Suspended jail term for Rye tax protestor

An anti-war campaigner who refused to pay Council Tax because he argued it was ‘illegal’ has been handed a suspended jail term.

Christopher Coverdale, who was given the order following court action taken by Rother District Council, claimed that paying the tax breached national and international law as it was ‘used to fund wars’.

The 68-year-old defendant earlier this year failed in three attempts to have the matter referred to a higher court, in a bid to challenge the magistrates’ classification of his defence as ‘frivolous’.

Appearing at Hastings Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, July 30, Coverdale, of The Mint, Rye, was handed a 28-day prison term, suspended until he pays back more than £1,000 in Council Tax and costs.

Cllr Robin Patten, district council cabinet member for finance and value for money, said: “Council Tax revenue is used solely to provide services in the local area and whatever the defendant’s views on war, these have nothing to do with payment of this tax.

“By refusing to pay, the defendant was benefitting from services which are partly or wholly funded by council tax, without making the contribution towards them that everyone else has to.

“Court action is always a last resort, and in this case the defendant was offered every opportunity to pay back the money he owes, including making affordable monthly instalments.

“However, this ruling shows that it’s a step we won’t hesitate to take when someone refuses to pay the money they’re legally obliged to pay.”

Coverdale originally appeared at Hastings Magistrates Court in October last year, when, after he admitted liability for the outstanding money, the district council was granted a liability order – a court order requiring the defendant to pay the outstanding amount.

The defendant’s request for magistrates to refer the matter to the High Court for a ruling on the legality of paying council tax were rejected as ‘frivolous’, and further appeals to the High Court and the Court of Appeal were also refused.

After the defendant continued to refuse to pay, the district council successfully applied for a committal order – a warrant to issue the defendant with a custodial sentence. In order to avoid jail, Coverdale was ordered to pay £1,056.18 in council tax arrears and costs.