UK/common law: obstruction, or valid complaint?
March 20, 2010 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Does the "lay advisor" in these videos: 1 2 (about 15 mins in total) have any real legal standing for what he is doing -- claiming that this UK magistrate's court is invalid/improperly carried out, and that council tax is not an enforceable law?

The proceedings are a little hard to follow/hear, and I have no particular idea of the legalities involved. The "lay advisor" seems to present the following assertions and implies that they lead to the case being "dismissed under common law".

- He (not a barrister/solicitor) is allowed to represent the defendant, Stephen Barry, who is liable for council tax.
- He is able to "present Mr Barry to the court" by showing Barry's birth certificate (Stephen Barry doesn't seem to actually be present).
- Council tax can only be enforced "with consent" as it's enacted under an Act of Parliament.
- The magistrate does not have jurisdiction in the court because he does not "present his oath", and cannot provide a written order for... I'm not sure exactly what - Mr Barry's summons, I suppose.
- And/or the court is a "commercial court" without jurisdiction in the case.
- Therefore common law takes precedence and the defendant is not liable for any crime that can be enforced.
- The police officers/bailiffs present agree with this and do not enforce the magistrate's invalid orders.

Does he have any grounds for this? Is he just relying on a failing of the court to follow procedure properly, or is the procedure itself somehow invalid? Or is he just spinning a legal yarn and the courts throw out the case rather than waste time/money trying to untangle it?
posted by Drexen to Law & Government (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
More info: this site, freedomrebels.co.uk, is linked to in the video description. I can't find an article in their e-magazine relating to this case in particular, and it seems to be a hub site with no pages outlining a particular manifesto or legal arguments. It does link to nocounciltax.com but that site is down currently.
posted by Drexen at 6:46 AM on March 20, 2010


This sounds like the U.K. version of "The U.S. government cannot define 'income'" or "Ohio wasn't a state when the 16th Amendment was passed, therefore income tax is not legal." One of them once went so far as to complain that, since there was a gold fringe on the U.S. flag in the courtroom where he was on trial for tax evasion, that the courtroom was therefore an "admiralty court" and ineligible to try him.

So, without knowing anything about U.K. tax law or procedure, I'm gonna say that this guy is a loon.
posted by Etrigan at 7:56 AM on March 20, 2010


These folks are from the "Freeman-on-the-land" movement (and I use the term loosely). I've interacted with some of them before and have found their arguments to be utter nonsense; to see a clash between them and some Canadian law students, take a look here.

Short answer: No, there is no basis for their claims in the video or elsewhere.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 8:14 AM on March 20, 2010


My husband works in a magistrates court. For a start videoing proceedings in any court is very illegal indeed (probably contempt of court, but nobody in his court has ever been stupid enough to try it).

He thinks they've misrepresented (or wilfully misunderstood) what's really happened and a lot's been edited out - it looks like a lot of stuff been edited out at the start. Then they've started to disrupt proceedings and the court staff have decided to take a break in order to discern what on earth is going on - the video depicts this like they've heard mention of "common law" and gone OH NOEZ THE FREEDOM FIGHTER HAS DISCOVERED THE SECRET LOOPHOLE WE MUST ACT QUICKLY TO MAINTAIN OUR EVIL EMPIRE. In reality the staff are trying to get the people who are making a scene out - not standing when the magistrates enter (as they failed to) would be enough to get them kicked out. They may have just dropped the case in the end just for an easy life - up to the council to decide what they want to do.

Whether there is a valid legal point there isn't my husband's expertise though. I guess it is possible there's some sort of weird loophole, law in the UK being a confusing thing. There's a solicitor nicknamed Mr Loophole who specialises in getting speeding fines cancelled on technicalities. Not sure whether it's a case of this or them being loons. Probably a mix of the two.

To try and answer a couple of your questions, anyway (I'm sure someone with legal knowledge will be along soon) - technically anybody can act as a representative for a defendant, though the magistrate may question it and take a very dim view if they try anything weird (like this). Whether the defendant actually does need to be there depends on a number of factors but no, they don't always need to be present. The rest, no idea.

It's given my husband a good laugh though.
posted by curiousorange at 8:14 AM on March 20, 2010


Looks like curiousorange has a good explanation of what's going on in the videos. I am not familiar with U.K. tax laws, but Wikipedia has a good article on "Tax protester statutory arguments"; U.S. specific but I imagine there are similarities to the U.K. situation.

Ed and Elaine Brown are 'tax protesters' who gave our neck of the woods some entertainment/drama a couple of years ago; this wikipedia article makes for a pretty fascinating read, if you are into these kinds of things. Part of their claim was their house was located in "the kingdom of heaven", not in New Hampshire.
posted by soy bean at 8:31 AM on March 20, 2010


Thanks for your input all, especially curiousorange -- it did seem like that sort of situation to me. If anyone reading does have knowledge of what legal concepts specifically they're trying to work from, I'd be curious to know.
posted by Drexen at 4:30 PM on March 20, 2010


Does the "lay advisor" in these videos: 1 2 (about 15 mins in total) have any real legal standing for what he is doing?

There is an account of the event here. The "legal standing" of his arguments may be judged by the fact that the Magistrates went ahead and granted the Liability Order anyway, according to the end of the video.

Underlying all this is an assumption that the whole system is turning into a corporate entity designed to create profit. As far as l can tell, their arguments seem to be:

1. Statutes are legal constructs, applying not to people but to "legal persons" each of which is created when the person's birth is registered (hence the business with the birth certificate in the video). These statutes are superimposed on the "Common Law" which men and women all somehow naturally understand and follow.

2. Sovereignty is ultimately granted by the people to the Crown, and thence to the sworn officers of the Crown (police, judiciary etc). Only officers acting on their oath, and acting to uphold the law, have any true authority of law.

3. Therefore statutes (eg the one requiring Council Tax) can only have the force of law by consent of the governed, which can be withdrawn if the people consider that a court is only following a commercially-driven statute, not common law.


I would be astounded if any of this were to be accepted by any legal authority in the country. The business about the magistrates "abandoning the court", and the police requiring an order to clear the court, is quite interesting, but does not seem to advance the legal argument at all.

However, the above site also describes a council both withdrawing a Liability Order application and also apparently writing off the whole council tax. I would be interested to know exactly why they did that.
posted by wilko at 5:40 AM on March 21, 2010


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