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Blessed by a turbulent priest

On polling day, in amongst the noise, the spin, the vacuous pieces to camera from outside polling stations, put your feet up, pour yourself a coffee and say a silent thank you to the Reverend Paul Nicolson. This paragraph alone from a legal judgement should tell you why the Revd Nicolson brings honour to his church and his faith.

The Claimant, Reverend Nicolson, is a retired clergyman. He is an active campaigner on issues affecting the rights of those on low incomes, including the effect upon them of cuts in council tax benefit and other benefits. Since 2012, when the impact of those cuts started to be felt, the Claimant became increasingly concerned about the level of enforcement costs being levied by the Council on people who had fallen behind with their council tax, which seemed to him to be disproportionate to the likely actual costs of obtaining liability orders. He suspected that the costs were being used as a form of penalty or deterrent, or as a means of covering the Council’s general administrative costs of collecting council tax, rather than reflecting any actual or fair appraisal of the actual costs incurred by them in enforcing the obligation to pay. This concern led the Claimant to take the decision to refuse to pay his own council tax as a matter of civil disobedience, so that he could experience the enforcement process for himself and investigate the procedures used and the basis upon which the costs claimed by the Council were calculated.

If you’ve the stomach for legal judgements the full text is here. Here’s a little spoiler alert. It is as thorough a kicking to an overweaning, arrogant local authority as you can read. The magistrates don’t escape a hammering either. The Magistrates said that they were of the opinion that the application was “futile and academic”. Their reasoning indicates that they had either completely missed the point that the Claimant was making, or else they were trying to justify their decision after the event on the basis of patently inadequate material.

The judge’s decision to award costs against the council is harsh but eminently fair; her dismissal of their case is the judicial equivalent of a slap in the face. If you needed more persuading about why to defenestrate David Cameron, remember that his government took steps to reduce access to judicial review, to silence the likes of the Reverend Nicolson. You can read a more populist account of the case here. Wherever you are, today, take the time to say thank you for the blessing that is a turbulent priest in difficult times.


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This entry was posted on May 7, 2015 by in Uncategorized.

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