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‘Freeman on the Land’ jailed for failure to pay council tax

A self-proclaimed ‘Freeman-on-the-Land’ who refused to pay council tax citing ancient laws has been sentenced to 40 days in prison and ordered to repay his debt.

Mark Mckenzie, 54, of Parkside Road, Moss Side, Manchester did not accept that he was liable to pay council tax.
 
McKenzie – a self-employed music teacher – claimed to be independent of government jurisdiction.

According to Manchester City Council, the defendant believes that all statute law is contractual and therefore only applicable if an individual consents to it.

The local authority said a similar defence had been used by lightweight boxer Oliver Pinnock who failed in his efforts to use the Magna Carta to avoid paying council tax to Southend council.
 
The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 gives local authorities the right to demand tax.

McKenzie has been living at Parkside Road since 1 October 2010 and has not made any payment of council tax, Manchester said.

In July 2015 he was summoned to Manchester Magistrates’ court in respect of his outstanding council tax payments but was sentenced to one night in custody after being found in contempt of court for trying to record the proceedings. 

The council’s case was heard upon his release, the following day, where he was sentenced to 40 days in prison suspended to pay £50 per month towards his outstanding council tax liability. 

McKenzie failed to make any payments and was summoned back to court in November 2015.

He did not attend the hearing and a warrant was granted for his arrest. 

Mckenzie – who now owes more than £7,000 in council tax - agreed to surrender to court on 8 May 2017.

According to the Manchester Evening News, at the latest magistrates’ hearing he was sentenced to 40 days in prison for wilful refusal to pay council tax. He was also sentenced to 14 days in prison for non-payment of fines. Both sentences are to run concurrently.

Cllr John Flanagan, the council’s Executive Member for Finance and Human Resources, said: “We welcome this strong jail sentence which sends out a message that trying to evade council tax is utterly unacceptable. From time to time we get people convinced by an urban myth that using an archaic law means they don't have to pay. It's pseudo-legal mumbo jumbo, and this case shows that people won't get away with it.

“Council tax helps fund a wide range of vital services – from roads, parks, and leisure centres to social care – and payment is not optional.” 

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