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!
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
21/05/2013 Final Reminder
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.
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!!