Friday, 23 May 2014

Contempt of court

Today I was instructed by a judge to take down a Youtube video where I accused Nicola Spring of being a liar.  This was because I read out a statement by Nicola Spring.  It is difficult to see how removing the video after the trial serves any purpose. It would not be prejudicial to a fair trial since it is over, thus I view this order as an act of censorship.  Though I cannot let my voice be censored. Nicola Spring as far as I'm concerned is a liar, I said so then and I say so now.

So in light of that, I have removed the previous video and recorded a new one after the trial that says more or less the same thing, only adding that today she admitted Rundles had inflated their fees from the outset.  I wouldn't bother watching it unless you are familiar with the case and have an interest in this. Uploading it is merely a token gesture to say I will not be censored. A judge can find the act of uploading the previous video during trial as an act of contempt, but no power on this earth will ever prevent me from saying what I think afterwards. I think Nicola Spring is a vile piece of work and a liar.

The final report - until next time

Yesterday I was convicted of criminal damage.  The short version being that I refused to pay my council tax for a number of perfectly valid reasons, but also with a view to catching bailiffs in the act of unlawfully inflating fees. As predicted, that is what happened. But in late 2012, when I paid my council tax, the bailiffs clamped my car, demanding that I pay their unlawful fees. I cut it off with an angle-grinder. I made a complaint to the police and they then charged me for criminal damage - and refused to examine the evidence of fee-fraud. I complained to the council and they also upheld the unlawful fees, without investigating.

I represented myself at the magistrates courts and kept the proceedings running for a full day. I failed.  Yesterday it finally went to appeal and I failed yet again.  But we did establish that the bailiff firm, Rundle & Co did inflate their fees unlawfully. So folks, you are now reading Bristol's newest convicted criminal.  I stand before you guilty as charged. I knowingly and wilfully destroyed property belonging to Rundle & Co. This is what happened...

I lost.  But there are few reasons to be despondent.  Today we got a frank admission from the "truthful and honest" Nicola Spring, that unlawful charges had been added in the first instance - and the judge observed there were significant inconsistencies between the paperwork issued and their records. Rundles failed to follow proper procedure. Spring admitted she had no idea why the charges had been added. I have my suspicions why this might be the case but one couldn't possibly comment.

In that respect it was worth going to appeal, if only to have it on record that Rundles had attempted to extort fees not permitted by law. That then confirms what I have so often said, in that South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) are complicit in this fraud epidemic by way of failing to properly investigate, which lends weight to the notion that there is a culture of denial in the public sector - where complaints are wilfully ignored. SGC failed to properly investigate and have upheld charges not permitted by law. It is that same shameful attitude to complaints that kills people in NHS hospitals.

My barrister is confident that were this a civil case, the chances are that Rundles would be facing fraud charges and SGC would be in some way liable for allowing it to happen on their watch. But I would have had to capitulate to Rundles in order to bring that case about - and it may not have been as successful as this trial in getting at the truth. On principle, I could not capitulate and this way, at least the arguments have been heard.

The Verdict

The Judge upheld the phantom visits even though it was put to him that there was no possible way they could charge for a visit without having confirmed residency, but even if one were to acknowledge that these visits took place and the correct paperwork had been issued, there was still no lawful basis for the charges amounting to £192.50 by the time of the first provable visit.

I knew the charges were unlawful even then, and that is why I elected to pay my council tax directly to the council, rather than striking a deal with bailiffs. I don't think the Judge was any more taken in by James Cohen's "butter wouldn't melt", yessir no-sir Uncle Tom act any more than I was, but sadly, this was not a trial as to whether Rundle & Co are fit to consume oxygen, nor was it a trial to establish whether they are fly-by-night thieves who make up their charges on a whim. That is rather a pity, because this trial would have demonstrated precisely that. This trial was whether my removal of the clamp was a reasonable action to take. There the judge and I have a difference of opinion.

I take the view that when the council is unwilling to mount any kind of proper investigation, the bailiffs inflate their fees unlawfully - and use tactics of harassment and intimidation, then the system is not functioning. The police are a liability in such matters, often assisting bailiffs in the commission of crimes, therefore self-defence against a wrongful trespass on property is the most expedient and reasonable thing to do. The judge disagreed.

It was his view that I should have capitulated to James Cohen, paid for the release of the vehicle, and pursued it as a civil case. That is, in his view, a reasonable course of action. The fact that council tax recovery regulation grants no authority to bailiffs to clamp vehicles was of little consequence to the judge.

