Below is a very clear/detailed explanation of events of 2/6/11 in Grimsby following “summonses” for non payment of council tax. The council is NE Lincoln.

There is much confusion about which authority was entitled to pursue unpaid council tax – the confusion is patently caused by deliberate actions on the part of the council and perhaps even by blind-eyes of the magistrates – it must have been obvious to all.

The “deployment” of council staff with the clear intention of “joining in” was questionable and wshere was their cost hidden in the books of the council? The costs already conceded are colossal.

It is good to see interested people like the author standing up for honest dealing. However, where now? This clearly must not be “a withering on the vine.”


This is an accurate account of the events as I experienced them on the 2nd June 2011 as a result of being Summoned to appear at 2pm at Grimsby Magistrates’ Court for alleged non-payment of Council Tax.

Some statistics in respect of that day:

3,359 Summonses sent out for court hearings (2nd June 2011)
2,602 Incurring Summons costs of £70
Revenue due to households incurring these costs:

North East Lincolnshire Council £174,334
Her Majesty’s Court Service £7,806 (£15,612 per hour)

Despite stating on the Summons document relating to alleged non-payment of council tax that:

“You are hereby summoned to appear on [date] at [time] before the Magistrates sitting at The Magistrate’s Court ……”

It was odd to find that council staff were deployed in the court’s premises to intervene with the proceedings.

On arriving at the Court’s premises I showed to a staff member behind a glass fronted counter my correspondence, which clearly stated that I was summoned to appear before the Magistrates that afternoon. She enquired whether it was for council tax, and instructed me to wait with a dozen or so others, when I agreed that it was. Like myself they had all been instructed to wait for the council’s court enforcement manager – a council official with no connections to the court – who would subsequently assemble the accused, then lead them to a room hired by the council, denying their right to a hearing in font of Magistrates because they don’t know any better.

I pointed out to the court employee I had been summoned to appear before Magistrates, not council staff, to which she replied it was customary to be met by council staff. Already, alarm bells were ringing; the council pocketing more than half a million of residents cash each year by taking them to court, had already raised my suspicions that this was a scam. Evidence unfolding before me reinforced my opinion that the event was bogus.

I stood my ground expressing my view that a court hearing should be conducted by the court, not the council who brought about the complaint. I was intrigued to know how the council and HMCS had the front to pull off this stunt. Literally 3,359 could have demanded their cases were heard, if, like myself they had taken up the Magistrate’s invitation to the 2pm hearing. It was by then obvious that it was the job of council staff to prevent those summoned, having their cases heard by the Magistrates.

Finally another court employee intervened. Despite his attempt to sway my decision he did finish by conceding that I may wait for a hearing before the Magistrate. Had I known there would be almost three hours hanging around, I may have joined the quicker version hosted by the council’s court enforcement manager.

My court summons – effectively a pass allowing me the opportunity to see for myself whether the proceedings were bogus – indicated so far that they were.

Firstly the automated summons document sent out to thousands of residents each year originates from the Council rather than the Magistrate’s Court. It seems the council’s intention is to defraud residents by sending out documents falsely represented by them to have some official character, namely the Magistrates’ court.

Secondly the summons has a signature of the Clerk to the Justices somehow doctored on to it with the document stating that the council should be contacted with any queries, and not the Court.

Thirdly there is no requirement for those summoned to actually attend the court, but for those who do attend there is council intervention and a clear indication that it was not intended that anybody should actually appear before the Judge.

I’d passed what I considered to be the first hurdle (so I thought) which was avoiding the council employees’ meddling. I naively waited for what I expected would be just minutes until my hearing began. I sat with the dozen or so others, who were following theirinstructions and still waiting for the council’s court enforcement manager to collect them. To my knowledge, I was the only one meeting the requirements of the summons by appearing before the Magistrates.

The court employee who intervened earlier approached me for a further attempt to coerce me into attending what I considered the alternative hearing conducted by the council. His approach relied largely on the fact these court summons could be taken with a pinch of salt enabling the council to take care of the attendees. He clearly had no suspicion that my primary reason for attending the court was to determine whether the event was bogus. Unwittingly, after I asked why it stated: ‘You are hereby summoned to appear before the Magistrates…’ he enthusiastically stated they did not really originate from the court but in fact were sent out by the council. I anticipated there would be some telltale signs of things
not being quite right, but I never imagined the evidence would be handed to me on a plate.

Letting the cat out of the bag still further he effectively told me the summons functioned as bait to lure those disputing liability to be ensnared by the council on arrival at the court. I was growing increasingly aware that the 3,300 or so who had accepted the penalty costs by not attending the court would have equally been fooled by these fake summonses.

