has a supervisory or management role in the company or is in a position of responsibility (eg a security guard).
As a general rule, if theft charges are being brought by the police it will rarely be appropriate to take parallel proceedings for a revenue offence, if the quantities involved are 5,000 cigarettes or less (or the revenue equivalent in the case of other products).
In other cases, where significant sums of duty have been evaded, much will depend on the views of the prosecuting authority as to the desirability of associating revenue charges with those for the theft. It will usually be appropriate to consider charges for offences under the Customs and Excise Acts if the offence is committed by, or with the involvement of, the trader or its responsible employees.