Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.





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Saturday, 31 August 2013

MAGISTRATES AND COUNCIL TAX LIABILITY ORDERS



Some of the law which magistrates have to administer might not be to their personal liking.  One such is having to adjudicate on those brought before us for not having a T.V. license when their actions demanded they possess one. However we must work within the law as it is, not as we might want it. For those unable to follow that simple logic resignation is but a short letter away.  Another area where colleagues, especially those new to the job, occasionally consider themselves as successors to the Sheriff of Nottingham is in the granting of liability orders to pay Council Tax to borough councils.  The occasions when we can behave as Robin Hood are very few and far between.  It is probably as near as it gets on the bench to rubber stamping.  Our power to refuse a liability order is limited in the extreme.  Indeed I can recollect perhaps only three or four times I have ever done so and then only when gross mal practice or irregularity was presented by a defendant making his/her case personally.   It was therefore a grossly uninformed Reverend Paul Nicolson who made recent headlines in Haringey protesting about the actions of the local bench.  Those who might fund his further actions would be wise to acquaint themselves with the limitations under which the court operates in these matters.

4 comments:

  1. OK, so its rubberstamping, so why bother with magistrates courts at all ? After all, you are doing nothing of any significance in the process if it is as you say.

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    1. "The occasions when we can behave as Robin Hood are very few and far between. It is probably as near as it gets on the bench to rubber stamping. Our power to refuse a liability order is limited in the extreme. Indeed I can recollect perhaps only three or four times I have ever done so and then only when gross mal practice or irregularity was presented by a defendant making his/her case personally"

      Thanks for the comment Fras. We are restricted but not prevented from refusing the application whenever we have due cause.

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  2. Can one challenge the costs element while accepting liability? I once missed the eighth of 10 installments having been late with an earlier one. The council's automatic application for a liability order added £205 to a remaining balance of £160. It turns out they add the same costs amount to all cases, even when there is no contest from the defendant, do costs not have to be the actual costs of the case as in the civil court?

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  3. The costs has to be what was actually incurred , not a money making set fee that most Councils operate. Rev Nic won his case btw.

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