Customs agrees to return sex toys as another business owner sues

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo of containers and cranes at the Port of Port of Spain. – Photo by Jeff K Mayers

A HIGH COURT judge has given the green light to the owner of an adult sex toy business to pursue a claim against the comptroller of customs after her goods were seized in August.

Justice Avason Quinlan-Williams granted leave to Shenice Katteck to pursue her claim for a review of the decision.

Katteck wants the court to declare the decision illegal and order the return of her goods to her.

In her claim, Kattek, 26, the owner of Rogue Adult Toys and Lingerie, said she purchased a number of adult toys to restock her business and tried to clear her goods in August.

A notice of seizure said the 13 items shipment were deemed “obscene and indecent articles.” Katteck was allowed to leave with the remaining goods in the shipment but when she returned to her business place, she realised 18 items were seized and not 13.

Her claim said over the past two years, she has not encountered any difficulty in importing and clearing adult toys.

It also said there has never been any policy in the Customs and Excise department preventing the sale of adult toys and it was “patently unfair” that others are being allowed to import and sell similar adult sex toys.

“The decision to seize articles within the claimant’s shipment of adult toys without any lawful justification for doing so is arbitrary, unfair and discriminatory and amounts to a breach of the claimant’s rights under Sections 4 (a), (b) and (d) of the Constitution,” the claim says.

It said the Customs Act did not define the term “adult toys” nor was “indecent or obscene” qualified in the legislation.

It also said physical adult toys for sexual pleasure either individually or between consenting adults did not fall within the contemplated interpretation of the act.

“The genre of adult toys is very wide-encompassing, specific articles for both male and female usage.”

The businesswoman said her business caters to the growing market in TT for adult sex toys and lingerie.

She said the seized items were the more expensive items in her shipment. There were five vibrating dildos, ten dildos, and three wand massagers.

“Adult sex toys are not made in Trinidad and Tobago and do not fall from the sky.

“…I fear that my business may now be in jeopardy due to the decisions by customs officers to seize my goods unfairly and/or illegally, which will impact the operation and reputation of my business.”

Katteck said she had customers who pre-ordered and made a downpayment on the items. She said her clientele included married women whose husbands work offshore or abroad; single women not in an intimate relationship; same-sex couples; sex therapists who recommend the use of sex toys for therapy for patients, including victims of sexual assault; the differently abled and urologists.

Katteck is represented by Anand Ramlogan, SC, Jayanti Lutchmedial, Renuka Rambhajan, Ganesh Saroop, Natasha Bisram and Vishaal Siewsaran.

On Thursday, another similar claim against the comptroller came up for hearing before Justice Westmin James. At that hearing, the division said it was returning all the dildos seized but would retain two items. Those items resemble the female anatomy. The matter has been adjourned to December 6.

In August, James gave permission to Ronna Zamora Rodriguez to pursue her claim after the Customs and Excise Division seized several of her shipments of adult sex toys.

Rodriguez wants the court to quash the decision by the comptroller to seize the items and compel the publishing of a policy on the importation of sex toys.

She also wants compensation for the detention of the items.

Rodriguez’s lawsuit contends other adult toy importers have spoken of similar inconsistencies and the arbitrariness of the pattern of seizures by customs.