Regardless of the fact I need my car for my job, and regardless of the fact I have a ministerial letter confirming that bailiffs may not levy goods in excess of the value of the outstanding amount on the liability order (which was zero), the judge was not swayed by these arguments either.

As per the magistrates conclusion, his view was that I could have called the police (who regularly assist bailiffs in committing crimes) or phoned Rundles (who had already misrepresented their powers and inflated their fees unlawfully). Rather than deal with unreasonable people I elected to remove the clamp - which apparently was an unreasonable act. In effect the judge opted to invoke the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law.

Rather than addressing the fundamental issues at play this was a case that focused on my specific actions at the time. It stands that Rundles are liars. It stands that Rundles attempted fraud. It stands that SGC are incompetent and it stands that there is a culture of denial in the public sector - and Williams and Hooper of SGC are complicit in that. They facilitate the crimes of James Cohen and his ilk. But it was I on trial, not they. Thus I am guilty.

So who is to blame?

There is plenty of blame to go around but ultimately I am at fault for my naivety. When discussing matters of crime and punishment we describe it as the "Justice System". From that one assumes the purpose of that system is to serve justice. Justice has not been done here today. Not by a long shot.

Today there was an opportunity for a judge to send a message that bailiffs may not clamp unlawfully, that bailiffs will be held accountable for fraudulent fees - and citizens have a right to protect their property. But today the judge gave a free pass to state-sanctioned habitual criminals - and instead of meting out justice threw the book at the victim.

For sure that may sound like a feeble pronouncement by a guilty man, but by criminalising me, he diminishes the stigma to criminality and cheapens the very word. I am a citizen who has committed no act of theft or violence upon another and stand as a criminal for the simple act of defending his property against a wrongful trespass.

A word has yet to be invented that properly describes how little this criminal record means to me. So many have been criminalised now that it is now a largely meaningless label that is not the barrier it once was now that ordinary citizens are criminalised for petty administrative transgressions. It is ironic that the state makes a criminal of those who resist having their money taken without consent. Taxation without proper representation is an act of theft.

If anything, a criminal record is now a badge of pride because it means I stood up for myself and, unlike the rest of the bovine population, I stood up and defended my property against a state that grants more rights to the homeless than it does property occupiers.

The nature of council tax is that you are not a free individual unless you pay for your freedom. You are out of jail on license. Your crime against the state is to have a roof over your head. There is far too much to debate surrounding this issue, but I will expand upon this experience on my other blog. This is not over. I just need to change tactics.

Contempt of court

There was a suggestion of contempt of court. These charges were all thrown out. The only condition being that I take down the Youtube where I read a part of a statement made by Nicola Spring and called her a liar. I am unsure what value there is in taking the video down after the trial - and I view this an act of censorship. But no matter.  I have taken down the Youtube that says Nicola Spring is a liar and instead will film a new one that also says Nicola Spring is a liar - because she is a liar. She knows it and so do I.

As to witness intimidation, the CPS were at least smart enough to drop that one because I would have had a field day with it. That is because I have evidence that Nicola Spring is a liar and were I allowed to present that evidence the trial might have gone differently.

So what did I achieve?

Well that's a philosophical question that entirely depends on my objectives. The rule of the North insurgency is that whatever you pay in taxes, it must always cost the state more to get it than it costs you. I have occupied three whole days of court, occupying judges, many court staff, many officials, magistrates, a dozen plod, the council chief executive, council recovery officers, the police commissioner and a couple of chief inspectors. So did it cost them more than it cost me? Oh you betcha. I now face costs in excess of £1000 but less than £50 goes to Rundles, which is considerably less than what they were trying to extort, so that is a win. I also kept James Cohen and Nicola Spring off the streets for three days.

I am completely satisfied that whatever I paid in council tax since then has been spent on handling this case. More than that I would like to think this case blog caused some ripples in the back offices that now mean bailiffs are monitored more closely, and maybe bailiffs think twice about clamping. The next person they clamp might be another Pete North.

The problem of rogue bailiffs has not gone away and the police are still ducking complaints but perhaps all this noise brings us a little closer to the day when councils and the police take these matters seriously. One more notch on the crime statistics might just trigger action.

Legal costs

Thanks to the incompetence of Bristol Crown Court, I ended up paying two days fees to my barrister Steven Fitzpatrick. But if one were to pay that just for the pleasure of his company, it's still a bargain and I consider him a friend for life, a super bloke, and though he did not win he can be forgiven since he had a me as a client. I still spent less than the state did - and Steven forced the admission from Nicola Spring that the fees were wrongfully inflated. More than I managed at the magistrates court.

