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Council tax protest

PUBLISHED: 10:02 02 April 2010 | UPDATED: 21:47 02 July 2010

A TAXPAYER withheld paying £67 of his council tax bill in protest against the failings of police in Havering. Harry Carless, 67, of Wedlake Close, Hornchurch, calculated the sum by deducting £16.83 from his total £113 monthly council tax bill for four m

A TAXPAYER withheld paying £67 of his council tax bill in protest against "the failings of police" in Havering.

Harry Carless, 67, of Wedlake Close, Hornchurch, calculated the sum by deducting £16.83 from his total £113 monthly council tax bill for four months - the amount of the police levy on his tax he was due to pay over that period.

Mr Carless was hauled in front of magistrates in Romford on Thursday, March 25, by Havering Council officers seeking a liability order requiring him to cough up or face further court action and criminal charges after already failing to respond to final notices for payment sent by post.

Steven Creasy, of Havering Council, outlined the breakdown of payments owed from October to January, totalling £67.32. Prior to October he had paid his tax in full by direct debit.

Mr Carless agreed the total outstanding was correct and told the court: "What this boils down to is the police rate, my levy on council tax for four months. This came about because on October 1 2009 I had a vehicle stolen from outside my property. This is the third time this has happened to me."

But chairman of the magistrates, Bernard Adams, interrupted his argument and said: "But Mr Carless if you've admitted in open court you owe £67.32, can you tell us when you are going to pay this?

"Unfortunately the law does not allow you to withhold your payment of council tax for being a victim of crime.

"The issue of you having a car stolen is not relevant to the matters we are dealing with this afternoon."

Mr Carless said: "My summons ordered me to appear in court to explain the reasons why I have not paid this amount. Do I not get the chance to do this?

Mr Adams said: "It is unfortunate and we sympathise with you but it's not due cause to not pay.

"If everyone who was a victim of crime refused to pay taxes there would be complete anarchy."

Despite being told his argument had no legal grounds, Mr Carless continued to attempt to air his disappointment at the police not resolving the issue of his car theft and said: "This is about the failing of police on a wide basis."

But Mr Adams said: "This is not an auditorium for you to talk about this. You need to write to your MP. This is not the venue to air your views."

Mr Carless continued his argument about "the absence of police on the beat to deal with crime" and that he felt "denied justice" but stopped when the chairman said he was "in danger of being charged with contempt of court".

The court granted the liability order, adding additional court costs on to Mr Carless' bill bringing the total to £177.32. Mr Carless queried the council documentation for containing errors and asked whether he should still have to pay the whole sum. He was told the full amount was owed and agreed to pay it.

Leaving court, Mr Carless said: "I thought I would get a fair hearing but I haven't. I will question whether it's worth coming to court in future."

He told the Recorder he was considering raising the issue with the Ministry of Justice.

"I feel so aggrieved by the way I was treated in court," he said.

Mr Carless has previously written to Hornchurch MP James Brokenshire, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, various national newspapers and the BBC's Panorama about the issue.


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