Regina v Alfreton Justices, Ex Parte Gratton: QBD 25 Nov 1993

The appellant community charge payer (under 21) appealed after being committed to prison for non payment of the tax. The magistrates had come to the conclusion that they could not consider attaching the applicant’s liability to pay the charge to his income support as a viable alternative to prison.
Held: The appeal succeeded. In so concluding, the magistrates were ‘plainly wrong’ and that, as such, there was a ‘fundamental flaw’ in the case. The magistrates should have considered what was a viable offer of payment before imposing a prison sentence: ‘Community charge liability should only be visited with prison (if I may use that shorthand expression) if there is no other way in which the money can be extracted. Prison is not to be used as a big stick or primarily as punishment but as a means of extracting the liability.’
Because the the applicant was under 21 years of age at the time at which he was sentenced, the magistrates had a requirement publicly to state that there was no alternative but prison in this case. However, it was unnecessary to conclude the case on that ground in the light of the earlier finding.
As to costs, he said: ‘I am wholly unable to find that there has been any perverse or outrageous conduct of any kind in this case. These are tricky cases. The law has been evolving in the last year or so.’


Macpherson J


Times 07-Dec-1993

Cited by:

CitedLloyd And Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 1-Mar-2005
Magistrates had committed the applicants to prison in their absence for non-payment of local taxes and fines.
Held: The proceedings infringed the claimants’ human rights in that they had been found guilty of wilful refusal or culpable neglect . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Taxes – Other, Criminal Sentencing

Updated: 09 April 2022; Ref: scu.86046