Would I do it again and what would I do differently?

Yes I would do it again in the same regulatory environment. Perhaps I would have made a couple of calls to the council and Rundles to give them the opportunity of removing the clamp before I did, just to have it on record, but we all know what that would have achieved.  I think it might have been nice to have smacked James "Uncle Tom" Cohen squarely in the mouth with a house-brick, because that is the nearest you get to justice, but that is just a fanciful mental image that gives me a great deal of pleasure.


I knew what I was getting into this when I started this. In my heart of hearts I never expected to win, because the system looks after its own. I knew this would be expensive and I knew there would be consequences to fighting a system where the game is rigged.  I accept that responsibility and the consequences are mine alone.  But if you feel this fight was worth fighting as I do, hit the donate button. Just a small, nominal sum says you think this was worth doing.

Where next?

This fight is never over.  While that state steals from us with zero accountability and we have no democracy, a permanent state of war exists between the people, the state, and the private enforcement goons employed by them. We may have lost this battle, but the war continues. That is why we have convened The Harrogate Agenda.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Hissing Geese

Tomorrow we go to trial over the Rundles affair.  I have just had a long chat with my barrister. I was feeling a little pessimistic earlier this week but my barrister knows the judge and apparently he's quite a good stick, so we have better than average chance of winning. And I really could use a win. I am sick of losing to these bastards and just for once it would be nice to take the fight to the enemy.

Propaganda rags such as the Daily Mail claim that "Council tax bills could be cut by an average £100 per household if authorities chased up debts properly." - The message being that we "council tax dodgers" increase the burden on others. This is not so.

Jean Baptiste Colbert, a French finance minister once said “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing”.

If we had any semblance of democracy there is no way in hell taxation would ever have reached the level it is presently at, and councils would not be running deficits to fund their CEOcracy, their vanity projects, their final-salary-pensions and worthless non-jobs.  So in the absence of democracy it is past the time to hiss - and I have hissed. I have drawn a line in the sand that says if you want my money, you will have to spend more money to get it - because without democracy, our local government is wholly illegitimate.

I may lose tomorrow, but if your council tax isn't going up this year, it is because of people like me (and the good and kind people who have put their hands in their own pockets to support this effort), that you are not paying more. We have hissed.

Special mention must be made of Matt Davies, Mez Fioravanti, Richard North, Jason Bailey & Amy at DWB and Dave Chapman especially, to whom I am eternally greateful. They are the people who made this fight possible - and tomorrow, win or lose, this battle was worth fighting - and I would not do a single thing differently.  If nothing else it has exposed precisely how corrupt local government now is, even if we have no legal recourse.

Given how bent out of shape British justice is, there is always the possibility of losing, where I shall face a large bill, but one way or another the fight will continue.  But if I win... this is only the start.  So all that is left is to wish me luck, for my win is your win.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Busy day!

Fan-mail from Rundles as well this morning!

This below is regarding a liability order from 2012 which was settled directly with the council.  Thus Rundles are harassing me with spam - or they still intend on pursuing me via enforcement action in pursuit of unlawful fees and levy fees for an invalid levy.  Those with good eyes will note the phrase "The above debt remains outstanding despite previous applications for payment." 

You will note that nowhere do they state the "above" amount.  This is the fourth such letter I have had following their attempted fraud, none of which specify an actual outstanding amount.  Thus Rundles are engaged in a form of passive aggression - or are simply amateurish and unprofessional in the extreme. 

Rundles do this because they cannot keep their lies straight between them.  There are disparities between the charges they post through the door - and the version of events they keep on their official log.  This I have seen with my own eyes.  It is entirely deliberate because they benefit from sowing confusion.  Rundles are not honest players.  They are distinctly crooked. 

I got email!

I got fan-mail from Bristow & Sutor...
Please quote: SGC-T 7929
Case ID: 1564-3498104
Client ref: 421788726
Dear Sir,
Re: Outstanding Council Tax Arrears owed to South Gloucestershire Council
We write with reference to the above and acknowledge receipt of you recent email, the contents of which have been noted.
We must advise that following your payment of £700.00 to the council on 14/03/14 you still had an outstanding balance of £42.50, hence the enforcement agent visit to your property.
The action we have taken is correct as you did not pay your account in full.
On this occasion, we would be willing to waive the enforcement fee of £235.00 but only upon receipt of payment for £42.50. This must be paid by no later than the close of business 08/05/14.
If we do not receive payment of £42.50 by 08/05/14 we will continue with recovery action against you for the amount of £277.50.
We trust this clarifies the situation.
Bristow & Sutor

My reply is below...

