Rev Paul Nicolson to appeal Tottenham Magistrates decision;  could not hear evidence of Council’s Head of Revenues.

7 August 2016

Rev Paul Nicolson


I will be appealing the decision of the Tottenham Magistrate in the 4th August to issue a council tax liability order against me to Haringey Council.

The grounds are as follows;

A. CORPORATE OVERHEADS. I am claiming that 20,000 late and non payers a year are being overcharged £926,665 a year "corporate overheads", since the 12th August 2015, or by £37 pa each. Very many late and non payers in Haringey cannot afford to pay a tax on their benefits let alone £115 court costs. £73.10 a week is the single adult JSA required to pay the tax. It is also paying rent due to the bedroom tax since April 2013. Benefit increases have been frozen since 2011 while rents and prices rise. 

Corporate overheads are correctly charged to all council tax payers but 50% should not be dumped on late and non payers so unlawfully increasing their council tax by £37 a year. 

B RUBBER STAMPING  The Tottenham Magistrates issue council tax liability orders by rubber stamping Haringey Council's computer printouts naming 100s, sometimes 1000s, of Haringey residents ignoring the hunger, impoverishment, mental health and vulnerability of any of them. 

Mrs Justice Andrews stated in her Judgment in Nicolson v Haringey, (6 May 2015) finding in favour of Rev Paul Nicolson;

The Rev Nicolson " pointed out the serious consequences that orders of this type can have on some of the poorest people in society, and the anxiety which the making and consequences of such orders can cause. He made this observation (with which I agree): “The making of such an order is not, therefore, a matter of rubber-stamping, but one in respect of which it is vital that the due process of law is observed.”

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists that anxiety about debt can mount up to mental health problems. 

C. "Due process" requires fair treatment in court. I was not warned as a litigant in person that a Haringey Council witness would be giving oral evidence to the Magistrate.  

I am partially deaf. I was taken by completely by surprise when the Head of Revenues of Haringey Council started giving evidence in the witness box. I expected a normal liability order hearing with the barrister and the judge in the small court. I have been to many over the passed 30 years.

I had thought about being sure I could hear at the trial. I came prepared to hear the judge and the barrister which I did throughout the hearing. Even so I asked the clerk if there was a hearing loop in the court before the case started. She pointed at the loud speakers. I could not tell whether they were turned on.

The first time I told the judge I could not hear the witness I noticed that she immediately adjusted the microphone at the witness box, but it should still have been closer to her mouth. She seemed to me to have a quiet voice which I was not hearing properly through my Conversor (a private hearing loop)  - hence the second time I told the judge I could not hear the witness.  

It is quite possible that the witness dealt orally with issues about corporate overheads and other costs that were not in her written witness statement; but I cannot tell. 

My left ear works well with a hearing aid. The right ear had a malignant adenoidal carcinoma removed 20 years ago which left me without hearing in my right ear. 
It always helps when I can see the person speaking to me because deafness inadvertently leads to lip reading. I could not see the witness most of the time.

So I could not hear the explanation by the council's witness as to how the corporate overheads are connected to the summons costs of £102 plus £15 for the liability order as is required by the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992.  
I could not cross examine her. 

The relevant regulations read; "34 5 (b)a sum of an amount equal to the costs reasonably incurred by the authority in connection with the application" and "34 7 (b) a sum of an amount equal to the costs reasonably incurred by the applicant in obtaining the order." (my emphasis).

D. UNREASONABLE COSTS IN MY CASE. I am also contesting the liability order costs of £2,844.42 that the magistrates awarded the council against me on the grounds that the council solicitor had to deal with issues already dealt with by the High Court. The High Court case is yet to be appealed and was about £125 costs awarded against me on the 2nd August 2013. This is a new case is about the £102 summons costs, as I made clear to the magistrate, awarded against me on the 4th August 2016. £13 has been added for the liability order.  

E. MAGISTRATE BOTH THE JUDGE AND THE ACCUSED. I am claiming the magistrates unlawfully;

  1. rubber stamp liability orders on the council printouts 100s or 1000s at a time
  2. do so ignorant of the impoverished and vulnerable circumstances of many of the residents who are unable to pay the tax or the court costs. 

and that on the 4th August when deciding against me the magistrate was both judge and the accused therefore not in a position to make a lawful uninterested decision.