Those who didn’t realise they were being had were assembled by Staff, and led upstairs to where the council would conduct its sham hearing. The foyer, almost empty now, except for myself and a couple of others became almost silent as one divulged to me familiar horror stories about the council and their bailiffs, Rossendales.

The same court staff member came back for his third attempt to change my mind. Reiterating that I had been summoned to appear before Magistrates, not the council, I added that all the court attendees should be heard by the Judge. He stated that it was unrealistic to expect fifteen minutes of Magistrate’s time to be given to each resident who attended court. My response to his gift of incriminating evidence was “then why send out these summonses”? As a Police Constable interrupted our conversation, this was never answered; he was probably sent to hush him from inadvertently revealing that this event was indeed a sham.

I’d been at the court premises for nearly three quarters of an hour and there was no indication that my case would be heard. My new friend the court staff member was back on the scene. I asked him when it was likely the courtroom would be free and why it stated 2pm on the summons. He explained it could be hours and pointed out the merits of the council’s sham hearing as those attending were now leaving the court.

I used my time to familiarise myself with the issues I intended to raise in the court room; these I’d prepared and were printed on the reverse side of the summons. I first wanted to express the immorality of the system whereby HMCS and the council team up to profit from the less well off residents, and that anyone involved in this process were not fit to be in the legal profession.

There is case law from Lord Chief Justice Widgery pertaining to the validity of summonses in ‘Regina v. Brentford Justices ex parte Catlin’, which provides that

“a decision by magistrates whether to issue a summons pursuant to information laid involves the exercise of a judicial function, andis not merely administrative.”

I hoped to impress on the Judge that given the number of these summonses running into thousands at a single hearing, and the council sending out their own; the process would, by necessity, be merely administrative and therefore result in very serious instances of maladministration leading to excessive profits for both the Court and council.

I wanted to know why HMCS accepted the council’s hike in penalty charges especially when a reduction would have been more realistically warranted as they’d forced more residents into paying these by unifying the existing summons and liability order costs. I’d hoped they could throw some light on why these changes had been agreed behind closed doors with public and press excluded and why a council document listing income generation, revealed this would raise £188,000 for each of the following 4 years when such fees are to cover Council Tax recovery.

I’d liked to of raised my concern about why the council take on the role of the Court and why a proportion of penalty fees collected by the council are paid to Her Majesty’s Court Service for the use of their facilities, the intervention of council officials, the council sending out their own summonses, the document stating that Council should be contacted with any queries, not the Court.

I intended to express as many of these points to the Magistrate before being inevitably silenced.

With no sign that the hearing scheduled around two hours earlier would ever happen, I sought the person to complain about the complete lack of organisation and information available. I was handed a leaflet that required any complaint to be in writing and dictating what could and could not be complained about. I was not interested in their procedure but wanted to discuss with someone about the fiasco.

Impressing on them I was not part of their organisation and therefore not interested in their procedure they led me to where the Usher was milling around outside what would be the courtroom for my hearing. I enquired whether the hearing(s) being conducted in that courtroom were for residents disputing their council tax liability. Outrageously not only had my case not been heard but there had been none relating to Council Tax during the two hours or so since the time of the scheduled hearing.

My specific questions to the Usher related to why the summons had been sent out by the council instead of the court and the massive delay between the time of the scheduled and the actual hearing. Unfortunately the Usher could not relate to my actual question about why the document had been sent by the council and reiterated that I had not paid my council tax and this was the reason I had been summoned to appear before the Magistrates. Getting her to explain why council officials where placed at the court premises to intervene with the hearing was going to blow her mind so I concentrated on getting my initial questions answered.

Questioning again why court documents were dealt with and sent out by the council caused the Usher to assume the role of Judge, jury and executioner. She emphasised that if I had paid my Council Tax then I wouldn’t have been summoned to the court. Despite informing her I had in fact paid my council tax, I questioned the appropriateness of a court Usher expressing personal views about members of the public attending the court.

During the wasted time spent with the Usher attempting to get answers, my summons document (including the notes I’d prepared for questions) was briefly taken from me for photocopying. At least nowany points I failed to get across to the Magistrates in the Court room could be read as they now had a printed copy.

It became clear that it was normal, at least in the case of council tax hearings, to be summoned to appear before the Magistrates at a set time with the actual hearing being several hours later.

Other than querying the number of residents receiving summonses for that day’s court hearing, to establish the profit made by the council and the court, I did nothing but sit and wait to be called into the court room.

Now around 4:30pm, two and a half hours after the scheduled hearing, the first person to appear before the Magistrates was called into the court room to dispute his Council Tax liability.

Hardly 10 minutes had lapsed before he reappeared from the court room. Shortly after this I was called in, the second and final person to do so out of a total 3,359 summoned to appear before the Magistrates at 2pm that afternoon for alleged non-payment of either Council Tax or Business Rates.