Dear anonymous correspondent,

The Liability Order had an outstanding balance of £700. I checked with the council. You only have lawful authority to levy or act in regard to that amount - which has already been paid, thus you have no further business with me.

£42.50 is the amount allowed by the previous regulations for two visits. You know the rules as well as I do (though your reputation online suggests that you may not).

Prior to 14/03/14 no visits were made to my address and no documentation had was left to suggest they had. The reason the balance was paid on 14/03/14 was because I was made aware that day that Bristow & Sutor were handling the case - by way of the attached document.

This is the document on which the bailiff, who refused to properly identify himself, stated an incorrect balance - and as you can see, stated that there was a charge of zero for that first visit. Thus you are losing money through the improper conduct of your enforcement officers. But I am afraid I am not liable for your chap's ineptitude.

I have a letter from the Minister for Communities and Local Government (Brandon Lewis MP) that states attempting to charge for phantom visits is indeed fraud. This essentially restates the DCLG's own guidelines on the matter. I can send you a copy if you like. Consequently, as you have not made a valid demand for fees that could stand up in court, we take the view that there is no outstanding balance - and no fees.

As to the inflated fees, in adding a further £235, you are attempting to charge fees based on the old rules and the new rules concurrently. The liability order was passed to bailiffs before April 06 when the new regulations came into force, so you may only charge by the old rules for this liability order. Attempting to charge these fees is a misrepresentation of power which is also fraud. The law is Schedule 1 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (Consequential, Transitional and Saving Provision) Order 2014.

It really is dull read and anyone would think this stuff was written by aliens, but it does check out, so I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and just assume you are mistaken, rather than accuse you directly of fraud. Given how badly written the law is, I can understand how you could make that mistake.

That being the case, I am sure you are anxious to avoid any confrontations or drawn out court cases. That would waste your time and mine, and further tarnish your reputation - so if we leave the matter here, things need not get ugly or expensive. You would be better investing the time and money in training your bailiffs not to make the kind of careless mistakes that could be construed as fraud.

As you are aware, your industry has become quite complacent in recent years because councils have a culture of denial where complaints are concerned, and the police would rather not get involved, but this is likely to change soon because even the CAB is reporting an upsurge in phantom visits. CCTV is now being deployed to detect such attempts at fraud. You might well be caught out one of these days and I understand the consequences are rather expensive and damaging.

I trust this clarifies the situation and I need not reiterate the general thrust of my previous email.


Peter North.

Avon & Somerset Liars

Remember this?  That court case was sabotaged at the last minute by Avon & Somerset Police.  It has been some time and were wondering if Avon & Somerset would come up with the goods.  This morning I received a letter from the plod stating that they have requested this blog and this Youtube video be brought to the attention of the judge in consideration of the offence of contempt of court.

You can read the letter by clicking on the images below.  My first observation is that they appear to have dropped the witness intimidation angle.  They have at least shown that much good sense, but there is a problem here below.  PC 2948 Jackson states that "In September 2013 CPS direct were consulted in relation to this and they have requested that this be brought to your attention believing Mr North is in contempt of court by posting the statement on his blog which is accessible to the public."

In this statement PC Jackson makes a liar of herself.  On the 1st of September, a plodette from A&S telephoned me to tell me that I was potentially in contempt of court because of this publication and that I may face charges unless I took it down.  Showing her ignorance of internet she referred to the blog as a website and could not provide me with the specific URL.  She made reference only to a scanned document - of which there are many.  I told her that I would investigate as soon as I could reach a computer but asked her to clarify.  She never called back.  In good faith, I eventually found the offending blog post and, as per her request, took it down and it has not been accessible to the public for many months.  No mention whatsoever was made of the Youtube video.

So not only have Avon & Somerset broken an agreement in pressing for this to be considered, they have omitted this and claim that the document is still available to the public which makes them and PC Jackson dishonourable to say the least, but in this instance - outright liars. But at least now the judge will watch the Youtube video and read the blog. He will be able to review the evidence for himself.  Something which the police have never done - and persistently refused to. Avon & Somerset Police should reflect.  Had they done their jobs in the first place, we wouldn't even be here.

I notice they do not supply the exact URL where the alleged post is located - only the blog address.  Why?  Because it isn't there. Also interesting note how much energy A&S plod are devoting to this, just for a mere pleb who cut off a clamp.  What are they afraid of?  It would have taken less effort to investigate the bailiff fraud.