Council Tax In The Courts

On Friday of last week I became aware that in my own County of Cornwall there was to be a sitting of Court to deal with Council Tax Defaulters in the County. Over 1000 Summonses had been issued. Sad times indeed!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-23141282

Upon my arrival at Truro Magistrates, I was greeted by the Security Guards who stated, “aah you are Michelle Kent, we were told to ‘expect’ you”

Hmm, what were they expecting? I am a 40 something half blind woman that was drugged up on Tramadol in order just to be able to go.

I would say at a guess a couple of dozen people turned up, they were ushered in to side rooms and Council Officials negotiated with them in order to make ‘an arrangement to pay’. Nearly all of these people left the Court building after this process.

Also Cornwall Council decided to Summons a DECEASED MAN!!! 

Anyway in to the Court we go. When entering Court number One, the atmosphere was chilling. Afterall Courts are not meant to be welcoming.

On the bench were Mrs Fiona Roberts JP  and (Winger) Mr Thomas. Clerk was Mr Paul Kinsley. The Cornwall Council Official Mr Adrian Waters (We shall refer to him as AW) was also present.

There was 4 other people, The security Guard, Myself, My Son and a Journalist.

Cornwall Council issued Council Tax procedures as such:

12/03/2013 Bills Issued

23/04/2013 Reminders

21/05/2013 Final Reminder

14/06/2013 Summons

CASE ONE:

First defendant (we shall call her JL) was called. She appeared frightened, I imagine it is probably the first time she has set foot in a ‘Court of Law’. We went through the norm of swearing on the Bible etc (as JL had no objection to that). Then the Clerk proceeded to tell the Lady that “…although defendants are allowed the right to speak, most don’t usually bother…”  Make of that what you will. The Cornwall Council (CC) Official (AW) then proceeded to be all officious and state why the Council was seeking a Liability Order. JL replied “I am on Benefits and it has all been so confusing as I had not recieved any other communication from CC etc. It is in the hands of my Support Worker and she is helping me.” Well, in the end, it was ordered that JL WAS Liable and that CC should communicate with the Support Worker to see if she was eligible for any ‘relief’. It was also ordered that JL should have her ‘costs’ waived as she was on Benefits. JL then left the Court shaking like a leaf.

CASE TWO: We will Refer to these as Mr.Mrs B.

All the usual took place, AW says he is seeking Liability Order and Mr B swears on the Bible. Mr B is looking far more confident than his wife who was now sat by herself on the other side of the room. It appears Mr and Mrs B are disputing the amounts and have lodged a complaint etc. He told the Court that his case was in the process of going to Tribunal. Now, after alot of to and fro’ing between the Clerk and Mrs Roberts it was so ordered that the Liability Order should be granted on the proviso that ‘if’ Mr and Mrs B’s Tribunal was sucessful then any monies paid shall be rembursed. It was determined that Mr and Mrs B were on Benefits and credit to Mrs Roberts, she did waive the costs. Now I am no ‘Legal Beagle’ ‘but’ can a Liability Order be granted if the case is in the tribunal process? I really felt with this one that Mrs Roberts wanted to adjourn but it was the Clerk that coerced her in to granting the order. Mr and Mrs B left with Mr B looking relieved but very disappointed.

CASE THREE:

We shall refer to the Defendant as Mr T. A Gentleman came in to the Courtroom but refused to go and stand in the ‘Doc’. We shall call him Mr Z. The Clerk was repeating himself over and over, “Are you the Defendant?” “NO, no I am not says Mr Z, I am Mr T’s representative so I do NOT have to go stand in any Doc. “but we need you to swear an Oath” says the Clerk. Mr Z replied, “This is MY Court you invited me here and I have to swear nothing” With that, Mrs Roberts said in a most assertive fashion “Actually, this is MY Court” (Really? since when?) Mr Z was very quick to retaliate, he asked her if she had sworn Oath as he hadn’t seen her do so. After a good 15 minutes of the Clerk trying to decide whether this was Mr T or not he told the gentleman to leave the Court! Several times in fact. By now the Security Guard was on his feet. he tried to hold the gentlemans arm to which the Gentleman declared ” Do NOT touch me or YOU will be arrested” It was getting very heated. The poor young Journo next to me put down her pen and sat well back in her seat. After several more minutes of the Clerk, Mr Z and the Security Guard all talking at once the ‘Panic Alarm’ was set off and 1 more Guard came in to  the room. The poor man, who I would say was late 50’s early 60’s was swiftly and forcibly ejected from the Court and carted away by the Local Constabulary as they (The Court) could not ‘establish his identity’. All very well ‘but’ as it happens, a letter was read out after by the Clerk. It stated that Mr Z would be there with ‘Power of Attorney’ to represent Mr T!!! It was a long letter and after much eye rolling from Mrs Roberts, the Clerk sat down. Had this letter been presented to the Magistrate before the fracas then the case could have been heard. Again, it seemed to me that the Clerk knew exactly what was happening and in my opinion he was partly to blame for Mr Z becoming upset. What was the result I hear you cry, well Mr T WAS granted a Liability Order in his absence!!

