Case details

Canserve Ltd (Appellant) v The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (Respondent)(Trinidad and Tobago)

Case ID: JCPC 2017/0083

Jurisdiction: The Court of Appeal of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Case summary


What are the mental elements, if any, of the offences created by sections 212(a), 213(a) and 214 of the Customs Act (Ch. 78:01)? Are these offences of strict liability?

Did the Court of Appeal err in applying a principle of attribution which resulted in Mr Nurse being treated as a principal, rather than as a secondary party whose liability depended on knowledge?


On 10 July 2009 customs officers examined a container which had been imported into Trinidad and Tobago in the name of Canserve Limited. Contrary to a statement signed by Mr Nurse, the container held 51 gaming machines and associated items. Gaming machines are prohibited items under the Prohibition (Carriage, Coastwide, Importation and Exportation) Order 1992.

Canserve and Mr Nurse were charged with:

  • making and subscribing a false declaration contrary to section 212(a) of the Customs Act;
  • importing goods not corresponding to the customs declaration form, contrary to section 214 of the Customs Act; and
  • importing prohibited goods, contrary to section 213(a) of the Customs Act

At trial the prosecution relied on an engineer’s report, which concluded that the machines were capable of accepting and dispensing coins and tokens. However, the engineer had been unable to operate the machines when he inspected them.

After the prosecution witnesses had given evidence, the magistrate dismissed the charges on the basis that Canserve and Mr Nurse had no case to answer. The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal against that decision and ordered a retrial.



Canserve Limited


The Republic of Trindad and Tobago



Lord Kerr, Lord Carnwath, Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lady Arden, Lord Kitchin

Hearing start date

19 Mar 2019

Hearing finish date

19 Mar 2019

Watch hearing
19 Mar 2019 Morning session Afternoon session