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Poverty campaigner wins High Court case

08 May 2015

DEMOTIX

On the road: supporters escort Paul Nicolson outside Tottenham Magistrates Court, in August 2013 

On the road: supporters escort Paul Nicolson outside Tottenham Magistrates Court, in August 2013 

A RETIRED priest, the Revd Paul Nicolson, has won a High Court battle after a judge ruled that the £125 liability order handed down to him after he refused to pay his council tax was unlawful.

Mr Nicolson, an anti-poverty campaigner who lives in Tottenham, has refused to pay council tax in protest against the removal of council-tax benefit from the borough's poorest residents. In 2013, he was given a £125 liability order at Tottenham Magistrates Court.

When he asked the magistrates to explain how the figure of £125 was arrived at, they declined. He sought a judicial review of this decision. The relevant law states that only "reasonably incurred" costs can be imposed. The cost is lower in other boroughs.

This week, Mrs Justice Andrews ruled that the liability order was unlawful, because the magistrates had been unable to provide information about how the cost had been determined.

"We accept the court's decision to quash the costs order in this case as magistrates did not have the relevant information before them," said a Haringey Council spokesperson.

"We welcome that the judge accepted our broad approach to calculating costs to cover legal proceedings. We will now consider this ruling in greater detail."

Mr Nicolson said that "it remains to be seen whether the external auditor is satisfied with the broad approach in the light of the judgment that the costs in question must be incurred obtaining the liability order."

In November, the Supreme Court ruled that a consultation by Haringey before a decision to reduce council-tax benefit, was "unlawful".

"I am refusing to pay my council tax until they restore 100-per-cent council-tax benefit for the poorest citizens of the UK," Mr Nicolson said on Wednesday. He thanked Helen Mountfield QC and the team at Matrix Chambers for taking on the case pro bono.

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