Now to the rest of people summonsed. The CC official stood there and asked for 1079 Liability Orders to be granted for non payment of Council Tax for 2013/14. Mrs Roberts nodded and agreed that the Orders were given ‘en bloc/masse’. Council Official duely made his thanks. He then started to  bundle up his papers and pack away.

With that I stood, made acknowledgement to Mrs Roberts and duely left the Courtroom.

So there you have it Council Tax In The Court.

I believe that EVERYONE summonsed for non payment of Council Tax SHOULD attend the Court and have their say. This is your right, don’t be afraid to use it!!

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/council-tax-huge-queues-outside-2033516#ixzz2YLZRzhf1

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4 thoughts on “Council Tax In The Courts

  1. If the treatment of Mr T and Mr Z are any indication of justice in the UK I can see why most do not attend.Was that at all legal and just? Don’t appear to be to me.

    • So worrying, people need as much support as can be mustered; one minor point – the Magistrate is probably not paid [My Dad used to be a JP some years ago] but is often likely to come from a conservative [small ‘c’ but who knows?] background so probably lacking much understanding of living on a tight budget. It sounds like the Clerk was used to directing things – and he/she is paid and should be neutral. What awful proceedings.

  2. One situation we have had in Sefton The morning rain didnt give me confidence for the demonstration outside Sefton Magistrates Court, thought it was going to a damp squib. Regardless,with a nice new Stand up in Bootle T/Shirt on i set off. On arrival suib members were already demonstrating with placards raised high, busy with people standing in line getting the old scanner/xray walk through by G4s security people. i decided to go straight in and scout the enemys trough. 50 odd people were there all Council Tax cases so i spoke to 3 people before an usher came over snooping and advised i was not to discus personal cases with these people, i responded by advising her ‘i can speak to anyone i like if they are prepared to speak to me’. she trundled of and before i can pick my nose a police officer strode up and asked me to leave because i was upsetting people. i refered to the demonstation outside and he seemed uninterested. i then went to seek support from fellow members and to evaluate the next move. The crowd was growing with more protestors and more with summons wiith a smile on our members faces outside chatting with the media having photo’s taken, video interviews, giving leaflets out, i went back in to shouts of Claim the Hardship fund (juliet in full voice) Council Officers appeared agitated with what was being advised and duly decided to suspend all the summons in order to allow 3 wks to claim the Council Tax Hardship Fund otherwise known as the DHP (Discretionary Housing Payment) This was excellent news but it was not the solution, it was a small victory for those that will apply for the payments but you could see some people were ‘not arsed’ and ‘made up’ thought they got away with it (NOT). back outside juliet said ‘theres an eviction at 12.15’. After explaining the circumstances i said this could be stopped with an N244 (i had used this before but 2wks prior to an eviction) Application for a suspension order but its £40 if we can get into town asap. The evictee was then given stern words in order to trust us (this is an all or nothing for this person) two members put £20 into the kitty to cover the cost, its 11.25 by the time we arrived at the Family Courts in Liverpool and on obtaining the N244 then speaking to the bailff officer ‘im going there now, ill leave this with my colleague’ he stated we were then advised its upto the Magistrate this made the evictee brake down crying thinking the worst because we had to attend a hearing in the next 20 mins.. We were waiting with bated breath when a gentleman came over and gave us a letter that had been faxed over from the H/A (one vision) advising us they would not contest the N244 application (GET IN) the next steps were formality we waited outside the courtroom elated knowing we had a small victory. That was a very close call. Who needs a solicitor were my ‘shouts’ in the Court to all the suits that were watching the outcome. We took the young person to the One Stop Shop and got her on track to sort her problems out. Thankfully it shows there are ways we can delay the process (hopefully justice prevails) yet more costs will be incurred by those that impliment these attrocities making this unworkable. Other area’s are not averse to this stategy and its very important for all activists to be ready to do what needs to be done when there campaigns up end before a Council paid Magistrate. Be ready Be prepared, it will happen sooner rather than later. STAND UP…What we must remember is if you leave these problems to the last minute your doing yourself ‘No Favours’. In this situation the evictee was lucky to have 2 people paying the Summons Fee, this was because we didnt have the time to fill forms in to see if the evictee was elligable for exemption, most people on benefits r exempt

  3. Another kangaroo court proceudre……..After attending the C/T summons in Liverpool ive never seen such a disgusting process from plastic muppets who assume they have some sort of right (in law) to use heavy handed tactics in trying to remove me from Court, The Magistrate was a snivelling employee of Liverpool Council who couldnt wait to rubber stamp 2440 summons. GET HIM OUT (i hear after coughing too loud) lol ur a paid member of staff lady was my reply…….illegal actions portrayed as legal by a wig wearer . god help those in Liverpool is my only conclusion, Heartless liers parading as the Law…..sorry not an account of proceeding today a sad reality of how Tenants will be treated..At least Sefton showed a modicum of understanding……To the FAT muppet who thought i would cow down to his size, the law was on my side keep ur dirty hands of the public. FOOL,

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