THE Border Force has been told to return 270,000 nitrous oxide capsules it seized at Southampton docks more than a year ago.

London-based Elevator Enterprise has finally won its legal battle to recover the goods, which were confiscated after being discovered in a shipping container at the port.

The company went to Southampton Magistrates’ Court in April in an unsuccessful attempt to retrieve the capsules.

Amber Athill, representing Border Force, said nitrous oxide – also known as laughing gas – was a psychoactive substance which was the subject of an import ban.

Border Force officer John Waterhouse told the court it was used as a recreational drug and was popular at festivals.

Elevator Enterprise claimed the consignment was exempt from import regulations because the nitrous oxide was destined to be used as a food additive.

But District Judge Peter Greenfield ruled against the company, saying the systems it used meant the capsules could have been bought by people who wanted them for illegal purposes.

Now an appeal lodged by the business has resulted in Judge Greenfield’s ruling being quashed.

The company’s sole director, Daniel Hennessy, said: “We are truly disappointed that Border Force seized commercial goods which they had no legitimate reasons to seize.

“This was an injustice from the beginning and, after a year of battling the case, justice has now been served. We’re pleased we can now move on and put this nightmare behind us.

“In court, they had no grounds for seizure and couldn’t provide a single piece of evidence which positively assisted their case for seizing the goods.”

During the hearing at the magistrates’ court Mr Hennessy described Elevator Enterprise as a catering firm which bought items and then sold them online. He added that nitrous oxide was used in the production of whipped cream.

Describing the seizure as “totally illegal”, Mr Hennessy said: “The capsules were never purchased for human consumption.

“They were purchased for use in the catering industry. It’s totally unfair to imply that I was going to contravene an act when that was never the case.”

Mr Hennessy said the business had been dormant since the shipment was seized by Border Force staff in June last year and Judge Greenfield agreed, saying the company had effectively ceased trading.