The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Egg On Martyr

The press and various bits of the Interweb have been getting terribly excited about the old lady who has just achieved a highly-publicised martyrdom by refusing to pay part of her Council Tax, and being sent to prison as a result.
It is a depressing insight into the standard of our press and of public debate that nobody so far has set out the choices faced by the magistrates, which were:
  • Send her to prison by implementing the suspended sentence that she had already been given
  • Tell her that she doesn't need to pay the tax because she is an old lady
  • Er - that's it
Every tax needs to be enforced by sanctions if necessary, because otherwise some people won't pay, and if those people get away with it, then nobody at all will pay.

During the Poll Tax years (that, by the way, was a tax that I opposed for its sheer stupidity rather than any ideological reasons) I remember dealing with a refusenik would-be martyr who turned up with a claque to support her from the gallery. She was fully expecting to go to prison in a blaze of glory (or as much glory as the Ealing & District Weekly Advertiser can offer). I announced that she had made prison inevitable, and she visibly puffed up and thrust out her chins. "However" I said, "In a final attempt to see whether sanity might yet prevail even at this late stage we are suspending the committal to prison for a final seven days". She subsided like a badly-made soufflé and I have never seen anyone look so disappointed.

I was on the rota to sit seven days later, and I looked for her on the list. She was not on it, so I had discreet enquiries made, and discovered that some unsporting soul had shot her fox by paying the tax anonymously on her behalf - a procedure that she had no legal right to resist.

I have suspected since that day that some local slush-fund was dipped into to provide the required cash to render her protest futile. I am surprised that nobody in authority in the latest case has thought to have a whip-round and pay off the fifty quid that is all the money needed to keep the silly old bat out of chokey.